The Open University reaches many thousands of international students and operates in numerous countries. Operating at this scale globally means that we are bound by laws in different jurisdictions, including the United States.
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.
After careful consideration of the regulations, supported by legal advice and a risk assessment, the University reluctantly concluded that it must apply to the US Treasury Department’s Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for the relevant licences. The OU has applied for the licences and is waiting to hear whether or not they will be granted. In the meantime, we find ourselves in a regrettable situation in which we are temporarily unable to accept students from a limited group of countries, pending determination of the licence applications.
The University is strongly committed to being open to all people in all places. However, we cannot simply disregard regulation that may apply to us, nor is it within our power to resolve any tensions between UK law and international laws. We are therefore making strong representations to OFAC to grant the licences as quickly as possible in order that we can accept students in Cuba and the other comprehensively sanctioned countries. We are also actively engaging with the UK government to see if there is any way that they can help us to resolve this situation.