In Fuqua, discussion of Kunshan moves into high gear

✔ Fact Checker here.

As the faculty in the Fuqua Business School prepares to discuss Kunshan in formal session on June 1 and vote June 20, FC culled the following from many sources:

✔✔ --- There is a huge hole in the Brodhead Administration's financial plans for Kunshan. It's estimated that Fuqua would have to spend at least $30,000 to $35,000 per student, with two of our sources cautioning about that estimate, noting they cannot come up with any hard numbers. The marketing studies suggest Chinese students and parents would be willing to pay an average of $15,000. The final figures will be set by the government, with Duke University forced to subsidize the difference out of its Durham funds. That's a real sensitive proposition, particularly at a time when the home campus is operating with a crimped budget.

✔✔ --- The Duke Kunshan Planning Guide given to the Academic Council shows enrollment of 600 students in various degrees in the 2016-17 academic year. With a $20,000 per student difference between tuition income and cost, this points to the need for a subsidy of $12 million. That's $2.5 million more than the Brodhead Administration's own calculation for that year. And that's the most favorable calculation.

✔✔ --- Dean Blair Sheppard is having a tough time getting faculty to commit to teach in Kunshan, assuming courses are approved. He has participated in discussions where various pay incentives and other goodies were discussed. One possibility: giving a faculty member who teaches in Kunshan extra credit toward the professor's annual teaching obligation.

Indeed, the Dean was luring faculty originally by promising that in six weeks, they could fulfill half of their annual teaching requirement. Another version was "six weeks or less." FC notes that in the current international offerings by Fuqua, faculty are away from Durham for only two weeks. There is a cost factor here, of course, not reflected in the calculations we presented earlier in this essay.

✔✔ --- With faculty only in China six weeks, or less, this raises the reciprocal question of whether professors will carry back to Durham in-depth knowledge. This is one of the main justifications for our entry into China, as outlined by President Brodhead.

✔✔ --- Some faculty feel Sheppard is stretching faculty involvement with students for the Masters of Management Studies degree -- the biggest planned offering in Kunshan -- too thin. Sheppard is reportedly recasting, adding more faculty and, just as important, adding more faculty who are tenure or tenure track rather than adjunct. While this improves academic quality and guards reputation, the huge additional cost is not reflected in the subsidy figures we discussed earlier in this essay. Sheppard had earlier boasted about how few faculty he could get away with, and how there would be profits in a couple years.

✔✔✔ --- FC is told that Sheppard is considering moving some of the courses now planned for Kunshan to Durham, perhaps having students spend one of four terms in Durham. This would be a major turn-around and blow to the Dean's plans. This move is to address the marketing studies that the overwhelming number of Chinese want to leave their country to study for master's degrees. It of course raises the question of why a consultant's report that arrived last December is only now being acted on, amid the faculty furor.

This change would really upset the financial apple cart; and it raises the question of whether the entire Kunshan program -- not just a term -- should be scrapped in favor of Durham. It is precisely this kind of complicated question that is causing many Fuqua faculty to favor a moratorium, a year or two to thrash through issues.

✔✔ --- While Sheppard is trying to reconfigure his plans to accommodate faculty concerns, there is also a lot of arm twisting and pressure to go along with the plans as they are. Or as one professor put it, "We rarely see Blair anymore, except when he wants to try to bully us into voting for these programs."

Even though the vote will be secret, Sheppard has warned that the School could encounter the wrath of Peter the Provost if Kunshan degree programs are not approved. Another source says the general talk in Fuqua is that if the Kunshan program is voted down -- or put into moratorium -- they can expect a visit from the President or Provost arguing for reconsideration.

We close by reminding Loyal Readers that the Chinese have been aware from day one that our faculty must vote its approval for academic programs. This is specified in the university by-laws; it is not just a policy adopted for these negotiations.

The Fuqua faculty will vote in secret first, approximately 95 professors who are tenured, tenure track or Professors of the Practice. Assuming Kunshan is not stopped on June 20, the focus then turns to the Academic Council, the university wide elected faculty senate, in the fall.

We have made several inquiries into plans other than Kunshan -- as this Chinese backwater was designed as just one spoke in an entire hub of international campuses. The Brodhead Administration has clammed up on these other cities because one of the issues is whether we are going too fast to too many destinations. Not one person we talked to has heard anything for weeks.

Deputy Fact Checkers are at work. With officials circling the wagons and refusing to speak, we are dependent on sources, and some very impressive people have emerged. We are trying to get copies of all the secret documents the Brodhead Admnistration surrendered to two committees of Fuqua faculty for their consideration. One committee deals with the MMS degree, the other with the EMBA.

Indeed, we are trying to get a list of these documents as there is confusion on what was surrendered even though Dean Boulding said "all existing sources of information" had been provided to the two committees.

Plenty of reasons to read FC all summer!