Accreditation in Latin America and the Caribbean: Cuba
In 1976, the Cuban government opened 26 new institutions of higher education and created the Ministry of Higher Education, an administrative body charged with overseeing all of the nation’s tertiary institutions. The development of Cuban higher education had traditionally been governed by multiple national ministries. Of the country’s 64 institutions of higher education, 17 are affiliated with the Ministry of Higher Education, 16 with the Ministry of Education, 14 with the Ministry of Public Health, and 17 other tertiary institutions are in part governed by the ministry related with their specialized degree programs. The creation of the Ministry of Higher education signified a period of growth for Cuban higher education as well as an assertion by the government of more centralized control over the future development and quality of education at national universities and colleges.
The Ministry of Higher Education has, since its inception, implemented policies designed to evaluate and maintain the quality of Cuban higher education at each administrative level. A 1978 ministerial resolution established an internal evaluation process for all Cuban tertiary institutions. Institutions completed individualized internal evaluations based on a national criteria set out by the ministry and then submitted the results for review. That program is now in its fourth incarnation and evaluation and quality assurance mechanisms have continued to evolve in response to new developments in the country’s education sector.
Today, accreditation in Cuba is managed by the Junta Nacional de Acreditación (JAN) or National Accreditation Council. JAN is a semi-autonomous group of specialists created in 2000 that works with the Ministry of Higher Education to direct the policies and processes of evaluation and accreditation for undergraduate, masters, and doctoral education programs. The JAN is made up of thirty experts from Cuban universities organized into an Executive Secretariat and several Technical Evaluation Committees. The JAN and the accreditation functions it performs are financed by the Ministry of Education and the nation’s institutions of higher education. The JAN is a recognized member of RIACES, the Ibero-American Network for Quality and Accreditation in Higher Education and the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE).
Cuba has highly developed accreditation processes for all of its diverse higher education offerings and is at the forefront of a group of countries building a culture of educational quality assurance in the Caribbean and Latin America.
The Accreditation Process:
Accreditation procedures in Cuban higher education are multifaceted. Programs of study at universities can achieve accreditation, so can entire institutions as well as specialized degree programs. JAN accreditation is a voluntary process, though it can be government mandated if the Ministry of Higher Education determines it to be necessary.
The Cuban system of university evaluation leading to accreditation is an ongoing process executed on a few different levels. The various steps of the process are organized into three subsystems:
- Subsystem of State Control: This includes state mandated inspections, finance audits, work visits, and evaluation of compliance with a strategic plan of objectives for each academic course. The Ministry of Education completes a general evaluation of each university and upon review submits a record of deficiencies and recommended improvements to that institution. Universities are required to review their general evaluation and to create and report a plan of action to the ministry based on its findings.
- Subsystem of Institutional Evaluation: internal evaluation and external evaluation procedures. Each individual institution has implemented its own system for internal evaluation. This process takes place every two years.An external evaluation is completed by pairs of outside experts overseen by the JAN. Evaluators review all available information provided by the Ministry of Education before visiting the school in question to observe and evaluate. Interviews with students, professors, faculty, administrators, and other employees are a large part of the process. The factors considered most closely by the JAN during an external evaluation include faculty resources, research capacity, infrastructure, finances, student performance and administration. Upon completion of the evaluation visit, the experts that conducted the process write a final report including perceived deficiencies and submit it to the university. The university then has the opportunity to assess the report and create plan of action to address all JAN recommendations.
- Subsystem of Accreditation – Sistema Universitario de Programas de Acreditación (SUPRA): This is the process that includes the evaluation and accreditation of undergraduate degree programs, masters’ degrees and doctoral degrees as overseen by the JAN. It encompasses all of the processes above and results in an accreditation decision.
The JAN has established three levels of accreditation for university programs: Carrera Autorizada (Authorized Course), Carrera Certificada (Certified Course) and Carrera de Excelencia (Course of Excellence).
Carrera Autorizada is the first and most important level of recognition. This designation authorizes a program to operate and ensure that it is functioning within the established guidelines of the Ministry of Education as well as the ministry affiliated with the university’s degree offerings. This title is only valid for a period of four years during which a constant process of internal evaluation is required. After the end of this temporary authorization, programs must submit to a full external evaluation from the JAN to achieve further accreditation.
Carrera Certificada and Carrera de Excelencia are levels of accreditation for institutions that have graduated at least five generations of students and have obtained satisfactory results on all completed evaluations. Institutions garnering the designation of Excelencia have received exemplary reports from the JAN’s external evaluation teams.
Links to Additional Information:
- Junta Nacional de Acreditación (Spanish)
- IESALC Report on Accreditation in Latin America and the Caribbean (Spanish)
- Ibero-American Network for Quality and Accreditation in Higher Education: Cuba page (Spanish)