IIE Delegation to Cuba Explores Educational Partnership Opportunities

Note to Editors: Members of the press are invited to interview Allan Goodman and university representatives.

NEW YORK, November 11, 2015—U.S. university officials who took part in a historic delegation to Cuba from October 25 to November 1 led by the Institute of International Education found that Cuban higher education officials expressed a resounding desire to develop partnerships with their U.S. counterparts. The delegation, which is part of IIE’s Cuba Higher Education Initiative, was a first step toward cultivating relationships and exploring potential areas of cooperation. The U.S. campus representatives have returned to their colleges and universities with the intent to develop strategic plans for increasing partnership activities with Cuban institutions. Expected outcomes include new study abroad programs, faculty exchange, joint conferences or symposia, joint publications, and faculty-led courses to Cuba.

As an immediate result of the delegation, U.S. university representatives will be sharing their impressions and priorities for developing partnerships during an IIE National Conference Call on expanding US – Cuba academic collaboration on November 17th. To register for the Conference Call, please go to the IIE Cuba Higher Education website. Dial-in information will be provided after registration.

The delegation was led by IIE’s President and CEO, Allan E. Goodman, and included of a diverse group of 12 U.S. higher education institutions: the Associated Colleges of the Midwest; Central Washington University; Indiana University; Lehman College, CUNY; Oberlin College; Rutgers University; SUNY New Paltz; University of Arizona; Montclair State University; University of Tampa; Virginia Commonwealth University; and West Texas A&M. The thirty-four delegates met with high-level officials from six Cuban universities, including the Universidad de La Habana, Instituto Superior de Arte, Instituto Superior Politécnico José Antonio Echeverría (CUJAE), University of Ciencias Médicas de la Habana (UCMH), Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” de Las Villas, and the Universidad de Ciego de Ávila Máximo Gómez Báez (UNICA). In addition, the group heard from the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education and the new Chargé D’Affairs from the U.S. Embassy. All of the Cuban universities voiced interest in academic cooperation and affirmed their belief that recent steps to normalize U.S.-Cuba relations may make the creation of partnerships easier to establish in the near future.

A number of key learning outcomes from this exploratory delegation revolve around the partnership priorities from the Cuban perspective, and the mechanics of how to initiate new linkages. Priorities from the Cuban perspective focus on graduate-level and faculty exchanges in fields such as agriculture, water management, environmental studies, energy/renewable energy, and public health, although they noted that they are also open to collaborating in all fields, including the arts and humanities. Like higher education institutions around the world, these priority areas demonstrate a growing emphasis on using international cooperation to address wider global concerns regarding food, water, and energy security, along with protection of the local environment.

Cuban institutions have a rich history of international collaboration. A majority of the international students that study in Cuba come from Central and Latin America, Africa, and Europe, and are especially prevalent in the medical universities. Despite a dearth in U.S. – Cuba academic partnerships, Europe, Latin America, and Canada have been working with Cuban counterparts for decades and serve as helpful models for U.S. colleges and universities. Meeting with Ambassadors from Norway, Spain, Canada, Belgium, Brazil, and the European Union provided the IIE delegation with helpful insight on the strong history of collaboration between these countries and Cuban higher education institutions.

While the present moment provides a unique opportunity to increase U.S. – Cuba institutional partnerships, they will not be without their challenges. Cuban institutions discussed what they see as a lack of financial and infrastructure resources, and many institutions made clear that they do not have the funds to send Cuban faculty and students abroad. The embargo has contributed to a lack of modern equipment and other resources that are essential for conducting research at Cuban institutions, in many cases requiring universities to use outdated equipment. Despite these challenges, U.S. institutions are planning to pursue a variety of opportunities, including developing a possible U.S. consortium that will work with Cuban counterparts on discipline-specific issues, such as climate change or water management. They plan to initiate new faculty-led courses, connect researchers, and invite visiting lecturers to the U.S. for short-term appointments.

About the Institute of International Education

The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,400 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE also conducts policy research and program evaluations, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad.

About the IIE Cuba Higher Education Initiative

IIE’s Cuba Higher Education Initiative includes the International Academic Partnership Program (IAPP), a series of briefing papers, and national conference calls to discuss ways to expand cooperation in higher education between the U.S. and Cuba. IAPP provides U.S. colleges and universities with a guided strategic planning process to expand cooperation with Cuban counterparts. In addition to the delegation to Cuba, IAPP Cuba connects all participants with expert mentors who provide expert advice to participants as they work to achieve their partnership goals.


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