Duke Faces Obstacles in Plan for Overseas Growth

Duke Faces Obstacles in Plan for Overseas Growth
A planned management degree offered in Dubai has been scrapped and a similar program in China is suffering setbacks (Photograph by Pau Palacios/Gallery Stock)
Photograph by Pau Palacios/Gallery Stock

Duke University’s international expansion plans for its Fuqua School of Business may be case study material for future students. The school recently canceled what was billed as a first-of-its-kind degree program in Dubai, and it has faced setbacks while trying to launch a similar program in Kunshan, China.

Administrators at Fuqua designed the programs—both one-year masters of management—to attract working professionals in the regions. The plan was to partner with local institutions to bring the Dubai program to fruition, but Fuqua was unable to follow through on its promise, says Jennifer Francis, senior associate dean at Fuqua. “It became more complicated than we expected,” she says. “We could not do it.”

The finance program in Dubai would have been partially funded by the Securities and Commodities Authority of the United Arab Emirates. According to the proposal, the UAE Authority would have provided facilities and up to $1.48 million of financial support, which was reported by Duke’s independent daily newspaper, The Chronicle. The particulars of the financial deal, however, were never finalized.

In May 2012, Fuqua announced that the program would not be launched in the fall as planned. Francis says that although the school originally announced that the program was on hold, the school is no longer moving forward on the project. “It’s not something we’re working on right now,” says Francis.

The school does offer nondegree executive education programs in Dubai, including a three-day course in financial analysis. In addition, the school’s Global Executive MBA and Cross Continent MBA programs have residency components in Dubai.

Fuqua’s effort in China is also facing challenges, but the outlook is better. The Chronicle reported that the school’s plans for Kunshan have been “scaled back significantly as the school reduced the number of programs it planned to offer at the China campus from several to a single semester-long experience.”

Still, Fuqua is proceeding with the masters in management studies program in Kunshan. Students who enroll in the one-year program will spend time on the Fuqua main campus in North Carolina as well as on the DKU campus. The goal is to have a diverse class of 30 to 35 students in the first year, Francis says.

Fuqua and the greater university approved of the China MMS program more than a year ago, but it is currently on hold until the Ministry of Education in China approves it. All the necessary documents have been filed, Francis says. Once the school has approval, it will need about a year to put the finishing touches on the coursework and launch the program. As for the campus, it is currently under construction and is expected to be completed in summer 2014.

At nearby Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, Dean James W. Dean Jr. played a similar waiting game with the Chinese Ministry of Education while trying to launch an executive dual-degree program with Tsinghua University. Even with a well-known partner like Tsinghua, it still took about a year for the program to be approved. The program was launched last October.

Dean says having a strong overseas partner not only improves the work of the school but also makes it easier to navigate the bureaucracy in the region. “The partners know the local market,” he says. “They understand the culture.”

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