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For the following story on academic programs in Kunshan, Fact Checker tried to obtain additional input and reaction from Dean Blair Sheppard. But rudely, we once again did not even get acknowledgment of our e-mail inquiry. We write what we know.
✔✔✔ Sources inside the Fuqua Business School say Dean Blair Sheppard -- scrambling to save face and come up with academic programs for Duke's new campus in Kunshan, China after the faculty rejected two proposed degrees on June 1 -- may try an end run.
One plan under consideration would presumably not require faculty approval at all. But it would also not award a full fledged Duke degree as was originally planned for the new Duke Kunshan University, the same degree as if the students had studied on the mother campus in Durham. Duke's by-laws require faculty consent for any degree program. .
A key provision of the plan is one or more deals with state owned enterprises in China, which are referred to as SOE. Some of Sheppard's correspondence on this has also referred to SASAC, a consortium of SOE's.
The enterprises would foot the entire bill to send their employees to the program. This guarantees a steady stream of income not present under earlier proposals that the faculty viewed as too chancy because no one knew how many students would enroll or what tuition they might pay.
While initially solving the financial viability issue that vexed the faculty, It does leave Duke vulnerable to the whims of the SOE's, notorious for their lack of respect of contracts. One source said he would not be surprised if the SOE's got the program going, and then demanded discount after discount.
Moreover, while Duke presumably gives up control over admissions, taking whomever the SOE sends.
Mindful that the faculty is simply not going to go along with that sure risk to quality, Sheppard may develop this entire scheme under the umbrella of Duke Corporate Education, a separately incorporated subsidiary of Fuqua just far enough removed so as to get away with the twisting.
One problem is that Corporate Education, which offers high priced trdaining programs for executives, does not grant degrees, and the Chinese SOE's may demand this.
A tie to Corporate Education would also get around the Fuqua faculty, who have shown little if any interest in going to Kunshan to teach, while at the same time insisting that a large percentage of the teaching be done by tenure and tenure track people from Durham. Corporate Education could hire whomever it wants -- presumably the influx of adjuncts that Sheppard proposed for the degrees that were shelved on June 1.
Shaking his head, one source told a Deputy Fact Checker that the entire scheme puts Duke Kunshan University more under the thumb of the Chinese government, devoid of any notion of academic freedom. The source also saw new risks, not the least of which is to the balance sheet of Duke Corporate Education which has been foundering. As FC revealed last week, the most recent financial reports show CE taking in about one-third as much money as it did three years ago, and losing more than $7 million in one year.
A source also reminded FC that Shepard has a pattern of promising big, and then not delivering. Witness the Cross Continent MBA program, which in the academic year just ending had only a fraction of the students that Shepard "promised."
Our mole in the center of Allen Building says there are some nascent rumbles that Duke will never get the Kunshan Initiative off the ground. At least one high ranking official, after reading the reports of the faculty committees in Fuqua that examined two proposed degrees, said the objections would follow whatever was proposed.
Stay tuned! Plenty of reason to check back and read FC often!