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Danli Liu

Hurdles Face New Duke U. Venture in Kunshan, China

At the groundbreaking. Via Weibo

Duke’s coming to China. In August, 2012, China’s Ministry of Education approved Duke University’s proposal to build a new college in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, named Duke Kunshan University (DKU). A cooperative venture between Wuhan University and the city of Kunshan, DKU will merge traditional Chinese education with American liberal arts education and Duke’s well-known strength as a research institution. DKU will begin admitting students in 2013.

Kunshan, located between Shanghai and Suzhou, two metropolitan areas in eastern coastal China, will provide 200 acres of land for DKU’s campus. Wuhan University, one of China’s top 20 universities, will become DKU’s partner. In its first phase, DKU will offer business and medical graduate and professional degrees, which are conferred by the Fuqua School of Business and the Duke Global Health Institute. Semester-long non-degree programs for undergraduates will also be provided. Over time, DKU will add programs, and will eventually include full undergraduate offerings for its own degrees.  

The creation of DKU is not the first time Duke University has reached beyond America’s borders. Before DKU, Duke built a Graduate Medical School in Singapore to promote global health education. Through DKU, Duke will provide China with new models of higher education, which includes liberal arts education, research methods and interdisciplinary study. 

However, based on this Duke sophomore’s discussion with classmates, it appears that Chinese Duke students have their reservations about DKU. First, a normal Chinese family can’t afford the school’s tuition, which according to the university has not yet been set but is “expected to be comparable to Duke University tuition,” albeit “with substantial scholarship funding available.” Second, DKU’s admissions will still depend on SAT scores and the common application. This means its student body will be drawn from those who have given up China’s test-centered gaokao system and have already decided to study abroad. Third, Kunshan is not a major city in China, meaning it may not be prosperous enough to attract a critical mass of elite students. And Duke–unlike Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia and UC Berkeley–is not widely known by most Chinese. If you ask around in China, only basketball fans will know of Duke.

If this is what DKU ends up looking like, please sign us up

Discussions on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, evince mixed opinions as well. @老末丹阳 wrote, “New York University at Shanghai, Duke Kunshan University… I believe there will be Harvard University in Shantou, Boston University in Tieling! [Shantou and Tieling are both large, prefecture-level cities but are considered third-tier cities in China.] It sounds funny! Why can’t we focus on building our own elite university, but using others’ names?”{{1}}[[1]]上海—纽约大学、昆山—杜克大学……我相信以后还会有汕头—哈佛大学、铁岭—波士顿大学等等!听起来就想笑!为什么我们不能用心做好自己的大学,而一定要借别人的名头来用 [[1]]

But many netizens say they feel excited. @花钱如流水劳动最光荣 wrote, “From now on, I can attend Duke University in Kunshan!” (Yes, but you’ll still need to get admitted.) @果粒糖肥摩卡 said, “Does that mean we can go to Ivy League schools [sic] in China?” @周武浩睿 wrote, “Duke University?! Oh My! Will Coach K come as well?” 

Others see this as part of a wise improvement in China’s education system. @王瑞杰_JerryWong wrote: “Ningbo has a Nottingham University, now Kunshan has a Duke University. The pattern of Sino-foreign cooperation in running schools is germinating. The South University of Science and Technology (中国南方科技大学), which completely follows a liberal arts model without the Gaokao, has just recruited its first student. There are unreasonable things in the education system, but people are removing existing institutional barriers.” {{2}}[[2]]宁波有个诺丁汉大学,现在刚批下来的昆山杜克大学…中外合作办学的模式在中国有萌发之势。南方科大也刚刚招了第一届学生。。周围的很多事情不合理,但国人在默默地拔除已有体制的藩篱。[[2]] Coach K may not be coming, but it seems that American styles of higher education are increasingly gaining a Chinese foothold.

Is that a Benz in the artist's rendering?

 

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Danli Liu

Danli Liu is a student at Duke University, class of 2015, currently majoring in Economics and Philosophy. She spent all of her life before college in Nanjing. She is interning at an environmental non-profit organization called Population Connection in Washington DC at present.
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1351213046 Gary Lowell Thayer

    I’m an alumnus of Boston U, and before I even got to reading the part about Boston U, I was thinking to myself that BU is probably in China already, or will be soon. Even when I was there in the early 90s, BU had many overseas offices and affiliations, and had already been criticized for running itself more like a company than a university. These days, most large US universities are run more like corporations than like old-school educational institutions. With less money from the federal government and limited ability to enroll more students on their home campuses, US universities are always looking for other sources of revenue, and they see a bonanza in the growing numbers of upper-class Chinese (and Indian, etc.) students. Just like their home campuses in the US, these foreign campuses will be attended by rich students and a minority of students on scholarships, like I was. It may not be fair, but in the long run it will probably improve the overall quality of higher education in China, and provide some great new cross-cultural learning opportunities for American students as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1351213046 Gary Lowell Thayer

    I’m an alumnus of Boston U, and before I even got to reading the part about Boston U, I was thinking to myself that BU is probably in China already, or will be soon. Even when I was there in the early 90s, BU had many overseas offices and affiliations, and had already been criticized for running itself more like a company than a university. These days, most large US universities are run more like corporations than like old-school educational institutions. With less money from the federal government and limited ability to enroll more students on their home campuses, US universities are always looking for other sources of revenue, and they see a bonanza in the growing numbers of upper-class Chinese (and Indian, etc.) students. Just like their home campuses in the US, these foreign campuses will be attended by rich students and a minority of students on scholarships, like I was. It may not be fair, but in the long run it will probably improve the overall quality of higher education in China, and provide some great new cross-cultural learning opportunities for American students as well.

  • Jahar

    The thing that is funny to me is people feel Kunshan is not prosperous enough. Why does a city have to be very very prosperous to have a good university? Many universities back home are in small towns. Strange Chinese thinking.

    • Anna

      This isn’t about Chinese “thinking”, but rather on the reality in China. In rural areas in China it is almost impossible to find internships and opportunities, and people generally won’t go to such places for college because the lifestyles in cities and rural areas are significantly different. There is not much to do and not much you can get out of the experience. You really can’t pay enough for decent professors to go to such remote areas cause even if you do get a lot of money there is NOTHING YOU CAN SPEND IT ON.

  • Jahar

    The thing that is funny to me is people feel Kunshan is not prosperous enough. Why does a city have to be very very prosperous to have a good university? Many universities back home are in small towns. Strange Chinese thinking.

    • Anna

      This isn’t about Chinese “thinking”, but rather on the reality in China. In rural areas in China it is almost impossible to find internships and opportunities, and people generally won’t go to such places for college because the lifestyles in cities and rural areas are significantly different. There is not much to do and not much you can get out of the experience. You really can’t pay enough for decent professors to go to such remote areas cause even if you do get a lot of money there is NOTHING YOU CAN SPEND IT ON.

  • Laowai Laoshi

    Kunshan is FULL of newly rich people. It is basically the global center for laptop production. I teach at a private school near Kunshan, where the children of the rich prepare to go to whatever US university will take them. MANY of my students commute from Kunshan, perhaps because there are not enough private prep schools there. But I know many of these prep school companies are opening new prep campuses in Kunshan right now. So there will be no shortage of kids with SAT scores ready to show up at Duke Kunshan.

    Also, to be clear, Kunshan is a 10 minute train ride from Shanghai. It is not exactly in the middle of nowhere.

  • Laowai Laoshi

    Kunshan is FULL of newly rich people. It is basically the global center for laptop production. I teach at a private school near Kunshan, where the children of the rich prepare to go to whatever US university will take them. MANY of my students commute from Kunshan, perhaps because there are not enough private prep schools there. But I know many of these prep school companies are opening new prep campuses in Kunshan right now. So there will be no shortage of kids with SAT scores ready to show up at Duke Kunshan.

    Also, to be clear, Kunshan is a 10 minute train ride from Shanghai. It is not exactly in the middle of nowhere.