British ‘Open’ University or closed anti-Cuban Trump University?


This video from the USA says about itself:

Wilkerson: Practically Everyone Opposes Trump‘s Reversal of Obama’s Cuba Opening

15 June 2017

Reversing the Cuba opening will be a political nightmare for the Trump administration, but they ignore everyone’s warnings, says Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell‘s former Chief of Staff.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain:

‘Open’ University blacklists Cubans from its courses

Monday 24th July 2017

Institution accused of blocking enrolments to bolster US embargo – in breach of British laws

CUBANS have been banned from enrolling at the Open University (OU) because the institution fears repercussions from the United States, which has been illegally blockading the island for 59 years.

The distance-learning university has been accused of breaching discrimination laws by imposing the ban.

Around 30 Cuban students are already studying at other British universities and the government has pledged to build higher education links with the tiny Caribbean nation.

The OU has claimed that the ban on Cuban students is “in response to international economic sanctions and embargoes” — that is, threats of retaliation from the US.

Britain as a whole does not operate or subscribe to any economic sanctions or embargoes against Cuba.

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) yesterday condemned the ban as “unacceptable” and said the OU was choosing to abide by US rather than British law.

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.

“It is an affront to all British people to suggest, as the OU does, that they are only complying with US law. Their action and justification for it punishes the people of Cuba, and undermines the sovereignty of British law.

“Cuban students are welcome to study at many other British universities. By introducing this unjust, discriminatory and nasty policy, the OU is making a mockery of its claim to be ‘open to all.’

“We have asked the Open University to end this outrageous ban, and are calling on the British government to make urgent representations to the OU to ensure that they run a fair and non-discriminatory admissions policy, or take action to enforce one if they refuse.”

In March, Foreign and Commonwealth Minister Sir Alan Duncan met Cuban vice-minister for higher education Dr Aurora Fernandez, who was in Britain leading a delegation from the Cuban higher education sector.

He said at the time he was “looking forward to working with them towards UK-Cuba goals on higher education, research, and English language training.”

Westminster policy is one of “strengthening UK-Cuba educational links.”

Last year, a memorandum of understanding was signed to “boost bilateral cooperation in higher education, research and teaching of English.”

CSC has launched a campaign to persuade the OU to lift its ban on Cuban students and is urging supporters to write to their MPs over the matter.

The US economic blockade was imposed by president John F Kennedy in 1962, extending restrictions from 1960, and maintained by every subsequent president.

Relations between Cuba and the US improved under President Obama, though the economic blockade remained largely in place, but President Trump is tightening restrictions against island country of 11 million.

The blockade, which has been declared illegal by the United Nations every year since 1992, has significant and punitive effects on Cuba, including its health and education services.

Drugs and medicines have to be shipped from China and other countries, despite being available just 90 miles away in the US.

The OU also bans students from Iran, North Korea and Syria.

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7 thoughts on “British ‘Open’ University or closed anti-Cuban Trump University?

  1. Wednesday 26th July 2017

    posted by Peter Lazenby in Britain

    University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Sally Hunt called on the government yesterday to step in to overturn a ban on Cuban students by the Open University.

    She has written to Open University vice-chancellor Peter Horrocks and Universities Minister Jo Johnson to take action.

    She told the Star: “There is no justification for not accepting Cuban students on a course, and any move to stop anyone would be directly at odds with current government policy on co-operating with Cuba on higher-education issues, particularly around teaching English.”

    As reported in the Star on Monday, the OU said it has introduced the ban because it fears repercussions from the US, which has been operating an illegal blockade against the Caribbean island for more than 50 years. The US imposes fines and embargoes on foreign companies that deal with Cuba.

    The blockade — repeatedly declared illegal by the United Nations — leaves Cuba struggling to obtain materials including medicines and educational equipment. The OU has now added its courses to the list.

    In her letter, Ms Hunt wrote: “We are concerned about the discriminatory nature of the OU’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.”

    She said she was baffled that the OU chose to “privilege US legislation over and above UK-EU legislation and practice.”

    Cuba Solidarity Campaign director Rob Miller said: “It is time for the British government to intervene and put a stop to this embarrassing policy by the publicly funded Open University.

    “In doing so they would make clear that the UK is not just an infant partner of the United States and that they will not join in with the ridiculous antics of [US President] Donald Trump and his blockade of Cuba.”

    The Morning Star has repeatedly asked the OU for a statement on the issue, but none has been forthcoming. The OU is the biggest provider of higher education in Europe. It has 250,000 students, including 50,000 overseas.

    Thirty Cuban students are currently studying at other universities in Britain.

    The Cuba Solidarity Campaign is urging supporters to contact their MPs over the OU ban, see http://cuba-solidarity.org.uk/ou.

    http://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-d734-Call-for-government-to-step-in-over-Open-University-Cuba-ban#.WXhNMFFpwdU

  2. Thursday 27th July 2017

    posted by Peter Lazenby in Britain

    THE Open University was forced to admit yesterday it was bowing to US pressure by begging for a licence to be allowed to enrol students from Cuba.

    As reported in the Star, the Open University (OU) has banned students from Cuba from enrolling on any of its courses as it feared repercussions from the US, which has operated an illegal blockade on the island for 50 years.

    The blockade starves Cuba — population 11 million — of essentials including medicines and educational materials.

    An OU spokesman told the Star: “The US has comprehensive sanctions in place against a number of countries, including Cuba, meaning that it is not lawful for organisations subject to US jurisdiction to supply educational services to those countries without a licence.”

    The spokesman said that after taking legal advice “the university reluctantly concluded that it must apply to the US Treasury Department’s office for foreign assets control for the relevant licences.”

    Cuba Solidarity Campaign director Rob Miller said: “The OU seem to be placing United States’ cold war policies over and above UK equalities law. They are kowtowing to the United States and its extraterritorial blockade legislation.

    “The UK has the 1996 Protection of Trading interests legislation on its statutes designed to deal precisely with this kind of extraterritorial bullying by a foreign power.”

    http://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-d78e-Open-University-slammed-for-kowtowing-to-US-demands-over-Cuba#.WXnlxlFpwdU

  3. Friday 28th July 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Britain

    BRITAIN’S largest teaching union NUT joined the growing chorus of voices yesterday against the Open University’s (OU) “discriminatory” ban on Cuban students.

    NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney has written to OU secretary Keith Zimmerman, calling for the policy to be revised.

    Mr Courtney wrote: “On paper, the Open University and the National Union of Teachers share many of the same core values and commitments; better opportunities for all, a focus on social justice, and a commitment to removing the barriers to quality education.”

    However, he said he feared that this recent policy “has turned its back on these key values.”

    He said the decision to reject students from Cuba is illegal under Britain’s Equality Act 2010 and breaches the Protection of Trading Interests Act 1996, which states that Britain-based companies and individuals can be fined for complying with “extraterritorial obligations” imposed by other countries.

    “As an educationalist, I am sure you will agree that no student should be denied the opportunity to learn simply because of where they were born. I ask you t o revise this discriminatory policy as a matter of urgency,” wrote Mr Courtney.

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-e635-NUT-joins-calls-against-Open-University-Cuba-ban#.WXt8p1FpwdU

  4. Saturday 28th October 2017

    The Tories are allowing a British educational institution to set admissions criteria based on the policy of a foreign government. ROB MILLER reports

    Earlier this year a Cuban student was told that they were ineligible to study at the Open University (OU) because the organisation operated a restricted countries list that included Cuba.

    When challenged, the OU stated that this was because it considered itself to fall “within the jurisdiction of US regulation with regard to economic embargoes.” This clearly discriminatory policy has sparked a massive and angry reaction.

    More than 2,200 people have written to their MPs asking them to raise the case directly with the British government. Hundreds of MPs of all parties have now written and tabled parliamentary questions expressing outrage at the OU’s discriminatory policy and their justification that they are doing so because of the threat of fines from the US.

    The “economic sanctions,” referred to by the OU, are those solely imposed by the US against Cuba.

    Britain has no such sanctions. In fact it votes against the US blockade and its extraterritorial policies every year at the UN.

    The OU is operating an admissions policy that is clearly discriminatory under the 2010 Equality Act which outlaws any discrimination on the grounds of race or nationality. The OU cites US anti-Cuban blockade legislation as justification for their actions. In doing so the OU is placing the primacy of US legislation over and above the laws of Britain.

    The campaign to force the “Open” University to end its bar on Cuban students has mobilised thousands of people to take action, reached government ministers, attracted national press coverage and put the Open University’s policy under the spotlight.

    In response to questions even government ministers seem unsure which way to turn. Alan Duncan MP — the foreign office minister with responsibility for Cuba — said that “regarding the Open University’s policy to ban applications from Cuban students due to US sanctions on Cuba. I am minded to agree with you and will take action where possible.”

    Duncan recently met with Dr Aurora Fernandez, Cuba’s vice-minister of higher education to discuss the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two countries to “boost bilateral co-operation in higher education, research and teaching of English.”

    The OU’s decision to bar a Cuban student from taking a PhD in Teaching English as a Foreign Language risks making a farce of such memorandums.

    Baroness Gloria Hooper, Catherine West MP, Hywel Williams MP and Steve McCabe MP have all tabled parliamentary questions on the issue, which revealed that the OU has met with the departments of education, trade, and the Foreign Office to discuss the matter, but the government is refusing intervene.

    Lord Nash, responding for the government, said: “There are no UK or EU sanctions against Cuba. However, we understand that private organisations such as the Open University have to take decisions about their exposure to sanctions on the basis of commercial considerations, their own legal advice and appropriate risk assessments.”

    Such a response suggests that the government considers the OU’s “commercial considerations” to trump Britain’s anti-discrimination laws.

    If this is the case, then the government is allowing a British educational institution to set its admissions criteria based on the policy of a foreign government. The government is not only abrogating its responsibility to enforce Britain’s equalities laws through its inaction, it is also failing to prosecute companies who adhere to the extraterritorial laws of the US blockade over British law — something that it should do under 1996 Protection of Trading Interests legislation.

    Other British universities welcome Cuban students. There are clear double standards in how the government is presenting itself abroad compared to its action at home.

    In last September the British ambassador to Cuba, Antony Stokes, announced that 16 Cuban students have received Chevening scholarships enabling them to study masters courses in Britain.

    “The group will soon depart from the island to study a one-year masters course in their area of expertise in prestigious British universities,” the British embassy reported.

    Twenty-three British universities have confirmed to Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) that they would welcome Cuban students at their institutions. Some go further and even have web pages encouraging Cuban students to apply.

    The University of Birmingham told us that it had “a long tradition of welcoming students from Cuba” and the University of Newcastle were “pleased to confirm that we are happy to consider applications from Cuban students.”

    Education unions and others that work within the Open University and higher education including the University and College Union (UCU), Unison, the National Union of Teachers (now part of the National Education Union) and Unite, have all issued statements and taken action on the case.

    UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “There is no justification for not accepting Cuban students on a course, and any move to stop anyone would be directly at odds with current UK government policy on cooperating with Cuba on higher education issues, particularly around teaching English.”

    And National Education Union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “It appears that the OU not only prioritises US law over UK law, but US law over fairness and equality.”

    In response to campaign pressure the Open University was forced to release a statement attempting to justify its ban on Cuban students and seeking sympathy for the “regrettable” situation it finds itself in.

    It appeals to us to be patient while they are “temporarily unable to accept students from a limited group of countries.” Perhaps the OU thinks that short-term discrimination is acceptable? Or that as it’s only a “limited group of countries” people wouldn’t notice or care? It is precisely for those reasons that it is essential that the OU must be forced to change their policy.

    The OU says it is unable to “disregard regulation that may apply to us, nor is it within our power to resolve any tensions between UK law and international laws,” but by making the decision to exclude Cuban students, they have done just that. They have chosen to disregard British regulations and British sovereign laws in favour of US blockade legislation.

    When faced with the choice of breaking the Britain’s Equality Act, or risk of legal action from the US Treasury Department, the OU has decided to opt for a discriminatory policy against Cuban students. By default, they are implementing US blockade policy in Britain. Pro-blockade politicians in the US would be proud of them.

    The CSC fails to understand why the OU thinks it needs to “apply to the US Treasury Department’s Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for the relevant licences” in order to accept Cuban students to study on courses based in Britain, when other British universities do not.

    According to the British government’s own website: “The UK Protection of Trading Interests Act makes it illegal for UK-based companies to comply with extraterritorial legislation (like Helms-Burton) and there is provision for fines to be levied against offending companies and individuals. In parallel an EU Blocking Statute also makes it illegal to comply.”

    The OU says that it is “actively engaging with the UK government to see if there is any way that they can help to resolve this situation.” We would be very pleased to see exactly how the OU, or indeed the British government, are challenging this unacceptable interference in Britain’s sovereign affairs by a foreign state.

    It seems that unlike other British universities, the OU has made a judgement on which country is sovereign in its governance decisions. Rather than stand up to defend their values the OU it has reneged on their own mission statement, “to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.” They have made a mockery of the claim that they are “committed to promoting equal opportunities for all, and close monitoring makes sure that we live up to our ideals.”

    The British government now needs to decide whether British laws are worth the paper they are printed on. If so they should take swift action to penalise the OU on grounds of discrimination under equalities legislation and under the Protection of Trading Interests Act.

    The CSC has received strong legal advice, from a leading discrimination and public law barrister, clearly stating that the policy of the OU is unlawful.

    Nationality is included in the definition of the protected characteristic of race under the Equality Act 2010 and it is clear that the OU has discriminated against an individual on the basis of his nationality.

    Since the British government has failed to take action against the OU, CSC has been left with no option but to explore all legal options against the OU for illegal discrimination.

    Labour MP Emma Dent Coad said: “The policy to exclude Cuban students from OU courses is wholly unjustified and quite frankly bizarre. The OU’s decision to succumb to outdated policy propagated by a nation across the Atlantic contravenes the standards that educational institutions ought to operate on in the UK.”

    And Tory MP Oliver Letwin commented: “This is indeed a strange case. I am unclear why the OU believes that it needs to comply with the US legislation, and I am also unclear whether, in seeking to comply with US legislation, the OU has breached its obligations under the UK’s Equality Act 2010.”

    Green MP Caroline Lucas confirmed: “I very much share your concern about this unjustifiable and almost certainly unlawful ban, and I am glad to see that the Equality and Human Rights Commission is now looking into the matter.”

    Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine stated: “The Liberal Democrats are deeply concerned by the Open University’s admission that it currently prevents Cubans from enrolling in its courses. As you highlight, it is likely that this practice contravenes equalities legislation, and regardless of its legal position, undermines the importance of educational access and collaboration across borders. UK universities should not feel stifled by US trade and sanctions laws.”

    While SNP MP Tommy Sheppard believes: “It is deeply worrying that the Open University is reportedly barring applications from Cuban students and it is paramount that the UK government look into this matter further.”

    Rob Miller is Director of Cuba Solidarity Campaign. Visit http://www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk/OU for a campaign briefing, model letters and to take online action.

    http://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-de6e-Cubans-barred-as-OU-bows-to-US-pressure#.WfSqgHZpEdU

  5. Thursday 2nd November 2017

    posted by James Tweedie in World

    DEVELOPING nations lined up to condemn the US blockade of Cuba at the UN yesterday after Donald Trump renewed decades-long hostility towards the socialist island.

    Latin American and Caribbean regional bloc Celac, Asia’s Asean, the Group of 77 and African nations all urged an end to the unilateral embargo in place for more than 50 years, the Cuban News Agency reported.

    The US State Department said on Tuesday that it would reverse last year’s decision by the Obama government to abstain in the vote after 24 years.

    But the UN general assembly voted 191 to two in favour of the motion, with only the US and Israel against.

    Singapore, representing Asean, backed the motion on the “Need to end the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”

    Gabon’s representative pointed out that the general assembly has repeatedly urged the US to end its blockade, with only Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau willing to back Washington in the last decade.

    El Salvador’s representative said the blockade hinders Cuba’s development and is against the declaration of the region as a “zone of peace.”

    On behalf of the G77 and China, Ecuador’s ambassador regretted the recent reversal of Mr Obama’s limited detente with Cuba.

    In her speech yesterday, hawkish US ambassador Nikki Haley said: “What the general assembly is doing today — what it does every year at this time — is political theatre.”

    “This assembly does not have the power to end the US embargo,” she insisted. “It is based in US law, which only the United States Congress can change.”

    http://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-ecaf-World-condemns-Washington-after-Trump-renews-defence-of-Cuba-embargo#.WfsMrXaDMdU

  6. Friday 10th November 2017

    posted by Peter Lazenby in Britain

    But it should have never existed, say activists

    THE lifting of an Open University (OU) ban on Cuban students after a widespread outcry was welcomed yesterday by campaigners, who said it should never have been imposed in the first place.

    The distance-learning institution announced on Wednesday that it will now allow overseas students from Cuba to enrol, as well as people from other banned countries including Iran, North Korea and Syria.

    It sought to justify the ban as a “response to international economic sanctions and embargoes” threatened for breaching the United States’s illegal 59-year blockade of the socialist island.

    Outrage followed its revelation by the Morning Star in July, leading to sustained protests led by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) and joined by teachers, academics, OU staff, MPs, trade unions and individuals.

    Opponents accused the OU of violating anti-discrimination laws.

    Finally caving in to the pressure, the OU said: “The Open University has been engaging with the UK government on this issue and worked with the US authorities to achieve resolution.

    “In the light of these strenuous efforts and a response from the US authorities, the OU is now in a position to resume the supply of educational services into the affected countries.”

    CSC director Rob Miller said that the victory came as a direct result of thousands of supporters writing to the OU and their MPs, public statements and letters sent by trade unions NUT, UCU, Unite and Unison, and MPs raising the issue with ministers.

    “Without the constant pressure to expose OU policy, the bar would have continued without challenge,” he added.

    “While we welcome the statement issued by the OU announcing that they would now accept Cuban students, we believe that the bar should never have been enforced in the first place.

    “When faced with the choice of breaking the UK’s Equality Act or risk of legal action from the US Treasury Department, the OU chose to opt for a discriminatory policy against Cuban students. By default, they helped to implement US blockade policy in the UK.”

    He said it should have been the British government, not the CSC, that challenged the OU’s blatant disregard for the law of this country.

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-6dc8-End-of-OU-embargo-on-Cubans-cheered#.WgWODTuDMdU

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