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Faculty Explore Undergraduate Programs for China

Faculty Explore Undergraduate Programs for China

Lange talks about potential cluster courses for DKU campus

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Durham, NC - After extensive discussions about potential graduate programs at Duke Kunshan University (DKU), the conversation turned to a potential undergraduate curriculum Thursday with Provost Peter Lange telling faculty that he is receiving new course ideas from faculty on a weekly basis.

Lange told the Arts and Sciences Faculty Council that the DKU curriculum is a blank slate, ready to be filled with innovative and creative clusters of courses focused on knowledge in the service of society.

"There's an opportunity here for pedagogical innovation," Lange told the Arts and Sciences Faculty Council.  "At Duke we have 3,000 courses here taught on a regular basis.  If you want to do something really unusual, it can be hard to do it here.  At DKU there will be a big opportunity to do things that are different."

The current priority is to develop interdisciplinary clusters of courses, much as Duke is already doing with FOCUS, DukeIntense Global, DukeImmerse and similar programs. 

Lange also cited the potential for classroom innovation, following in the footsteps of the TeamLEAD project at Duke-NUS, the university's medical school in Singapore. Presented with the challenge of transferring Duke's first year medical curriculum to a new culture, Duke-NUS leaders turned to technology to revise how lectures and classroom work are presented.

Such a model would contrast with the current Chinese educational system, which Lange said is narrow, specialized and involves little faculty-student classroom interaction.

"The Chinese keep telling us that they want a top quality US education with a more interactive classroom.  The Chinese scholars love the way we teach here and they want us to bring that model to their classrooms."

One concern faculty leaders cited about DKU in the past was whether Duke faculty would be energized enough to participate.  Lange said more are showing interest as more details have been put in place for faculty to see.  Global health and environmental policy and management are natural areas of study, but he said humanities faculty members are also interested in courses ranging from theater studies to US history and literature.

The first undergraduate courses will not be degree programs but will be credit bearing, with the credits being transferred to the student's home institution.  "But we do foresee over time that DKU will get degree-granting ability for undergraduates," Lange said. 

As in previous faculty meetings, Lange was questioned about academic freedom and the ability for faculty and students to have free intellectual exchanges in the classroom.  Lange responded Duke officials are aware of the human rights record in China, but that the Chinese have not objected to a statement of core principles that is based on academic freedom.

"We expect to have the freedoms cited in the principles.  We have done our due diligence with other Western academic institutions working in China, and they've had no bad experiences. 

"If challenges arise, we are prepared to deal with them.  We have chosen to engage China, and we have a set of processes using the Academic Programs, ECAC, the Academic Council, the board and other bodies to bring them into this discussion."

In related news, the Arts and Sciences Faculty Council approved a streamlined process for approving new global ventures and programs that will be less cumbersome but still ensure faculty involvement.

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