US university presidents visit Cuba as diplomatic relations thaw

Deeper academic collaboration between Cuba and the United States has now been put on the agenda

istock_000064081141_smallA delegation of US university presidents has returned from a visit to Cuba – the first since President Barack Obama began the process of “normalisation” last December.

The delegation from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), representing 420 member institutions and led by its president, Muriel Howard, met up with Cuban university rectors and directors of research centres in Havana last month.

They had meetings at the Ministry of Higher Education, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment and the Ministry of Public Health, as well as the University of Havana, the University of Technical Sciences of Havana, the University of Information Sciences, the Technical Higher Institute José Antonio Echeverría and Center of Martí Studies.

The visit was also marked by the signing of a memorandum of understanding by Dr Howard and José Ramón Saborido Loidi, first vice-minister in Cuba’s higher education ministry, designed to promote further academic collaboration between the two countries.

This led to the creation of a task force to “develop mutually beneficial opportunities for professional development of faculty, increased student mobility and joint research at the undergraduate and graduate level”. Progress towards these goals would rely on “an academic collaboration framework with specific steps and actions”, to be signed during the Universidad 2016 congress at the University of Havana next February.

The parties also pledged their support for a long-standing goal of the AASCU, namely “the lifting of the US commercial, financial and economic embargo of Cuba which impedes mutually beneficial academic collaboration”.

Matthew Reisz, Times Higher Education

Matthew Reisz is a reporter and features writer. He is responsible for: intellectual affairs; trends within disciplines, particularly in the arts, humanities and social sciences

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