Officina del Historiador de la Ciudad de La Habana (OHCH)
OHCH is the coordinating institution of a unique project in Cuba, for its implementation the National Government gave facilities to the OHCH: under the auspices of the government an entire business system has been established that has allowed the architectural and cultural rehabilitation of the Old Colonial Havana (declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982). Consequently, for the implementation of this socio-cultural project, the OHCH has been gradually creating a wide network of infrastructures (hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, shops, real estate facilities, museums, art galleries, concert halls, etc) that generate significant revenue for the country, which funds further restoration and about 35% of which is invested in housing and other social programmes for the benefit of the resident population Old Havana City. Many of the inhabitants of the old city have also been employed by OHCH. These elements make this project an interesting model of sustainable local development with the potential for transfer to other regions in Cuba and abroad.
OHCH has excellent cooperative links with UNESCO, UNDP, EU, and AECID among other international institutions with which it has been working on the implementation of various heritage and social projects. Considering its experience and institutional capacity in such projects, the OHCH has the potential to be a key stakeholder for the implementation of any project focused on the Socio-Cultural and Tourism Development. The existence of a national network of history and conservation offices in all the Cuban world heritage cities (Old Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Camaguey) may be of great assistance for the development of sustainable projects in this field.
The UNESCO Office in Havana implements diverse programmes in Cuba and other Latin America countries in the global programme areas of UNESCO, including culture, education and natural sciences. The Havana office is the Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean. Its work seeks to directly address the countries development priorities. The office implements its projects in close coordination with the National Commissions for UNESCO, governmental agencies and numerous institutions at regional, national and local level as well as with a large number of NGOs.
HE is not a priority programme area for UNESCO (globally). Nonetheless, reasonable contacts exist with MES and UH, which coordinates three of the six UNESCO Chairs in Cuba, (University Management, Information Management in Organisations and Biomaterials). Other important UNESCO Chairs are being established in Cuba on Integrated Conservation Sciences for Cultural and Natural Property, coordinated by the National Centre for Conservation, Restoration and Museology (CENCREM), and on Culture and Development coordinated by the National Training Centre for Culture (both centres belong to the Ministry of Culture).
During the meeting it was agreed that potential exists for cooperation with Flemish and Cuban universities in a VLIR-UOS programme or projects in the area of sustainable management of cultural heritage, particularly in a joint programme of training of human resources on the management of cultural heritage, for which UNESCO will develop a preliminary proposal and ideas.
Mission Findings and Accomplishments
Higher education and research: status and policy environment
Four basic principles underpin HE in Cuba, namely:
a broad profile curricula, with two leading ideas:
the combination of instruction and education,
a close link between studies and work;
continuing education in all fields of knowledge;
research as an integral part of the university mission;
university extension (that is, into the local communities) as the integrating process of university work.
Since the year 2000 significant moves have been made to broaden access to HE for the least favoured social sectors. These initiatives include HEIs opening a number of university extension ‘campuses’ throughout all municipalities to increase access and reduce the dropout rate among working and part-time students, accompanied by investment in distance education methods and modalities. A close relationship is maintained between HE and all of Cuban society, particularly with local communities, for whom undergraduate and postgraduate programmes are offered to meet the needs of a specific productive sector or of a given region.
Strategic focus on national development priorities
Research in HEIs and university research centres is required to contribute directly to Cuban socio-economic development, characterised by MES1 as requirements to produce
Strategic results for high value-added and high-impact exportable production
Technological developments and results that apply technology for more competitive traditional production
Innovative technological results to develop and revitalise local and industrial economies.
In MES strategic planning to 20152 the priority areas for institutional international cooperation match the broad national development priorities (see Error: Reference source not found above) and are:
Higher education and ICT
Biotechnology and medical equipment
Agribusiness and the environment
Industry and energy
Basic and social sciences
Also in line with national development priorities, MES places emphasis on the development of institutional capacity, doctoral programmes and research and innovation in institutions in the Eastern region of Cuba, although activities supported by international cooperation in Eastern institutions would also benefit other MES HEIs in the national network (see paragraph 4.1.4).
Governance and sustainability in MES HEIs
University and other HEI rectors are responsible directly to the MES (and Vice Ministers). They are appointed by a Ministerial resolution. Within the decision-making structure of the MES, rectors are at the same level of the Directors of Divisions of the Ministry. There are no formal governance or decision-making structures at provincial level, but typically HEI rectors maintain active and close contacts with the General Secretaries of the Provincial Communist Party and the Presidents of the Provincial Governments. In many cases, these officials are members of the HEI Governmental Executive Boards.
Collaboration and networking in HE and research
Academic and research collaboration, including joint curriculum development for masters course, information sharing and skills transfer, is one of the strengths of the Cuban HE system, and indeed is a mandatory requirement for MES institutions. MES HEIs are all part of a MES university network (“Reduniv”) and there are also thematic networks maintained by individual HEIs on behalf of the academic and research community, such as the “RedMa: Portal de Medio Ambiente” (an Environment portal) maintained by ISPJAE3.
Collaborative activities, beyond information sharing through intranet and web-based networks, email and occasional meetings are seriously constrained by lack of funds to cover travel costs and poor national and local transport infrastructure. For example, in the past Cuba HEIs collaborated in an effective inter-library loan and publications exchange system, which no longer functions.
Apparently recent changes in the regulations have been initiated that should make it possible for HEIs and staff to be remunerated (in cash or in kind) for their work supporting network activities and on behalf of institutions other than their own.