Duke University’s Academic Council has voted 44-8 to approve a master’s of management studies degree to be offered by the university’s Fuqua School of Business in Kunshan, a city just a stone’s throw away from Shanghai. The university described the program thus in a statement on its website:
The one-year, pre-experience business program will lead to a Duke degree. It is the first new program to gain Duke approval for operations at Duke Kunshan University (DKU), a joint venture with the City of Kunshan and Wuhan University to create a U.S.-modeled university in China. Long-term plans call for DKU to serve both as an educational center to offer degree programs and as a base of operations to support research and scholarship throughout the country.
On Thursday, the Academic Council, the university’s faculty governance board, gave its approval to the Master of Management Studies program. The program design, which calls for students to split time between Duke’s main campus and the DKU campus, has now completed its review by internal governance bodies, and Duke and its partners are working with the Chinese government to secure needed permissions. Information related to the program’s format and timing will be announced once arrangements are finalized.
The Kunshan campus has been the source of much controversy for the university, says the Charlotte Observer:
The project has been the subject of heated debate at Duke for months, with faculty raising questions about risks to the university’s bottom line and its culture of academic freedom.
Duke administrators were quizzed by some skeptical professors, who worry that Duke will be reluctant or unable to protect the freedoms of Duke professors and students in a country with an authoritarian government.
Duke’s leaders have said their agreements with Chinese partners specify an exit clause if the university encounters problems. They also point out that the business degree will be a Duke University degree, with Duke in full control of admissions, operations and academics, though the Chinese will have some say about tuition to be charged.
“When we go to China, we don’t intend to leave our principles at home,” Duke President Richard Brodhead said, “nor do we expect that in China, the environment in which we operate will be identical to the one here.”
Critics have cited a recent Bloomberg news story about a Johns Hopkins joint campus with a Chinese university, where an American student was unable to distribute an academic journal outside of the classroom, where academic freedom was guaranteed. The article also quoted the presidents of Columbia and Stanford universities, who said they had avoided launching full-fledged campuses in China because of concerns about free expression in the country.
According to Inside Higher Ed, the small size of the program means less risk for Duke, but now people are wondering why the university still needs a campus for 600 students:
The original plan called for 60 students in the program’s first year, growing to 170 within five years. Under the revised plan, the program will serve 30-40 students for the first three years in a pilot mode. Planners said they will not be sure of student demand until the program is in place, nor can they be sure what tuition price the Chinese Ministry of Education will be willing to approve.
Because of these factors, the program could be pulled after a short time. “It is important to remember, however, that if student demand is not enough to support a viable section in Kunshan (less than, say, 20 students), the tuition level approved by the Chinese Ministry of Education is too low to make the program viable, or anticipated funding does not materialize, we could choose not to launch the program or choose to cancel the program after one or two years,” the report states.
Faculty members said the small size is one of the steps the business school took to make the program less risky, and that it would require less commitment from faculty.
Because the program is so small, and will likely only be joined by a global health program of about 10 students for the first few semesters, some professors questioned why it’s necessary to build a campus designed to serve 600 students, particularly when the operating costs for the new university could harm the bottom line at the Durham campus.