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The Duke Kunshan University undergraduate curriculum can be described as a “research-inflected liberal arts experience” that builds on the unique DNA of Duke as a major research university but with a strong liberal arts philosophy, structure and orientation. The curriculum does not rely on traditional majors housed in departments, but rather is built on interdisciplinary and disciplinary components in and across three thematic areas: (1) natural and applied sciences, (2) social sciences, and (3) arts and humanities. Flexibility and inter-disciplinarity are hallmarks of this curriculum, along with signature work that enables students to engage scholarship both individually and within a community of learners. This curriculum is designed to be compatible with the quality and depth of a Duke undergraduate degree but is unique and distinct from the current Duke undergraduate experience, which is aligned more with a traditional major’s structure.

The curriculum fosters learning communities of students and faculty whose intellectual interactions revolve around two groups: (1) The interdisciplinary community, which spans laterally a variety of disciplines. To the big questions at the core of each interdisciplinary community will be deployed a variety of disciplines, voices, viewpoints and expertise, usually also from a variety of divisions. The deep expertise brought to bear on discussion will be provided by both faculty and advanced students. (2) The disciplinary specialization, which is akin to, or even entirely aligned to, a traditional vertical discipline. From this community comes the training in the methods, knowledge, and skills of a specific discipline. Individual courses that belong to an interdisciplinary community or disciplinary specialization may be taken at various stages of a students’ career. But the interdisciplinary community comes first in a students’ overall development – it provides a broad intellectual home and is followed by or is in parallel to more specialized work.


The dual structure is also flexible, to accommodate a variety of student goals and outcomes. Some students might choose to pursue a less deep path in the disciplinary specialization while focusing more on developing broad expertise in the questions underlying the interdisciplinary community— and in that case the outcome can be a powerful kind of integrative education for students whose goal is not graduate school or specialized study, which is where a great many careers and life paths lie. This approach allows for a highly integrative, team-based approach to problem solving and knowledge acquisition. For students oriented towards graduate study, the integrative and out-looking approach in the interdisciplinary community broadens and enriches their deeper specialist expertise. Our strong expectation is that a student with deep expertise who also has interacted in a significant, deep way with an interdisciplinary group focused on big questions will be more, not less, appealing to graduate schools or other specialty pursuits. For certain disciplines, students oriented towards graduate school may also need to use some electives, guided independent studies, research, online courses and Study Abroad courses to deepen expertise beyond the number of courses required for the disciplinary specialization.


To ensure that Duke Kunshan University students develop the ability to communicate effectively, guided practice in writing and speaking are built into the fabric of the curriculum. All three Divisional Foundations sequences provide opportunities for students to practice the specialized discourse of their chosen field, while Common Core courses help students learn to communicate as scholars and professionals to broader audiences. Toward the end of their undergraduate studies, all students take on more advanced writing and speaking challenges as part of their signature work and capstone projects.


Key Components

The Duke Kunshan University undergraduate curriculum emphasizes shared knowledge and experience, integrated learning and deep learning, and flexible pathways. The key components are:


  • Divisional areas of knowledge organize the faculty and the curriculum – Natural and Applied Sciences; Social Sciences; and Arts and Humanities – rather than traditional majors or departments.
  • Intensive 7-week terms enable students to take two in-depth courses with the flexibility to take some courses in 14-week
  • Fridays are designed for practica, field trips, internships, co-curricular activities, and civic engagement.
  • Mini-term courses provide a focused exposure to a single topic while enabling students to move outside of their comfort zones. There are no grades for these non-credit
  • Seminars of fewer than 20 students are the primary mechanism for instruction and the means by which excellence in writing, speaking and listening are nurtured, supplemented by courses in English for Academic

Core Components

  • Common Core courses required of all students focus on big questions and critical challenges. Students take one per year for three years.
  • Language courses required in English, Chinese or potentially a third
  • Majors that have interdisciplinary and disciplinary components, with the former serving as the entry point and primary definition of a students’ academic community and the latter providing specialized training, as well as divisional foundation courses that prepare students for advanced study and signature work that focuses on a question, problem or issue and includes independent research, a senior thesis or creative
  • Electives that broaden students’ educational experience via simple distributional requirements and additionally enable them either to develop greater specialized knowledge or to further increase the breadth of their
  • Experiential learning opportunities that align the formal curriculum with practica, internships and other hands-on offerings are

These components are reflected in specific requirements:

  • General Education: 3 common core courses (12 credits), 2-4 language courses (8-16 credits) depending on proficiency, 3 electives (12 credits) as distributional requirements, and one Quantitative Reasoning course (4 credits)
  • Major: 16-19 courses (64 to 76 credits) (foundation, interdisciplinary, disciplinary, and capstone)
  • Electives: 8-13 courses (32 to 52 credits) depending on division and language proficiency, which include the three electives as distributional requirements and one Quantitative Reasoning course in General Education
  • Other requirements: 1 non-credit mini-term course and 1 Signature Work project that includes a practice-oriented Experiential Learning component (internships, civic engagement, )

Students who complete Duke Kunshan University’s 4-year undergraduate curriculum will receive two degrees, one from Duke University and one from Duke Kunshan University. A total of 136 Duke Kunshan University credits is required for graduation with a Duke Kunshan University bachelor’s degree, 1 which is equivalent to 34 Duke University course credits (1 Duke course credit is equivalent to 4 Duke Kunshan University credits). A total of 34 Duke University course credits is required for graduation with a Duke bachelor’s degree. More details on the course credit requirement are explained below in the Degree Requirement section.

Course Distribution and Graduation Requirements

Animating Principles

These seven principles are expressed throughout the curriculum, and constitute its overarching goals:

  • Rooted Globalism: To cultivate informed and engaged citizens who are knowledgeable about each other’s histories, traditions of thought and affiliations; and skilled in navigating among local, national and global identities and commitments.
  • Collaborative Problem-Solving: To instill the habits of collaboration and the ability to synthesize disparate insights in solving complex challenges.
  • Research and Practice: To enhance the ability to forge links between theory and practice in the many-sided and rapidly changing world of human need.
  • Lucid Communication: To develop the ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing, and to listen attentively to different viewpoints in coming to mature judgments.
  • Independence and Creativity: To nurture free inquiry, deep reflection and a drive to ask interesting questions and find compelling answers.
  • Wise Leadership: To shape thinkers and doers who possess the moral compass to guide communities and institutions toward a common good and who have the wisdom and technical competence to deal effectively with complexity.
  • A Purposeful Life: To form reflective scholars who test their core beliefs, connect their course of study to big questions of meaning, and who build the capacity for lifelong learning and exploration.


Detailed major information is available from here