THE British Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) has launched a campaign to overturn a ban on applications from Cuban students by one of the biggest educational institutions in the UK.
The Open University (OU) has been exposed for operating a policy of barring applications from Cuban students, due to U.S. blockade laws against Cuba.
The Open University says it is operating a “restricted countries” list in its admissions process because it fears it may be fined by the United States Treasury Department if it breaks U.S. blockade laws and allows Cuban students to study there.
The policy of the Open University came to light after a Cuban student applied to study for a PhD at the institution in April and was told he could not because of his Cuban nationality.
The Cuba Solidarity Campaign says that by barring applications from a group of students based on their Cuban nationality, the Open University is breaking the UK’s anti-discrimination legislation laid down by the 2010 Equality Act.
In response to the CSC campaign, more than 1,200 people have written to their Members of Parliament asking them to intervene in the case and force the Open University to change its policy.
The General Secretary of the University and College Union, which represents Britain’s University lecturers, has written to the Vice Chancellor of the Open University. In the letter Sally Hunt says: “We are concerned about the discriminatory nature of the Open University’s admissions policy, which not only runs counter to your access-oriented mission but also current practice at other universities, where Cuban students are enrolled on both undergraduate and postgraduate courses.”
As well as breaking equalities laws it is also in contravention of the British law ‘The Protection of Trading Interests Act’ a UK law which can penalise UK companies and organisations that comply with the extraterritorial US blockade of Cuba. In effect the Open University is placing U.S. anti-Cuban blockade legislation over and above UK law.
Such cases highlight the global reach of the blockade and its impact on the Cuban people. However, this is the first instance of this impacting on a British educational institution. In 2007 Hilton Hotels tried to ban Cuban nationals from staying at its hotels in the UK citing the same reasons as the OU. However, after a successful campaign by CSC and a coalition of trade unions and parliamentarians the hotel chain backed down.
The Cuba Solidarity Campaign believes that the Open University’s action is both unethical and illegal under UK law and has called on the British government to intervene in the matter.
CSC Director Rob Miller said: “It is unacceptable on every level for a British university to ban an entire group of students based solely on their nationality and runs counter to anti-discrimination and equal opportunity laws. Their action and justification for it punishes the people of Cuba, and undermines the sovereignty of UK law. Cuban students are welcome to study at other British universities. By introducing this unjust, discriminatory and nasty policy, the Open University is making a mockery of its claim to be “open to all.”