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Inside The Institute for International Education’s Historic Delegation to Cuba

Last week representatives from 12 United States universities concluded a historic visit to Cuba to understand the current higher education panorama of the Caribbean island nation. Given the recent re-establishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba, the Institute for International Education spearheaded the expedition to increase educational ties between the two countries.

Currently there are very limited educational opportunities that exist for American university students who wish to study in Cuba. These students must undergo a vetting process that includes soliciting the necessary paperwork and licenses required[i]. For Cuban students, their choices have historically been limited to states with a large Cuban population such as New York, New Jersey and Florida. However, representatives in the delegation included schools such as Oberlin College, Virginia Commonwealth University and Texas A&M University, which demonstrates a broadened pool of opportunity for Cuban students seeking new destinations within the United States.

Cuba has several universities of international repute, including the University of Havana and Universidad de Oriente. Cuban higher education institutions have enjoyed substantial funding from the government, as education remains a top priority. Prior to the IIE’s visit, Tulane University had already developed a relationship with Cuban institutions to foster academic exchange. Miami Dade College also had welcomed a small number of Cuban students to its campus in recent years.

The delegation to Cuba comes shortly after Secretary of State John Kerry visited Havana in the symbolic reopening of the American Embassy. Local citizens warmly greeted Secretary Kerry, and Cuba’s Foreign Minister acknowledged the important benefits that a partnership between the two countries would signify for Cuba’s continued growth. The IIE has taken momentum and encouraged universities in the United States to prepare for the establishment of exchange programs with Cuban universities.