CSC update on the Open University ban on Cuban Students

Campaign News | Tuesday, 25 July 2017

People are rightly outraged at the Open University’s discriminatory ban on Cuban students. Around 1200 people have now written directly to their MPs on this matter and staff at the OU are raising the issue with their management. A letter was published in the Guardian today and various media are picking up the story.

The lecturers’ union UCU has written to the Open University vice-chancellor Peter Horrocks and universities minister Jo Johnson calling for the ban to be overturned. Other trade unions look set to follow.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'There is no justification for not accepting Cuban students on a course, and any move to stop anyone would be directly at odds with current UK government policy on cooperating with Cuba on higher education issues, particularly around teaching English.

Most universities in Britain publish clear Equal Opportunity policies that ban discrimination against different students based on race or nationality. For example Aberdeen University state that

‘Applications for admission to all degrees are considered without regard to any inappropriate distinction eg ethnicity or national origin, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, gender, religious or political beliefs, marital status or socio-economic background.’

The University of Birmingham go further and their web site states that

'The University has a long tradition of welcoming students from Cuba, we currently have a growing number of students at Birmingham, studying a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses.’

Even the UK Government Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) encourages and funds Cuban students to study here via the Chevening scholars scheme.

CSC Director Rob Miller said, ‘The fact is that the Open University policy is discriminatory and can not be justified. The OU are putting United States’ ‘Cold War’ policies over and above UK equalities law. They are ‘kowtowing’ to the United States and its extraterritorial blockade legislation. The UK Government has voted every year at the United Nations against the Blockade, in doing so it has voted against such threats to UK sovereignty from an overseas Government.

It is high time for the British Government to intervene and put a stop to this embarrassing policy by the publicly funded Open University. In doing so they would make clear that the UK is not just an infant partner of the United States and that they will not join in with the ridiculous antics of Donald Trump and his Blockade of Cuba.’

More information and articles:

Take action here

UCU statement here

The Morning Star article here

The Guardian letter here

Telesur article here

Aberdeen University admissions policy here

Birmingham University policy here

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