Sunday, 18 September 2011

DUKE KUNSHAN UNIVERSITY: New Appointments to Duke's China Initiative

Duke University announced three new appointments for its Duke-Kunshan Initiative today.

Professor William C. Kirby will move from Harvard Business School, where he held the post of T.M Chang Professor of China Studies. Professor Kirby has also held several high ranking administrative posts at Harvard, including Director of the Asia Centre and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Professor Kirby's role at DKU

Professor Shi Mingzheng joins Duke-Kunshan from New York University's long-established NYU in Shanghai, a centre for NYU student to pursue Study Abroad and based at East China Normal University. Professor Shi holds a PhD in Chinese Urban History from Columbia University and, prior to taking up the role of NYU Shanghai Director in 2006, developed and ran a teach-in-China program for the Council for International Educational Exchange.

Nora Bynum has been appointed Managing Director of DKU (Duke Kunshan University) and China Initiatives. Dr Bynum, who holds a PhD in Anthropology from Yale and also has, in addition to her extensive administrative experience at Duke, been an Adjunct Professor in Duke's Nicholas School of Environment since 1995.

So. It would appear that Duke are bringing in some heavy hitters. Those close to the development of JV universities in China will know that Duke and NYU are currently fighting it out to be the first US university to establish a Sino-US JV university in China.

Sure to raise an eyebrow or two is Professor Shi Mingzheng's appointment, given the central role he has played in NYU's presence in Shanghai over the last 5 years. Perhaps a coup for Duke, perhaps a loss for NYU.

For those that don't know, Duke are proposing to establish DKU in the city of Kunshan, a county level city in Suzhou. Kunshan itself sits right inbetween Shanghai and Suzhou, on the border between Jiangsu Province and the Shanghai Municipality. While information on the actual DKU plans have yet to surface, rumour has it that there has been strong opposition to the establishment of DKU from faculty at the main Durham campus. Initially, Shanghai Jiaotong University were cited as Duke's JV partner, but since then Wuhan University appear to be the Chinese partner.

NYU have also agreed to establish operations in Shanghai, with East China Normal University (ECNU) as the Chinese JV partner. As previously mentioned, Professor Shi Mingzheng, who had developed and run the NYU Shanghai Centre at ECNU since 2006, has now joined Duke's DKU team, according to Duke's website. With NYU and DUKE both vying to establish JV campuses, and with Professor Shi's extensive experience not only in Shanghai, but also with NYU and ECNU, this is certainly one thats got me scratching my head.

Currently, no US universities have established a joint venture university in China. Three currently exist:

Xi'an Jiaotong Liverpool University (Suzhou, Jiangsu).
Established between Xi'an Jiaotong University, one of the "Chinese Ivy League", or C9 Group of Universities. The UK partner is the University of Liverpool. Established in 2005.

University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China (Ningbo, Zhejiang).
A JV between the University of Nottingham (UK) and Wanli Education Group (Ningbo), and approved in 2004.

United International College (Zhuhai, Guangdong)
A JV with Beijing Normal University and Hong Kong Baptist University.

All of these joint venture universities are legally independent entities under Chinese law and under the direct jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education of the PRC. They are not, as is sometimes thought, branch campuses. Such a status brings many challenges to the senior administrators of these universities, especially those seconded staff that do not understand the Chinese Higher Education system.

It was expected that both Shanghai New York University and DKU would open their doors to incoming MBA students in 2011. This does not appear to have been the case. Both proposed universities also are rumoured to have proposed commencing the universities with Masters degrees in 2012, followed by undergraduate enrolment in 2013. Given that Masters degree programmes are approved at the State Council level in China, it appears unlikely that this will be sanctioned until there is evidence that quality programmes can be delivered at undergraduate level.

Another issue is that of tuition fees. Both NYU and Duke have published materials which strongly imply a fee equivalent to that which is charged in US. From memory (though I could be wrong) this was US$42k per annum in both cases. Duke's own commissioned report on the feasibility of such tuition fees clearly stated that US$15k per annum is the highest possible tuition fee, and that would be for In-China MBA programmes from top US Business Schools.

Given that fees at the existing Sino-Foreign JV universities are in the region of US$9k-10k per annum, with fees for most Chiense universities at US$900-$1000 per annum, such fees look exorbitant and unrealistic. It is also questionable whether the MoE or local Education Bureaus would sanction such fees, but then it is never wise to second-guess in China.

It will certainly be interesting to see how NYU and Duke develop their operations in China. Certainly, the appointment by Duke of Professor Shi Mingzheng could be a stroke of genius. Given the 2010-2020 Medium - Long Term Education Plan and its stated objective of internationalizing Chinese HE, with a (rumoured) target of 150,000 foreign nationals studying in China by 2020, Professor Shi's previous 12 years with CIEE and NYU could well be invaluable, especially if Duke take the strategic choice to understand what the MoE and PRC Government wants from Sino-Foreign JV universities. Hint: Its not to export Chinese students en masse through 2+2 programmes.

I warmly wish the new appointees the best of luck.

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