Leadership Perspectives: Denis Simon, Executive Vice Chancellor, Duke Kunshan University

Duke Kunshan is a world-class liberal arts university established in September 2013 as a U.S.-China partnership between Duke University and Wuhan University. It is one of the more recent of the nine universities in China established as Sino-Foreign joint ventures. The 2003 Regulations on Chinese-Foreign Cooperation in Running Schools defined the implementation framework to govern joint programs and institutes in China at three levels–universities (separate legal entities), institutes (within a Chinese university), and programs.

I had a unique opportunity of visiting four joint venture universities and interviewing their leaders in January 2020. I visited Duke Kunshan University, NYU Shanghai, University of Nottingham Ningbo China and Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. Full video interviews are available here.

Given below is the video interview with Professor Denis Simon, Executive Vice Chancellor, Duke Kunshan and an excerpt from it.

On future strategic priorities:

“In terms of the size, we are going to build up to about 2,000 undergraduate students and about 350 graduate students.We are embarked on a major phase two construction project that’s going to more than double the size of the existing campus. We hope to strike a greater balance between science and math, social science and humanities.”

On managing joint venture partnership:

“sometimes when the two partners come together we think we’re on the same wavelength and we have alignment, only to find out a couple of months down the line that we actually had a very different perspective and we didn’t really come to terms about what we were going to do. It’s always important to go back a step or two, make sure you do have the kind of consensus that you’re hoping for, and not take for granted that a nod or a certain kind of body language just means acquiescence.”