Guardian letter: Ban on students from Cuba is a sign of changes at the Open University

Guardian Letters | Tuesday, 25 July 2017 | Click here for original article

Behind the progressive rhetoric are many unwelcome developments, writes Dr Paula James

Cuba Solidarity is rightly leading protests at the banning of applications from Cuban students by the Open University. It has been policy for a while now that the OU does not accept applications from Syria, Sudan, Iran, Cuba and North Korea, because of the fear of US sanctions. So inclusivity and openness are now at risk on an international scale, which comes as no surprise to many of us employed by or associated with the Open University. This discriminatory policy comes with a context. The OU has form on producing progressive rhetoric when the reality of their strategies has for some years been a carnival of reaction. My central and regional colleagues have witnessed with dismay the loss of local offices, along with experienced and skilled student and tutor support staff, since the closure of my regional centre in the south-east in 2014. Many of the support staff are women who have been forced to take early retirement or voluntary redundancy – more effective discrimination. We were told by senior management that these closures were not to save money but to modernise and digitalise the institution. But fiascos have ensued in administrative processes, seriously disadvantaging students and overworking part- and full-time academic and administrative teams. The fall in student recruitment and retention is not just because of the huge hike in fees the OU put into place under the Tory coalition.

Dr Paula James
Chelwood Gate, East Sussex

This letter appeared in the Guardian Letters page on Tuesday 25 July 2017

For more information on the CSC campaign to overturn the OU's ban on Cuban students visit

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