The Cuban university and its links with society for sustainable development


The Cuban university and its links with society for sustainable development


La universidad cubana y su vinculación con la sociedad por el desarrollo sostenible



María Elena Cobas Vilches

Villa Clara University of Medical Sciences. Cuba.



We have been informed by the different mass media, about what happened in the prestigious 2018 University Congress, held in Havana from February 12 to 16, whose central theme was "The University and the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development according to the postulates of the Cordoba Reformation".

The Minister of Higher Education focused his opening lecture on the impact that the Córdoba University Reform that occurred 100 years ago and its validity in the 21st century had for Latin America,* Cuba, of course, was not an exception; He also referred to the imbrication of the university in social progress and the need for public policies that actively insert it into the economic life of each country. They are transformations that higher education requires to contribute to sustainable development.

In 1922 Julio Antonio Mella created the University Students Federation (USF), in 1923 this organization, in its first congress, agreed to adopt the postulates of the Reformation of Córdoba1 and proposes three fundamental changes:

  • Fight against the lifelong professorship.
  • Purging corrupt elements that stain the teaching practice.
  • Linking the university with society.

The revolutionary triumph in 1959 carried out profound social transformations that reached education, remember the literacy campaign that proclaimed the country free of illiteracy, and that marked a progressive stage at all levels, including higher education.

The progress of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development contains 17 objectives, represented in the figure, to transform our world and appear on the world scene with an imperative that tries to counteract the current unsustainable, exclusionary and predatory development model, which inevitably will depend on mobilizing human potential, the scientific and technological capacities and humanistic values that higher education can promote. In their regulations, the States indicated:2

"We are determined to put an end to poverty and hunger throughout the world by 2030, to combat disparities within and among countries, to build peaceful, fair and inclusive societies, to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, and to ensure lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources."

Cuba has developed a university model that defines it as humanist, modern and universal, scientific, technological and innovative, and of course, integrated to society, committed to the construction of a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation, and trained to meet the objectives proposed by the 2030 Agenda.

In the event, Ph.D. Eusebio Leal Spengler, historian of Havana, urged university professors to plant in the disciples the feeling of hope and to exalt the values for the achievement of a better society. The panel was also of great significance the rectors, who debated the paths towards a quality education, its social commitment and necessary link with innovation and development. The outstanding Spanish intellectual Ignacio Ramonet, in his keynote address, said that students should be a central part of the strategy to reach the 2030 Agenda, because he considered that this project should become the generational banner of young people who dream of a better world.

The panel "Fidel Castro's thought and the University for Sustainable Development" was also held, prior to the closing of the congress, by excellent professors who, at various moments of the Revolution, assumed the direction of higher education, through anecdotes they made an approach to the link that always maintained the historical leader of the Revolution with the institutions, teaching staffs and students; They emphasized that combining massive enrollment with quality was always Fidel's main objective when talking about education.

The round table "Ernesto Che Guevara, the university reform and the Revolution" was also held:, carried out by a group of prestigious professors, where it was emphasized that Che put a lot of effort into methods to educate young people, in which he highlighted persuasion as fundamental guide. His pedagogical thinking was summarized in three fundamental elements: the link of the university with its protagonists, the need for its relationship with the economic, social and scientific development of the country, and the role of the young graduates in the changes that the recent Revolution implied.

All this demonstrates the role that higher education has played in the advancement of Cuban society; hence the close link between the university and society for sustainable development.

2,500 Cuban and foreign delegates from 60 countries attended the congress, and 14 workshops were held; one of them focused on Higher Medical Education where our professionals presented their experiences in achieving a solid comprehensive preparation in future graduates of medical sciences. These institutions are the most pertinent to face the challenges of a better world with health and well-being; It is necessary to transform the current reality and guide the production of knowledge, research and scientific innovation, and university extension to offer interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary solutions to the global problems raised by the Agenda 2030.

Let's deepen in these aspects and prepare ourselves to guide the students in the professional model that society asks us for.


* Note from the editor: for more information on this topic, we suggest reading the article: "A hundred years of the University Reform of Córdoba: a necessary reflection", by Díaz Sosa et al. published in this same issue, as a letter to the editor.


Declaration of interests

The author declares no conflict of interest.



1. Rodríguez Rodríguez CR. La Reforma Universitaria. Economía y Desarrollo [Internet]. 2012 [citado 25 Ene 2018];148(2):[aprox. 19 p.]. Disponible en:

2. Asamblea General de la ONU. Objetivos de desarrollo sostenible. [Internet]. New York; 25 de septiembre de 2015 [citado 28 Feb 2018]. Disponible en:



Submitted: March 5 2018.
Accepted: March 9 2018.



María Elena Cobas Vilches. Universidad de Ciencias Médicas de Villa Clara. Cuba. Correo electrónico:

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