An Ambitious Approach to Overseas Expansion

Duke's business school announces a plan to establish a global network of campuses, all with multiple programs -- and to bring the rest of the university on board.
September 16, 2008

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business announced ambitious plans Monday to develop a network of deep partnerships and branch campuses -- what the dean calls a “physical presence of real scope and scale” – in Dubai, London, New Delhi, Shanghai and St. Petersburg.

"It started with the intellectual question," said Blair Sheppard, the business school’s dean. "You have to take a step back and say, 'If you wanted to be truly global, where must you be?'"

At each of the five locations, Duke plans to offer M.B.A. programs, run at least two research centers, provide open enrollment executive education and customized corporate education, and coordinate service learning with local needs.

“It’s not enough to be there. You have to really, really be there. You have to have M.B.A. program activity. You have to have research activity, you have to have joint faculty activity that will be meeting service needs, and you have to bring the rest of the university with you,” Sheppard said at an elaborate announcement event featuring music and dance from the countries involved, including Chinese dancers doing acrobatics with barrels and a Beatles cover band.

“If you want to do this correctly, you have to be both embedded in each local economy so you come to understand it well, and you have to connect across the economies,” said Sheppard.

Duke will reveal further details about country-specific arrangements in a series of separate announcements over the next few months, but began Monday by announcing its partnership with the Graduate School of Management in St. Petersburg. In a phone interview, Sheppard said the structure of the initiative will vary by host country. “In some cases, the best solution is to partner extremely deeply with another university, which is what we’re doing in St. Petersburg,” he said. “In other cases, the answer is to build your own campus.”

“At least in several of the cases, there will be a brand-new campus built, of real scale, involving more than just Fuqua,” the dean said Monday – meaning involving other Duke University schools or programs, in addition to the business school.

The university will also be reconfiguring and launching an expanded Cross Continent MBA program in August 2009, involving study at the five different locations, plus Durham, North Carolina.

Asked about whether there’s any concern about over-extension, Sheppard said yes, but that, “the answer is to sort of build it over time, essentially do the things we really know how to do well now, do them in multiple places, and then over time, localize significantly what we're doing."

And, he asked, “What would you have us leave out? We're going to be the world's first global business school but we didn't mean China?"

The language used in describing the expansion plans is provocative -- Duke administrators are billing Fuqua as "the first legitimately global business school." An expert on business education said Monday that there's no single formula for the internationalization of business schools -- but that Fuqua's model is unique, and will likely be watched.

"I think it is truly ambitious, and broad in its scope, especially since we're talking about in some sense, an all-at-once type of venture," said Dan LeClair, vice president and chief knowledge officer at the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International. "They're tackling five very different places almost all at once."

Duke's not alone in establishing a branch campus or partnerships with universities abroad -- far from it. But, in speaking of the uniqueness of what Duke has proposed, "The obvious [aspect] is the number of localities and the scale at which they plan to develop these campuses or deep partnerships. The scale has to do with multiple [degree] programs and research and nondegree executive programs. Usually it's one or two. They really are talking about not only multiple locations but multiple programs at each location," said LeClair.

He also cited as noteworthy the Fuqua School's commitment to programs that reflect their local environments, and plans to involve other programs, beyond business, at Duke.

Fuqua faculty leaders say the proposal has been vetted and voted upon -- and that there's strong support among professors for Duke's multinational initiative. "They're very excited and very positive," said Julie Edell Britton, an associate professor who represents the business school on the university-wide Academic Council. "You know, there certainly are risk elements of this new strategy. But anytime you try something that's new and different, there's some risk associated with it. So different people concentrate more on the opportunity side of things, and other people are a little more cautious."

"But all in all, I think our faculty is very excited about the opportunity it presents to really think about our courses and our teaching from a much wider global perspective, as well as opportunities that it presents to really do much more global research," said Britton.

"One of the real strengths of Duke, including the business school, has been our willingness to take on new projects and new issues," said Richard M. Burton, a Fuqua professor who also sits on the Academic Council.


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