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Cuba: Student places decrease, will we one day see a foreign private institution?

Cuba’s National Statistical Office (ONE) recently released its annual overview of education data for year 2010/2011 including some figures for the 2011/2012 academic year. The reported numbers, although their accuracy has been questioned in the past, show a sensational decrease in the overall enrolment in universities by little more than 86 000 (25.8%) when compared to last year (from 473 309 in 2010/11 to 351 116 in 2011/2012). Despite the decrease, Cuba, with slightly more than 11 million people, remains one of the countries with a high enrolment ratio.

In Cuba, all universities are controlled by the state and admission quotas are determined by the Ministry of Higher Education reflecting the perceived current needs of the country. Medicine has traditionally been one of the strong areas and continues to dominate with 118 914 students (33.9% of the total), followed by social sciences and humanities with 77 243 (22%), and education – 43 700 (12.4%). In terms of overall numbers, social sciences and humanities have registered the largest decrease in student numbers, but the discipline’s overall share fell only slightly from 23.9% in the 2010/11 academic year. Equally, despite a decrease of almost 30 000 students, the overall share of medicine in the total numbers rose from 31.4 to 33.9%.

In recent years, the island has been undergoing a slow reform and transition process and even opened itself up to foreign investment (albeit with heavy regulation). If the current trend of decreasing student places coupled with increased international economic market openness continues, maybe one day we will see a foreign higher education institution cater to those left out by the state system.

Cuba’s National Statistical Office (ONE) 2010/11 (in Spanish) Cuba’s National Statistical Office (ONE) 2009/10 (in Spanish)