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