The U21 Gilbert Medal Award 2020, which recognises an outstanding contribution to international higher education, has been awarded to Professor Anant Agarwal. Professor Agarwal is Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the founder and CEO of edX , the trusted platform for learning and one of the world’s largest providers of interactive, open-source online classes and MOOCs.
Professor Agarwal has pioneered online education, building on his personal skills in information technology and engineering to bring high quality education to the masses. He taught the first edX course on circuits and electronics from MIT, which drew 155,000 students from 162 countries. In 2016, Professor Agarwal was the recipient of the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize for Higher Education, which recognized his work in advancing the MOOC movement.
Professor Agarwal has served as the director of CSAIL, MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory as well as being a successful serial entrepreneur, having co-founded several companies including Tilera Corporation, which created the Tile multicore processor, and Virtual Machine Works. Scientific American selected his work on organic computing as one of 10 World- Changing Ideas in 2011, and he was named in the Forbes' list of top 15 education innovators in 2012. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the ACM.
In 2017 Professor Agarwal received Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India and in 2018, he received the Yidan Prize for Education Research, the world's largest education award.
On hearing of the award, Professor Agarwal said:
‘Thank you so much, I am honoured to accept this incredible recognition on behalf of edX, our worldwide partners and learners. Universitas 21 is an invaluable group of institutions with a commitment to education that is truly inspiring, making this recognition an even more momentous one.’
U21's Provost, Professor Bairbre Redmond, shared her congratulations on behalf of the network:
‘I am particularly pleased that Professor Agarwal is this year’s U21 Gilbert Medal Award. His knowledge of, and innovative responses to the rapidly changing higher educational landscape are extremely pertinent in light of the needs of the U21 membership, overall. His expertise has particular relevance for the U21 Educational Innovation Cluster, particularly their recent work on the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and rapid technological change on university teaching, learning, curriculum design and student lifelong learning in our network.'
'In this regard, in January 2020 Professor Agarwal warned that the line between the future of work and the future of education will continue to blur, with Increased corporate investment in learning, a rapid expansion in undergraduate-level online, credentials and a transition from transactional learning to a culture of lifelong learning. There is much for the network to learn from Professor Agarwal’s considerable insights into 21st Century higher education.’