Once a valuable Spanish colony, Cuba is now one of the most popular cultural and tourist destinations in Latin America. After gaining independence in 1902, Cuba was a little piece of heaven for tourists up until the Cold War. During that period, many Cubans migrated to the US, since the two countries are separated only by 90 miles of water.
Today, visitors to Cuba are captivated by the vibrancy and variety of both the cultural and natural attractions, from magnificent architecture to exuberant live music, and rugged mountains to paradisiacal white sand beaches. Those who choose to study in Cuba will find themselves in good company; the country is already home to approximately 22,500 international students.
The capital, Havana, was once the third largest city in the Americas and was named the “Key to the New World” in recognition of its importance within the European colonies. Once an important trading port, often attacked by pirates, Havana has many old forts, which give the city a certain medieval charm. The most famous is “El Morro Fortress”, which is a beautiful six-story building guarding the entrance to Havana Bay.
Today the capital is mostly famous for promoting the arts, hosting numerous international arts and music festivals each year, including the Havana International Jazz Festival, International Havana Ballet Festival, Havana International Film Festival and more!
Life in Cuba
Since Fidel Castro ceded authority to his brother Raul in 2006, life in Cuba has slowly been changing. If you look past the politics and clichés about this country, life in Cuba can be an amazing experience, with joyful, welcoming people and almost constant sunshine. Those who choose to study in Cuba will all have their own favorite aspects of this sunny Caribbean island – some come for the beaches, some for the music, and almost all will leave talking about the incredible local people they got to know. Whatever your interests, life in Cuba promises plenty to explore and enjoy.
Apart from Havana, other popular destinations in Cuba include Trinidad de Cuba and Valle de los Ingenios, both of which have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to their ancient palaces and colonial-style buildings, relics of the reign of the Spanish conquistadores. Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second largest city, is known to be the most typically “Caribbean” and is famed for its colorful annual carnival.
Other perks that may be of interest to those choosing to study in Cuba are the relatively low tuition fees at universities in Cuba, and the fact that healthcare is universal and free.
Universities in Cuba
There are more than 60 universities in Cuba, all of them public. As in most countries, Cuban higher education is split into three stages – roughly corresponding to the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral system. The first stage usually lasts at least four years, but five or six years for subjects like medicine, which is one of the most popular specialties on the island. Of the country’s 22,500 international students, some 19,000 are enrolled in its highly reputed medical schools.
Universities in Cuba occupy a high priority for the government and Cuban people. The past decades have seen the country gain a global reputation for its commitment to investment in education, though in recent years national debt has prompted some cuts to the education budget.
A number of US universities and colleges offer opportunities for students to study in Cuba for part of their degree, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Burlington College and American University.
Five universities in Cuba feature in the 2014 QS University Rankings: Latin America. These are:
Universidad de La Habana
The highest ranked among universities in Cuba, the Universidad de la Habana appears in 91st place in the 2014 QS World University Rankings: Latin America. The oldest university in Cuba, it was one of the first to be founded in the Americas, established in 1728, originally as a religious institution. The Universidad de la Habana has 16 faculties, offering programs in fields including natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. Around 60,000 students are currently enrolled at the Universidad de la Habana. Tuition fees for undergraduate courses are around US$ 28,200, with some full scholarships available for international students.
Universidad de Oriente Santiago de Cuba
Located in the beautiful sea port of Santiago de Cuba, the Universidad de Oriente Santiago de Cuba was founded in 1947, making it the second higher education center established in Cuba. It has 11 faculties and three campuses, all situated in the city of Santiago de Cuba. The Universidad de Oriente offers courses in natural sciences, agriculture, social sciences and others. The motto of the university is “Science and Consciousness” (“Ciencia y Conciencia” in Spanish). It ranks in the 171-180 range in the 2014 QS University Rankings: Latin America.
Ciudad Universitaria Jose Antonio Echeverria
Ciudad Universitaria Jose Antonio Echeverria is Cuba’s highest ranked technical university. It was established in 1964 and offers undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral research degrees. The university is organized in seven faculties all within one campus, which is located in the capital Havana. The campus’ building is known for its interesting brutalist architecture. Ciudad Universitaria Jose Antonio Echeverria is ranked within the top 300 universities in Latin America.
Universidad Central Marta Abreu de Las Villas
Established in 1952, the Universidad Central Marta Abreu de Las Villas has two campuses. One is located in the heart of Cuba, in the city of Santa Clara. The other, more remote campus, is known as the “Universidad de Montaña” and is located in Topes de Collantes – a nature reserve park in the Escambray Mountains. The university has 13 faculties and about 4,000 students. The Universidad Central Marta Abreu de Las Villas offers programs at both undergraduate and postgraduate level in fields including law, psychology, humanities and sciences. Recently a bachelor degree in journalism was also established. It ranks among Latin America’s 300 leading institutions.
Universidad de Cienfuegos Carlos Rafael Rodríguez
The Universidad de Cienfuegos Carlos Rafael Rodríguez is located in the beautiful city of Cienfuegos, which is known as La Perla del Sur (The Pearl of the South). Those who choose to study in Cuba at this university have the opportunity to combine a good quality education with the beautiful tropical beaches found on the island’s southern coast. Founded in 1970, the Universidad de Cienfuegos Carlos Rafael Rodríguez has four faculties: Agrarian Sciences, Economic and Enterprise Sciences, Engineering, and Social Sciences and Humanities. It also ranks within Latin America’s top 300 universities.
Compare universities in Cuba using the 2014 QS World University Rankings: Latin America >