The visit to UCLV allowed the Country Team to verify the great impact that the VLIR-UOS IUC Programme has had on the institution, in terms of infrastructure development and the capacity and human resource development.
The university proposed a role for itself in providing specialised assistance and a range of support services to Cuban HEIs in the context of future international cooperation with Flemish universities: this new cooperation framework could include:
Functioning as the central node of a technological network for the improvement of distance education within Cuban HE; including training academic staff in the use of ICT and the creation and development of laboratories for the production of educational materials;
Providing a platform for the development of joint doctoral programmes based on the scientific links already established between academics in UCLV and Flanders as well as the laboratory infrastructure already installed in the UCLV under the IUC programme;
Transferring to other universities the pedagogical model adopted in the Centre for Advanced English Language Training for International Collaboration (CAELTIC) for improving quality in English language communication and writing for academic and scientific purposes, including the training of English teachers from other HEIs;
Training of academic and administrative staff from other HEI on Project Cycle Management (PCM);
Human resource development in the area of ICT systems and administration and informatics;
Hosting ICT services and applications (for example, Web Hosting, Virtualization-VPS cluster computing, etc.) to many universities and centres of the national HE network.
In addition to UCLV’s own proposals there is clearly a role, building upon VLIR-UOS supported interventions to date, for UCLV as active coordinator of a national food security network to meet the goals of MES (see paragraphs and ).
Universidad de Cienfuegos (UCF)
UCF is a small, local university in Cienfuegos province in Central Cuba and its activities are mainly focused on contributing to provincial economical and social development. The university plays an active role in training and advising the main enterprises and industries of the territory (thermoelectric industry, electrical energy production, oil refining, sugar industry, fishing, coffee, citrus, cement and fertilisers).
In the context of the current identification mission, the main strength of the university lies in the Centro de Estudios de Energía y Medio Ambiente (CEEMA) which was until recently participating in a VLIR-UOS OI. This research centre develops research in energy efficiency, and it has as a primary objective human resource development in rational energy use and conservation of the environment, training personnel from energy organisations across Cuba. The CEEMA coordinates the energy efficiency network of the Cuban HE system.
UCF has developed good cooperation links with other Cuban universities, especially with institutions in the Central and Eastern regions and the institution has cooperation links with universities and institutions in Canada and Spain and participates in several Latin American networks and projects. CEEMA coordinates the Ibero-American network on the management of efficient energy (GEESOS - Gestión y Eficiencia Energética para un Desarrollo Sostenible). CEEMA was also involved between 2008-2010 in the development and finalisation of the International Standard on Energy management Systems (ISO 50001) for the International Standards Organisation.
Other areas in which the UCF has scientific potential are the integrated management of coastal zones, the sustainable management of cultural heritage and cultural tourism development.
Despite its small size, UCF seems to be well structured and organised, and the rector gave in his presentation evidence of the solid strategic vision of the institution in terms of academic and scientific development. Although UCF does not currently meet the criteria required by the VLIR for an IUC partnership, the university would be a valid stakeholder in cooperation initiatives with Flemish universities in its specialist areas.
UNDP Representation in Cuba
UNDP in Cuba has five main areas of intervention: local human development, food security, prevention of natural disasters and mitigation of risks, environment and energy for sustainable development, and Prevention of HIV/AIDS. Some universities participate in local projects funded by UNDP but in general participation of HEIs in the initiatives promoted by the different bodies of the UN in Cuba is still limited.
The Resident Coordinator expressed her interest in fostering the greater involvement of universities in UNDP projects, considering them as key stakeholders for the implementation of sustainable projects. She also expressed her interest for maintaining links with the VLIR-UOS with the objective of identifying potential areas of joint cooperation in the future.
Universidad de la Habana (UH)
Founded in 1728 the UH is undoubtedly the strongest of the Cuban HEIs from any perspective. Its size and national scope and the recognised quality and professionalism of its academics and researchers in Cuba and abroad are its best credentials, though it suffers from poorly resourced and poorly maintained facilities and infrastructure in common with other HEIs. UH already receives considerable external funds through its many international cooperation initiatives (including three VLIR-UOS OIs). UH is made up of many different and quite autonomous faculties, centres and units, and there was little evidence of clear governance and management, including whole institutional policies and strategic vision.
UH could not be considered as a candidate for an IUC programme, because of its location and existing strengths in international and national investment. However, the diversity of research lines developed in a multi-disciplinary approach by its 18 faculties and 15 research centres would allow the university to be a key stakeholder in many cooperation themes identified. In the context of the current identification mission, UH’s potential involvement could be considered in departmental/research centre level projects in the following areas:
Environment: climate change, biodiversity, renewal energy and coastal zone management through the involvement of the Faculties of Chemistry and Biology, the Centro de Investigaciones Marinas (CIM), the Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnología de los Materiales (IMRE), the Centro de Biomateriales (BIOMAT) and the Centro de Estudios de Medio Ambiente (CEMA).
Public Health: preventative medicine through the involvement of the Faculty of Biology and the Instituto de Farmacia y Alimentos (IFAL) and the Centro de Estudios de Salud y Bienestar Humano (CESBH).
ICT and applications: artificial intelligence and computer sciences, bioinformatics, statistics and biostatistics through the involvement of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Sciences.