Meng Li, who was raised in Beijing and educated in Singapore before becoming an MIT grad student this year, says: “Those of us in this program have an advantage of being more international. We know both the Eastern and Western culture, and it helps us to have a more global view.”

Li participates in the Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA), an innovative engineering education and research collaboration among MIT, the National University of Singapore (NUS), and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU). The goal of the eight-year-old alliance is to promote global engineering education and research. The project, which now involves about 35 professors in teaching and research from MIT and about as many faculty from NUS and NTU, has created innovative programs that are now on the vanguard of graduate education in Asia and the world.

The program offers courses in five programs. Two years ago, SMA moved into its second phase, which is designed to involve more extensive research. Four of the five programs offer a double degree at the master’s level, and the opportunity to earn a Ph.D. from the two Singapore universities. Master’s students spend a minimum of one semester at MIT and two or more in Singapore. While in Singapore and working on their MIT degrees, many of their courses are delivered by video teleconferencing.

The Alliance is one of the largest interactive distance education collaborations in the world. With world-class facilities, instruction is transported across 12 time zones, and the voice delay between Cambridge and Singapore is less than a second. Printed materials are communicated by way of the Web.

Prof. Steven Lerman, acting co-director of the Singapore-MIT Alliance, says: “The over-arching goal of the Alliance is to develop a way of collaborating effectively at a distance without building another campus. We want to have a strong international presence and attract students who would not otherwise come to MIT. Another goal is for faculty from MIT and Singapore to work together on joint research projects that involve faculty, staff and students at all the campuses.”

SMA students, who graduate as engineering leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit and a worldwide perspective, are from Singapore, China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Australia.

Li, who plans to become an engineer and one day start a consulting firm, says: “To succeed in today’s world you need technical knowledge, but you also need to make human connections. Thanks to this program, I have the chance to know the best students in the world who may one day become my future clients or partners.”