The Obama administration plans to make it easier for Americans to undertake academic and research programs in Cuba, the communist nation with which American last enjoyed diplomatic relations in 1961.

According to an article by Ginger Thompson in the New York Times:

The [Obama] officials said [the new policy] was meant to loosen restrictions on academic, religious and cultural groups that were adopted under President George W. Bush, and return to the “people to people” policies followed under President Bill Clinton.

Those policies, officials said, fostered robust exchanges between the United States and Cuba, allowing groups — including universities, sports teams, museums and chambers of commerce — to share expertise as well as life experiences.

It wouldn’t be that dramatic a change, however. As the article emphasizes, American academic groups are currently allowed to travel to Cuba to conduct research, it’s just that the rules governing these sort of excursions are very strict.

Many of the current rules in place seemed designed specifically to thwart tourism. Americans who wish to study in Cuba must be part of an accredited Cuban university and must agree to stay abroad for 10 months, for example.

The precise implications of the new rules are still unclear but it’s apparently designed to open up dialogue between citizens of both countries. [Image of Universidad de La Habana via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer