Victory for campaign against Open University ban

Campaign News | Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Thanks to the persistent campaigning of CSC members, affiliates and supporters the Open University has reversed its discriminatory policy of barring Cuban students from studying at the institution.

This campaign victory comes as a direct result of the actions taken by thousands of CSC supporters writing to the OU and to their MPs; the public statements and letters sent by trade unions with links to the OU, (the NUT, UCU, Unite and Unison); and the MPs who raised the issue with government ministers and in parliament. Without the constant pressure to expose OU policy, the bar would have continued without challenge.

While we welcome the statement issued by the OU on Wednesday 8 November announcing that they would now accept Cuban students, we believe that the bar should never have been enforced in the first place.

When faced with the choice of breaking the UK’s Equality Act, or risk of legal action from the United States Treasury Department, the OU chose to opt for a discriminatory policy against Cuban students. By default, they helped to implement US blockade policy in the UK.

It took a vigorous campaign from CSC, which drew national press coverage and saw questions raised in the Houses of Parliament, to shame the OU to take action to reverse their prejudiced policy.

But it should have been the British government, not the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, who challenged the Open University’s blatant disregard for British laws.

By barring a student’s application based on their Cuban nationality, the OU broke anti-discrimination legislation laid down by the 2010 Equality Act. By complying with the extraterritorial aspects of the US blockade, it contravened legislation which prohibits British companies and organisations ignoring UK laws in favour of US regulations.

Just a few days ago, on 1 November 2017, the British government voted with 190 other nations to condemn the US blockade of Cuba at the United Nations General Assembly. Yet, in reality they do nothing to back up this vote.

CSC believes that the government needs to follow through on their vote at the United Nations and decide whether this vote, and British laws, are worth the paper they are printed on. The only way to stop other companies and organisations capitulating to US Treasury threats is if the government sends a clear message that UK laws are sovereign. CSC calls on the government to make a public statement it will take swift and robust action against any future breaches of British law linked to extraterritorial US blockage legislation.

Once again, we thank all the friends and supporters for being part of this campaign victory by taking action to pressure to Open University to reverse its bar against Cuban students. It is a testament to the power of campaigning and international solidarity.

Read more: NEU Statement on the Open University’s change of policy relating to Cuban students

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