In Cuba there are at least 50 institutions of higher education, out of which 22 of them are directly subordinated to the Ministry of Higher Education. The remaining ones are administrated by the Ministries of Public Health, Culture, Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior and the Revolutionary Armed Forces. Therefore, all of them are public and highly centralised with University of Havana being the only one featured in world university rankings. There are over 250,000 students currently enrolled in Cuban universities with 21,000 professors that work full-time and 6,000 that work part-time. Although, enrolment rates have been fluctuating over the years, Cuba invests the most in its education system worldwide. With 12.9% of its GDP invested in this sector, the country is considered to offer one of the best education systems in the region that can be compared with the ones existing in countries like Finland, Singapore or Canada. Further information is available on the Ministry of Higher Education’s website at https://www.mes.gob.cu/.
In Cuba you can study at all three cycles in tertiary education: Bachelor’s (Grado), Master’s (Maestría) and doctoral studies (Doctorado). Apart from those there are other shorter courses available for people who want to enter the work force faster both pregraduate (Bachiller, Licentiatura) and postgraduates (Especialista). Their educational system is influenced by the US and by the former Soviet Union’s ones. Generally, undergraduate studies last for 4 years or longer for courses like Medicine, one of the most popular choices on the island, and Pharmacy. Studying for a Master’s lasts between one to three years while for a Doctorate lasts between three to four years. Most of the courses are taught in Spanish, but the government is working on introducing English as an option as well. The academic year starts in September and ends in August with two sessions of exams in December and May-June.
The application period is in May, but students who did not manage to get into an institution have a second change closer to the beginning of the year. Applications must be made independently to each university. Students who wish to complete a Bachelor’s degree are expected to show proof of a secondary school certificate or equivalent. Admission to postgraduate studies is accepted upon evidence of previous higher education studies such as Bachelor’s and Master’s. It is often for colleges to have an entrance exam as well before students get admitted. International students should make sure they meet the visa entry requirements and that they have appropriate language abilities. Particularly, men need to have completed the compulsory military service before applying. Due to the country’s communist system, students need to be cleared by Committee for the Defense of the Revolution before they are accepted into university.
Since all universities are centralised by the government, the education system is 100% free in Cuba and students do not need to pay any forms of tuition fees.
Information for International Students
Living costs are estimated to be 34.45% lower than in the United Kingdom and renting fees as much as 84%. For reference, renting a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre of Havana costs $215 per month and outside of the centre only $52. For those who wish to study here, you need to be aware of the country’s communist ruling and understand that there are differences in cultural and social expectancies.