Duke Kunshan University nears completion of construction of new facilities, dorms that will more than double campus size

<p>Duke Kunshan University.</p>

Duke Kunshan University.

Following a string of delays arising from the impacts of COVID-19, Phase 2 of Duke Kunshan University’s campus construction is expected to finish summer 2023 instead of its original projected completion at the end of 2022, according to Scott MacEachern, vice chancellor of academic affairs.

When completed, construction of 22 buildings will more than double the current campus size, creating a wide range of facilities, including a sports complex and a library. It will also alleviate housing pressures by creating nine new residence halls with over 2,000 beds

Construction on DKU’s campus has been largely split into two phases. Phase 1 began in late 2010, opened in 2018, and officially finished with the opening of the Innovation Building in 2019. According to MacEachern, Phase 1 construction was oriented towards the needs of Duke graduate programs and the Global Learning Semester program, a study-abroad opportunity for undergraduates at Duke and “top-tier Chinese and international universities.” 

Phase 2 construction began August 2019, focusing on the needs of the university's undergraduate students, according to MacEachern.

Although building construction is largely finished, the campus still needs time for quality monitoring, according to an email obtained by The Chronicle from Chancellor Feng Youmei and Interim Provost Jennifer Francis sent to DKU colleagues and students. 

DKU students who had been studying either at Duke or abroad last semester have started moving back to campus this semester. As new residence halls have yet to be completed, students are currently living in various housing arrangements. DKU is leasing apartments owned by the Canadian International School of Kunshan and Talent Apartments to university students and Kunshan residents until the completion of phase 2. 

Some students have been looking forward to the community that comes with living in the new residence halls. DKU sophomore Chloe Alimurong is excited at the prospect of moving back onto campus. She says that it has been difficult to commute to and from campus and that the new residence halls will create a small, tight-knit community.

“I feel like what we're looking for in a college experience, especially international students, is a regular campus. Right now it's like campus is still being built as we're going to school here. So once phase 2 is open, then I feel like we'll have the environment that we were looking for,” she said. 

However, living off campus has not been entirely without its perks. DKU senior Jingcheng Wu said that the off-campus apartments have their advantages over traditional housing in that they make him feel “closer” to the city of Kunshan. He said that his apartment allows him more easily to shop, eat out and encounter local residents compared to an on-campus “bubble.”

“Living off campus gives us the interaction with the local community and the locality of lifestyles in Kunshan, but living on campus definitely would be much more convenient for late night work or events,” he said. 

As Phase 2 nears the end of its completion, directors are already looking at future developments. MacEachern is optimistic about the future of DKU, noting that conceptual plans for future phase 3 and phase 4 projects have already been made. He believes that the ultimate goal for these phases is to support the development of the strength of the university.

“The important thing is not so much the buildings going up [so much as the] programs [that] are going into those buildings,” he said.


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