China-foreign partnership schools welcome new semester with confidence

By Chen Xi Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/31 20:53:30

Convocation at Duke Kunshan University (DKU) on Wednesday Photo: Courtesy of DKU

At a time when some universities in the US are putting in-person classes on hold and turning to online models to continue teaching amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, China-US partnership school Duke Kunshan University (DKU) successfully began its fall semester in late August without any new infected cases.

DKU started its new semester on Wednesday after closing the campus and moving class online for almost nine months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

More than 40 new faculty members from across North America, Europe and Asia have joined the undergraduate program for the fall semester.

With the strong support of relevant national and provincial departments, all foreign faculty and staff in DKU were granted special visa invitation letters from relevant departments. 

Although about 80 freshmen based overseas were unable to enter China because of international travel restrictions, they will be able to attend classes through remote learning options. The new batch of freshman are from 31 countries including Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Dominica, Finland, Guatemala, Kenya, Iran, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Spain. 

Currently, the school's International Student Service Office is preparing visa documents for new international students, so that they will be able to come to China after travel restrictions are lifted.

Geng Shuang, a staff at the university, told the Global Times she felt very grateful and happy to see the faces of her colleagues and students again, which motivates her to work hard. 

The school has implemented strict anti-pandemic measures for all students, including applying for health QR codes and requiring them to fill out documents covering their past 14 days of travel history as well as temperature checks. 

Convocation at Duke Kunshan University (DKU) on Wednesday Photo: Courtesy of DKU

Besides DKU, New York University Shanghai and University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) are preparing to begin their new semesters in mid-September. 

A staff from the marketing department of UNNC told the Global Times that about 80 percent of the foreign faculty has returned to the school.

Since China has reopened air travel to some European countries, foreign teachers from Europe are now able to arrive by plane. While some teachers from the US might face more difficulties due to limited China-US air routes, according to the school most are expected to arrive by October. 

Similar with DKU, the local government in East China's Zhejiang Province has also provided support for foreign teachers. In July the local government gave approval for over ten foreign teachers to work at the school, said DKU staff.

Meanwhile, the school is trying to offer more efficient means for foreign staff to purchase tickets.

While China-foreign partnership schools are welcoming the new semester with excitement, some universities in the US have had to cancel in-person classes and persuade students who have returned to campus and take classes online at home. 

According to reports, 175 of 8,094 students living on the campus of Iowa State University have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the semester. Some students have expressed concern about whether the semester will continue. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also halted in-person classes only a week after they began the new semester, switching over to remote instruction because of a spike in infections.


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