Update on Visiting Scholars and Visiting Students

July 1, 2021
Martin A. Schmidt, Provost, 2014–2022 | Maria T. Zuber, Vice President for Research |

TL; DR: Starting this fall, MIT will once again welcome visiting scholars and research affiliates to campus. We will also welcome applications to our Visiting Students Program this fall for entries to begin January 2022 to provide time to implement improvements to the program.

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to share an update about MIT’s ability to welcome visiting scholars and research affiliates and visiting students back to campus as we continue to emerge from the pandemic.

First, visiting researchers: MIT will permit visiting scholar/scientist/engineer/professor appointments starting on or after September 1, 2021. The improving public health picture means that we will once again benefit from having visitors on campus. To access campus, visiting researchers, like MIT students, faculty, and staff, will be required to be fully vaccinated (or have an approved exemption) and to participate in Covid Pass.

While this change includes international visiting scholars and research affiliates, it is important to bear in mind that planning travel to the U.S. remains fluid and challenging. Visa processing times, for example, are likely to take longer than they did pre-Covid, and the government could impose at any time new restrictions on travel into the U.S. depending on public health trends in other countries and in our own country. The International Scholars Office can provide you with more information on a case-by-case basis about reasonable expectations regarding start dates in the fall for international visiting appointments. We ask for your patience and cooperation.

Second, visiting students: In recent years, MIT has seen substantial growth in the number of visiting students who come to campus each year, from 240 in the 2005-2006 academic year to nearly 900 in 2018-2019. Given this growth, it has become increasingly clear that new processes and infrastructure will be necessary to ensure that the Visiting Student Program experience is as beneficial as possible, both for our visitors and for the entire MIT community. This has been an ongoing discussion in Dean’s Group for the last several years, with School Deans discussing the need for program changes with their School Councils in late 2020 and early 2021.

To get this right – that is, to ensure that we provide each visiting student with a positive experience and enable them to make the most of their time at MIT – requires that we limit further growth in the size of the program, and that we implement enhancements to make it more student-centered. Therefore, while we will welcome applications to the Visiting Students Program starting in September, enrollments will not begin until January 2022. By that time, we will have put in place a new mentoring plan and other student-centric improvements as well an enrollment management system that limits the maximum number of visiting students within each School/College/VPR unit to the historically highest usage of the program (which occurred just prior to the pandemic in calendar year 2019).

The Institute is not reducing the numbers of visiting students because we recognize the great value they bring to MIT and vice versa. However, we are establishing an upper bound on the number of students that MIT will host as an organization. Principal investigators and DLC administrators will hear directly from their respective School/College Dean’s Office regarding their plans for implementing enrollment management at the School/College/VPR level. This will be new, so we will carefully monitor and assess these measures and adjust as needed going forward.

Visiting scholars and research affiliates and visiting students enrich the research and educational experience for all of us and make important contributions to the MIT community. We look forward to welcoming them back to campus in the coming academic year. Questions regarding visiting scholars and students may be directed to vsrequest@mit.edu.


Martin A. Schmidt, Provost
Maria T. Zuber, Vice President for Research

Note: Visiting scholars and research affiliates are typically individuals who have completed their terminal degrees and who come to MIT to conduct research, collaborate, or teach. Visiting students are individuals who are enrolled in degree-granting programs at their home institution either in the US or abroad and are approved to conduct research on campus for a set duration. Visiting students are not allowed to take MIT classes.