The Liberal Arts in the 21st Century

A 21st Century Curriculum

The Duke Kunshan curriculum begins from liberal arts principles and is imbued with the hallmarks of a Duke education blended with Chinese tradition:  interdisciplinary approaches, engagement with research questions, problem-based and team-based learning, and opportunities for students to craft individual pathways and deepen their intellectual engagement over time.  It is a kind of education that builds critical and problem-solving skills, simultaneously conferring a broad base of knowledge and fostering the ability to interrogate that knowledge and apply it flexibly. It is also deeply cross-cultural in its orientation: Duke Kunshan gives all participants the continual experience of learning to see from multiple points of view and to work together across cultural boundaries—a crucial skill for the future.

A Liberal Arts College Experience

The small-scale residential setting at Duke Kunshan offers significant opportunities for innovative and integrated forms of learning, an especially close connection between faculty and students, and the intermixing of students with different interests. In addition, Duke Kunshan offers creative alignments between its undergraduate curriculum and selected areas of research strength at Duke Kunshan and at Duke. Liberal arts colleges provide direct access to research opportunities for undergraduates – they leverage their small size, commitment to teaching to provide opportunities for one-on-one and small team-based scholarly mentoring. In the United States, liberal arts colleges disproportionately produce students who go on to earn PhD’s. Duke Kunshan offers the same kinds of focus on discovery and the co-creation of knowledge as at liberal arts colleges with the added dimension of research centers on site and connections to a major research university in the United States and to Wuhan University in China.

Dual Degrees

Students who complete Duke Kunshan’s 4-year undergraduate curriculum will receive two degrees, one from Duke University (pending approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission of Colleges), and one from Duke Kunshan University (pending approval from the Ministry of Education of China), and will be alumni of both institutions.

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.

Click here to find how the curriculum embodies these principles.