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Duke’s Board will consider groundbreaking expansion into China

The Board of Trustees will consider the first phase of the University’s involvement in China at its meeting this weekend. 

Duke is considering building a presence in the city of Kunshan in two phases—the first is a partnership between the Fuqua School of Business, the government of Kunshan and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, said Trustees Chair and Democratic state Sen. Dan Blue, Law ’73.

If the Trustees approve the Fuqua phase in China, the University will send a delegation to China to sign the phase one agreement and break ground on facilities for Fuqua programs in Kunshan in January 2010, according to a Nov. 19 slideshow presentation posted on the Academic Council Web site. The facilities would be ready for occupancy in 2011, the document states. 

“As people look at the kind of interdisciplinary approaches that we have to dealing with different issues, it’s attractive to people, and the government of Kunshan is the richest, the most successful small city in China being 1.5 million [people],” Blue said. “The way Duke delivers education is the way China feels education should be delivered to China in the 21st century.”

Pending Board approval, the Kunshan government will provide 200 acres of land at no cost to Duke and build the facilities for the Fuqua programs on the land, Blue added. 

Under the proposal, the initial facilities in Kunshan would provide a minimum 20-year free lease and free utilities for five years and probably be “free in perpetuity,” the slideshow presentation states. The Kunshan government will also provide money and help Duke start its programs and “create a tax exempt entity able to deliver all activities except local Chinese degree programs,” which would “put us on an equal footing with Chinese universities, never been done before by a U.S. school,” the document states. 

Shanghai Jiao Tong University would be involved in faculty hiring, post-doctorate training and in partnering with Duke on activities—including sponsoring Fuqua’s financial and professional services activities in Shanghai, the presentation states.

Although Blue said Fuqua initiated the partnership with China, the site in Kunshan could house many more Duke programs in the future. 

Blue said the Kunshan facilities will be built large enough to accommodate potential programs from other Duke schools on an experimental basis, but with no obligation for Duke to create other programs there. 

Other schools and institutes that could sponsor future programs in China include the Nicholas School of the Environment, the Pratt School of Engineering, the Sanford School of Public Policy, the School of Law and some undergraduate experiences like DukeEngage or study abroad, Blue said. 

This first phase has no direct cost to the University, so continued financial support from Chinese players—primarily the government—will be key to the future success of Duke’s plans, Blue noted.

Blue emphasized that the only portion of Duke’s plan in China the Trustees will discuss this weekend is the Fuqua phase. The Board will not discuss the second phase of the program, which would include experimental graduate programs and eventually undergraduate experience. 

There is “still a lot of work to be done” in considering expanding Duke’s presence in China, Blue said.

The University and the Board will analyze many concerns before committing to further plans in China, including the effect overseas programs could have on education quality in Durham, financial stainability and cultural differences. 

Still, Blue said a presence in China fits with Duke’s international goals.

“Duke, like the other universities that aspire to be world class, recognize that they need to have a presence in China,” Blue said. “If we’re going to get the best students, the best resources, the best faculty, we decided a long time ago we needed to be a player in the world.”

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