Morning Star: Call for government to step in over Open University Cuba ban

Morning Star | Wednesday, 26 July 2017 | Click here for original article

University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Sally Hunt called on the government yesterday to step in to overturn a ban on Cuban students by the Open University.

She has written to Open University vice-chancellor Peter Horrocks and Universities Minister Jo Johnson to take action.

She told the Star: “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 government policy on co-operating with Cuba on higher-education issues, particularly around teaching English.”

As reported in the Star on Monday, the OU said it has introduced the ban because it fears repercussions from the US, which has been operating an illegal blockade against the Caribbean island for more than 50 years. The US imposes fines and embargoes on foreign companies that deal with Cuba.

The blockade — repeatedly declared illegal by the United Nations — leaves Cuba struggling to obtain materials including medicines and educational equipment. The OU has now added its courses to the list.

In her letter, Ms Hunt wrote: “We are concerned about the discriminatory nature of the OU’s admissions policy, which not only runs counter to your access-oriented mission but also current practice at other universities, where Cuban students are enrolled on both undergraduate and postgraduate courses.”

She said she was baffled that the OU chose to “privilege US legislation over and above UK-EU legislation and practice.”

Cuba Solidarity Campaign director Rob Miller said: “It is 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 [US President] Donald Trump and his blockade of Cuba.”

The Morning Star has repeatedly asked the OU for a statement on the issue, but none has been forthcoming. The OU is the biggest provider of higher education in Europe. It has 250,000 students, including 50,000 overseas.

Thirty Cuban students are currently studying at other universities in Britain.

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign is urging supporters to contact their MPs over the OU ban, see

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