VLIR–UOS university cooperation for development and the new country strategy approach.
Mr. Peter De Lannoy, Coordinator South of VLIR-UOS.
The International Cooperation Policy and strategic priorities of Cuban Higher Education. Priorities and strategic opportunities for cooperation with European partners, in particular with the Flemish universities and higher education institutes.
Dr. José Luis Garcia Cuevas, Director of the Division for Science and Technology of the Ministry of Higher Education.
Questions and answers session, chaired by Mrs. Maria Victoria Villavicencio, Director of the Division for International Relations of the Ministry of Higher Education.
VLIR-UOS institutional university cooperation (IUC) with Universidad Central de Las Villas, Cuba. Main results and lessons learned in view of future opportunities of Cooperation between Flemish and Cuban universities.
Prof. Angel Rubio Gonzalez, Vice Rector of UCLV.
Opportunities for cooperation identified with Flemish academic stakeholders.
Mrs. Julie Carpenter, International expert.
Group sessions 1 - Generic needs in Cuban HE that could be addressed by interuniversity cooperation. (2 groups).
Group 1: Capacity Building, chaired by Julie Carpenter, International consultant.
Group 2: The internationalisation of the Higher Education Institutions, chaired by Carlos A. Vigil Taquechel, International consultant.
Group reports, chaired by Peter De Lannoy, Coordinator South of VLIR-UOS.
Group sessions 2 – priorities in terms of thematic interventions and issues that receive particular attention (3 groups).
Group 2: Thematic focus: improvement of the quality of life and public health, chaired by Prof. Marc Nyssen, VLIR-UOS board member.
Group 3: Thematic focus: Social Sciences and Cultural Development, chaired by Julie Carpenter, International consultant.
Group reports and plenary discussion session, chaired by Raul Hernandez Perez, Head of International Collaboration at the Division for International Relations of the Ministry of Higher Education.
Prof. Marc Nyssen, VLIR-UOS board member.
Dr. Julio Castro Lamas, Director of the Division for Postgraduate Studies of the Ministry of Higher Education.
47 participants representing a wide range of Cuban institutions attended the seminar. The institutions represented were as follows:
Representing the Higher Education Institutions and Research Centres of the MES:
Universidad de Oriente (UO)
Universidad de Granma (UDG)
Universidad de Camagüey (UC)
Universidad Central de Las Villas (UCLV)
Universidad de Cienfuegos (UCF)
Universidad de Matanzas (UMCC)
Universidad Agraria de La Habana (UNAH)
Universidad de La Habana (UH)
Instituto Superior Politécnico José A. Echeverría (ISPJAE)
Universidad de Sancti Spíritus (UNISS)
Centro Nacional de Sanidad Agropecuaria (CENSA)
Instituto de Ciencia Animal (ICA)
Representing the Higher Education Institutions and Research Centres of other ministries
Universidad de Ciencias Informáticas (UCI)
Universidad de Ciencias Medicas de La Habana (UCMH)
Centro de Inmunología Molecular (CIM)
Representing governmental bodies or international organisations
Ministerio de Educación Superior (MES)
Ministerio de Comercio Exterior, Inversión Extranjera y Cooperación (MINCEX)
Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente (CITMA)
Embajada de Bélgica
The full list of seminar participants is given in Annex 2.
Seminar overview. Main findings
Four introductory presentations were made in order to facilitate the debate. Presentations were focused on the definition of the context of a new strategy of the VLIR-UOS for Cuba and the different project modalities, the setting up of the thematic priorities defined by the MES for the cooperation with Flemish institutions, the sharing of experience, results and good practice resulting from the implementation of the IUC Programme in the UCLV as well as introduction of the potential thematic cooperation niches based on interests already identified by the experts during meetings with Flemish academics.
A first round of group sessions was developed for analysing generic needs. For this exercise two groups were created. The main findings of this exercise were:
Group 1- Capacity building in Cuban Higher Education.
The higher education system ensures a good cooperation among the universities.
There are some well-structured research networks.
The PhD Programmes are mainly focused on priority areas of the country.
There are scientific poles and research centres working in close collaboration with universities.
High quality of the academic and researchers staffs.
Several logistics and technology infrastructure problems (ICT, laboratories, equipments, transportation, communications, buildings and other facilities).
Limited access to databases and updated scientific bibliography.
Lack of culture on information management.
Problems of training in foreign languages, especially English.
Low participation in international scientific events.
Limited resources to the development of post-doctoral training.
Complexity of the process for the approval of joint PhDs.
Opportunities (in terms of cooperation with Flanders)
Possibility of increasing the mobility of academics and scientists.
Opportunity for improving the scientific production.
Opportunity for integration of joint research and training in priority areas (joint PhDs).
Financing for the improvement of the infrastructures.
Possibility of working together in applications of great economic impact.
Group 2- The internationalisation of the Cuban Higher Education.
Experience of the Cuban Higher Education System and its universities in the implementation of international cooperation actions.
Appropriate system of international partnerships with universities and research centres of all over the world.
The existence of strategic guidelines for the implementation of international cooperation actions.
International prestige and reputation of the Cuban Higher Education.
Appropriate and transparent use of the financial means.
The participation of Cuban academics in international networks, projects and events is still limited.
Higher education is not a priority within the international cooperation strategy of the country.
Lack of culture on international cooperation and project management.
Lack of specialized training of the international relations teams of the universities to carry out this activity.
Lack of information and knowledge on international programmes, calls for proposals and funding sources.
Lack of motivation of academic and scientists leaders to participate in international projects.
Complex mechanisms to implement projects in the country.
Financial constraints to participate in international actions.
Inadequate infrastructure to participate in major research projects.
Not all the university community is involved in the internationalisation processes.
Restrictions for the development of student mobility actions.
Opportunities (in terms of cooperation with Flanders)
Opportunity to use more efficiently the international cooperation options offered by the multilateral cooperation, especially those EU regional programs in which Cuba is able to participate.
Opportunity to develop triangular cooperation activities (Flanders-Cuba-Other Latin America/African countries).
Opportunity to effectively use the institutional capacity, infrastructures, contacts and experiences of the UCLV with Flanders to promote new cooperation activities with the Flemish universities.
Capacity of universities of the MES to work on networks, maximizing its potential in different thematic areas of mutual interest.
A second round of group sessions was developed for analysing thematic priorities. For this exercise three groups were created. The main findings of this exercise were:
Group 1. Food security and Environment
There is huge potential and diversity within the higher education system for contributing in this priority sector of the Cuban economy, especially on the improvement of the agricultural production. In order to consolidate this area with the support of the Flemish cooperation was considered essential:
Working on the improvement and homologation of the PhD training programmes on agricultural sciences/food security already existed in the Cuban universities.
Developing joint research thematic networks, bringing together the best research groups and scientists of the country in this field.
Promoting a dynamic scientific exchange (at national level as well as with the Flemish side) among the research groups working on food production and agricultural development.
Promoting the developing of new joint PhD programmes on agricultural sciences through specific scholarships.
Group 2. Quality of life and public health
The debate of this group was affected by the lower participation in the seminar of institutions of the public health sector. Nonetheless, the participants considered as a priority the fostering of research cooperation bonds in areas such as: preventative medicine, pharmacology, epidemiology, and applied informatics/software production for medical purposes.
The strength of the national health system was highlighted, in which is integrated a network of institutions of the MINSAP (hospitals and clinics, medical research centres and medicine universities) and which covers all over the country including the research departments and units in some of the universities that belong to the MES. It was also recognised that INFOMED –the intranet Portal of the National Health System- is one of the best scientific information services of the country.
Considering potential actions to implement with Flemish universities, the participants indicated the necessity of developing new joint PhD programmes on Health Sciences, Bioinformatics, Bioengineering and Telemedicine.
Group 3. Social Sciences and Cultural Development
In this group was debated the strength of the Cuban system in the training of social agents whose mission is to contribute to human well-being of the population. Other highlights included the role of women in social development (gender approach) and the national experience in cultural heritage management.
The main priority identified was the training human resources (PhD, MSc and other postgraduate courses) in the following areas: