Citing a recent rise in COVID-19 cases across China, Duke Kunshan University has asked domestic students not currently on campus to “postpone their arrival for two to four weeks,” according to an email sent to DKU students Tuesday. First-year orientation and convocation will be held remotely.
The email added that classes will begin Aug. 23, coinciding with the start of Duke’s fall semester, but those off campus will be offered online courses. Students currently living on campus, including those conducting research and rising sophomores taking Chinese Society and Culture courses, will attend fall courses in person.
In addition to these new restrictions, DKU has asked students in Kunshan to suspend unnecessary travel, including to the neighboring cities of Suzhou and Shanghai. For students intending to travel outside of the city, they must submit a domestic travel request form for approval.
The campus also issued a revised set of guidelines for hybrid courses, including that DKU’s language of instruction is English, and encouraged faculty to solicit feedback early in the first seven-week session.
Approximately one third of DKU’s undergraduate students are currently on campus, but administrators anticipate that the change is temporary. The school remains optimistic that domestic students should have the opportunity to travel to campus soon, along with international students and faculty that will travel to Kunshan throughout the fall semester, an attachment to the email added.
With DKU using Duke’s American style academic calendar—and starting the fall semester earlier than Chinese schools—the campus is operating on the advice of the Jiangsu Education Department that has yet to issue formal instructions for COVID-19 control and mitigation policies.
International students, with the exception of South Koreans, have been unable to travel to China to attend DKU in person since China closed its borders in March 2020. Many of these students will attend Duke in the fall, or remain online for remote coursework.
An outbreak of the delta variant of COVID-19 in China has grown to over 300 cases in a ten day period, with many cases originating in Nanjing, the capital city of Jiangsu Province.
Kunshan, a city of nearly two million, is located an hour and a half from Nanjing by bullet train in southeastern Jiangsu. The city reported only 19 cases of COVID-19 in 2020, and according to DKU’s COVID-19 response page, there have been no reported cases on campus as of July 29th, 2021.
The first of Duke’s schools to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, DKU returned to normal operations for domestic students last fall. The campus announced it would require “all employees, students, interns and contractors” to present proof of vaccination before returning to campus, and has arranged several opportunities for vaccination with China’s Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines.
Charlie Colasurdo is Kunshan Report editor and a junior in the second-ever graduating class of the Duke Kunshan campus’s undergraduate program, located outside Shanghai, China.
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