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A laboratory of champions

Deporte atletismo cubaBoxers Robeisy Ramírez and Lázaro Álvarez, and gymnast Manrique Larduet are not only some of the athletes from whom we expect to see outstanding results in the upcoming Barranquilla 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games, but also students at the Manuel Fajardo University of Physical Culture and Sports Science (UCCFD).

However, it’s not just these champions – combining study and competition – but also the UCCFD’s teaching staff, today composed of former athletes and retired champions, who lend prestige to the academic work of the institution.

Daniel Núñez (Moscow 1980 Olympic weightlifting champion), Raisa O’Farril (volleyball player and two-time Olympic gold medalist in Barcelona ’92 and Atlanta ‘96) and Mayra Vila (javelin thrower and Central American and Caribbean champion for 1985), share the glory of their sporting achievements and teaching responsibilities.

Over the years the university has made an important contribution to the field of sports science and its research programs have had a significant impact on the development of physical activity on the island.

An example is the Cuban Sports Research Center, affiliated with the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation (INDER), representing all the university’s scientific work over four and half decades.

Meanwhile, its over 25 international collaborative agreements, scientific activity, and events such as the First Scientific Event by the Sports Faculty and Third Scientific Event by the Center for Psychological Studies on Physical Activity and Sport, held in mid-March in Havana, are testament to the high level of international recognition and prestige achieved by the institution.

What is more the UCCFD is also the governing body for the Physical Culture Degree and home of the national program, and scientific degree commissions.


- 1961: The Manuel Fajardo Higher School of Physical Education is founded

- 1973: Physical Education Degree program launched and institution’s named changed to the Manuel Fajardo Higher Institute of Physical Culture.

- 2009: Following a decree by the Council of Ministers, the Institute becomes the University of Physical Culture and Sports Science.


Once students graduate they have four main career options:

- Professor of Physical Education

- Coaching

- Prophylactic and therapeutic physical culture and rehabilitation

- Physical recreation


- Over 95,000 graduates in 45 years

- More than 3,000 students currently enrolled

- Six study plans, including plan E (four-year degrees)

- Continual professional development of staff

- Degree programs taught throughout Latin America

- Over 88% of staff hold a science degree

- High quality teacher training programs


The UCCFD is an accredited institution (awarded by the National Accreditation Board, based on quality assessment criteria for higher education institutions) offering six Masters Degrees, five of which are accredited and two certified for their excellence.

The institution is currently preparing for an internal review before it applies for an external appraisal in 2019 and re-accreditation the following year.

According to Dr. Francisco Porto López, first vice rector, “The degree program should be reaccredited in 2020 and the institution in 2021. We are working with a strategy and continuing our efforts to obtain an excellence rating in 2020 and 2021.”


The Physical Education degree is a four year program that was previously only available to students linked to the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation’s system of institutions.

Today, the degree is one of many other courses open to any high school student in full-time education.

Meanwhile athletes and students from provincial schools of physical education and sports academies usually opt for the part-time course. •


How do national selection athletes balance their university studies with their competitive responsibilities, without this affecting the quality of their education?

The solution: the UCCFD’s Blended Learning Course for High Performance Athletes. The program combines and adapts subjects to help the student catch up on the content he or she missed while competing in national and international tournaments.

This kind of flexibility allows athletes to complete their university education in eight or 10 years, depending on how they manage their studies. Of course their education is affected during their years of peak sporting activity, however, the program allows Cuba’s finest athletes to earn a university degree, with many going on to take Masters or PhD courses.


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