Doors opened to Sino-US undergraduate venture

Duke Kunshan University, a joint venture set up by Duke University in America and Wuhan University in China, announced to  welcome its first cohort of undergraduate students.

Duke Kunshan University, a joint venture set up by Duke University in America and Wuhan University in China, has recently announced that it would welcome its first cohort of undergraduate students this year, four years after it officially opened with three postgraduate programs.

For the inaugural undergraduate class, the university, located in Kunshan City of Jiangsu Province, plans to enroll 175 domestic students and 50 international students.

The four-year undergraduate education programs will draw from the liberal arts tradition of Duke University, with students declaring their majors before the end of their second year, said Denis Simon, executive vice chancellor of Duke Kunshan University.

Before this, students choose courses from a wide variety of disciplines in order to explore and develop their personal academic interests.

Eight majors for undergraduates have been approved by China’s Ministry of Education and another seven are being assessed. By 2020, there will be around 20 majors available for students, including material science and engineering, international affairs and international relationship, data science and big data technology, economics, history, digital media, chemistry, environmental science, history, world health and math.

Denis Simon, executive vice chancellor of Duke Kunshan University, announced that the university plans to enroll 225 students for its inaugural undergraduate class.

Simon added that courses will be taught in English and will be primarily conducted in small-sized, discussion-based classes. Overall, Duke Kunshan will have a student-faculty ratio of 11:1, far below the national average of 18:1.

The university has also secured over US$2 million of funding to establish its first wave of undergraduate scholarships and bursaries, which will be available for all applicants throughout the world. More than half of the students will receive financial support, with the highest scholarships awarded to cover the full tuition costs for four-year studies.

Graduates of the program will receive a bachelor’s degree from Duke University, as well as a degree from Duke Kunshan University approved by China’s Ministry of Education.

Simon pointed out that more and more Chinese parents and students turned their eyes to Sino-foreign universities like Duke Kunshan as they wanted to make sure their kids didn’t lose connection with China while gaining global exposure. Meanwhile, they also attract international students as China is now the world’s second-biggest economy.

“In times gone by, many families would send their children to be educated in America or Europe, believing that the world’s best universities could only be found in those countries,” he said. “Now, however, we are witnessing more and more students from the US, Canada, Japan and their peers applying to study at Duke Kunshan University. As China’s international influence expands, we believe that talented students from all over the world will begin to converge here, helping to achieve our goal of an internationally integrated university.”

Simon said Duke Kunshan will increase the size of undergraduate programs and eventually grow to have an annual entering class of 500 students, 40 percent of which will be international students.

He also emphasized that the internationalization of higher education is one of the most important developments in the 21st century.

“It is now more essential than ever before to expand the level of cross-cultural understanding, to learn how to work in cross-border teams, and how to collaborate to address the world’s most pressing problems,” he said.

He said universities could serve as an excellent platform for experienced faculty and administrators to serve as facilitators in helping young people prepare themselves for a new world situation.

“The world’s problems are only becoming more complex and more difficult to overcome. We need a new generation of leaders who possess a deep appreciation for how globalization has changed the international political and economic landscape,” he said.

The ability of universities to send and receive students and faculty across the globe for study and research experiences helps to increase the awareness of everyone to be much more sensitive to differences in history and culture, according to Simon.

“There is no one dominant culture or set of values that should dominate the globe,” he said. “With the expanding role of China and the other BRICS countries in the global economy, the world is in the midst of a hugely important transition. Universities can help to make that transition smooth by becoming more internationalized in terms of their curriculum and teaching, in terms of their faculty and students, and in terms of their overall intellectual environment.”

He added: “It is an exciting time to be an educator, especially in my own case where I now have a chance to play a key leadership role in one of the most bold experiments in international higher education.”

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