UO meets almost all the criteria required by VLIR-UOS for a full IUC programme. It is one of the longest-established and most complete universities in Cuba. It is located in the city of Santiago de Cuba (the country’s second most important city), in the Eastern region. During the visit, the university presented a very well structured policy and strategy for the development and management of science and innovation, with a functional structure of all the strategic areas headed by the Vice Rector of Research and Postgraduate Studies. These policies, strategies also demonstrated a clear awareness of the potential of working across academic structures on multidisciplinary research themes and in cross-disciplinary research teams.
The UO has a range of research/study centres of great scientific and technological relevance that offer opportunities of cooperation in various scientific fields. Among the most significant are: Centro de Estudios de Educación Superior (CEES) [Quality of Higher Education], Grupo de Energías Renovables Aplicadas (GERA) [Renewable Energies], Centro de Biofísica Médica (CBM) [Bioengineering and Biomedicine], Centro Nacional de Electromagnetismo Aplicado (CNEA) [Applied Sciences to Industry, Medicine, Biotechnology, Agriculture and Environment], Centro de Estudios de Biotecnología Industrial (CEBI) [Environment, Industrial Biotechnology and Biopharmaceutical Products], Centro de Estudios de Neurociencias, Procesamiento de Imágenes y Señales (CENPIS) [Biomedical Research and Bioengineering], Centro de Estudios de Eficiencia Energética (CEEFE) [Clean and Efficient Energy], Centro de Estudios Turísticos (CETUR) [Socio-cultural and Tourism Development], Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios de Zonas Costeras (CEMZOC) [Environment and Coastal Zone Management], Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo Integral de la Cultura (CEDIC) [Local Development] and Centro de Estudios Cuba - Caribe (CECUCA) [Socio-Cultural Development and Regional Integration].
The university participates actively in several national scientific networks, especially those in which the institution has significant capacity, such as: biotechnology, energy, environment, food production, medical equipment and technology, business management, integrated water management, and integrated coastal zone management. UO also seems to have good level of collaboration with enterprises, industries and the provincial governments in the Eastern Region for the implementation of actions in the field of innovation and technology transfer.
UO is one of the most active Cuban universities in the field of international cooperation, and is a member of several international university associations, such as Unión de Universidades de. América Latina y el Caribe (UDUAL), Inter-American Organisation for Higher Education (OUI) and Ibero-American Association for University Postgraduate (AUIP) and implements various international projects financed by CAPES (Brazil), AECID (Spain), COSUDE (Switzerland) and CIDA (Canada). The university has good connections with universities in Spain, Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela as well as the Caribbean region. However, the institution has not developed many contacts or any cooperative partnerships with academics in Flemish institutions.
Among the main constraints on international research cooperation with UO are the general lack and obsolescence of infrastructure and facilities for research and postgraduate activities and the absence of general support services to research.
Universidad de Granma (UDG)
UDG originated as an agricultural institution of higher education, and its main institutional strengths are still concentrated in the faculties of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, to match the main productive sectors of Granma province: agriculture (40% of the rice production in the country and a one of the major producers of coffee) and livestock. UDG is responsible for the coordination of undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine in the Eastern region.
The university has shown very good results in training and advising local farmers, working with cooperatives and independent farmers in the territory in order to improve their production capacities and increase the commercialisation of agricultural products.
UDG has a reasonable international cooperation record relevant to its academic and scientific potential: teaching and scientific staff participate in mobility actions and some research projects in cooperation with institutions in Germany, Belgium (one VLIR-UOS OI in saline crop research), Spain, Canada, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, although in the last few years, most collaboration has been focused on Venezuela and Angola. UDG also collaborates extensively at the national level with institutions in the agricultural development networks such as UNAH, CENSA, ICA, UCLV, UC and UO.
The campus is located far from the nearest city (Bayamo) with poor transport infrastructure. During the visit, more infrastructure and institutional management shortcomings and problems were evident than in other Cuban universities visited: for instance, buildings and campus facilities showing significant external signs of lack of maintenance and upkeep, buildings and departments were poorly signposted. However, the central library environment and facilities appeared to be attractive, openly accessible and well managed.
The institutional strategic vision presented by the administrative board, in terms of academic and scientific development, was the weakest and less structured of all the universities visited. UDG is too weak for the implementation of an IUC programme. Its involvement in cooperation with Flemish universities should remain essentially in the thematic areas of food security, agricultural production and rural development in which the university has experience and good institutional capacity.