Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Further supplementary written evidence submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office


D.   FCO Summary

Important Achievements:

    —  New British Council—British Embassy office in Podgorica.

    —  Joint public diplomacy "British Days" emulated by EU colleagues.

    —  Ground-breaking multimedia project "Narratives of the Unseen" reported in leading UK design magazine "Blueprint".

    —  British Council receives Education Award from Serbian Ministry of Education for its contribution to the education reform agenda.

    —  Joint National Theatre, Belgrade and Royal National Theatre, London project recognised as one of 10 outstanding projects from a field of over two thousand theatre projects in Europe.

    —  Successful launch of regional project: UK-SE Europe Forum.

    —  Positive feedback on British Council activity from our target audiences: Long Term Evaluation (+1.4), Spotlight Review and ECO questionnaire (Overall rating 7).

    —  Target audience numbers engaged with the British Council continue to increase.

  It has been another highly successful year building on the achievements made in 2002-03. The British Council continues to work closely with the Embassy. In November 2003, the new Ambassador, David Gowan was able to open our new joint office in Podgorica clearly demonstrating UK commitment to Montenegro. We have successfully re-positioned our activities there so that we are now in a position to fully support the reform agenda in Montenegro and are concentrating our activities in Education particularly English Language teaching, Culture and the development of a civil society through youth and high school associations. The re-positioning of our activities and the new joint office have been well received by all stakeholders. The new office also reflects contemporary UK being located in a new business district of the city.

  The Embassy and the British Council continue to work together on British Days. This year these were held in four regional centres. These are opportunities to showcase our products and services, make new contacts and engage with those that we are already in partnership. They receive widespread media coverage both locally and nationally. The concept has been taken up by our EU colleagues, who with our advice and participation began a series of EU days throughout Serbia and Montenegro to promote the benefits of SaM's accession to the EU.

  The Belgrade office has technically one of the most advanced offices in Europe. It is using its Knowledge and Learning Centre (multimedia approach) to support and enhance its project work with great success. In May 2003 we launched Narratives of the Unseen between students in Glasgow and Belgrade. It involved students working together using internet-based technologies as well as videoconferencing. An article on the project was written in "Blueprint" magazine in the UK as well as receiving good media coverage in SaM. We have continued to develop this approach through the development of a science portal to reflect our first regional science workshop on bio-diversity, working with our strategic partner the World Bank and its GDLN network to deliver courses on a wide range of subjects from SME development to a Young Leader series as well as initiating our own regional projects: Teachers of English Associations in the region working together on professional issues, inclusivity of ethnic minorities, and initiating sector team discussions across the region "Getting to Know You" and a series on EU accession with Charles Grant—Board member and Director of a leading think tank on Europe.

  In November 2003 the Serbian Minister of Education and Sport presented us with an award for our overall contribution to the education reform agenda. We have had significant impact in the following areas: introduction of English Language teaching from Grade One (seven years old), development of curriculum, development of quality assurance systems within primary and secondary education leading to a cadre of new education inspectors. We estimate that over one thousand schoolteachers have experienced our training and expertise during the year. We also supported our work through regional conferences on education standards with the Council of Europe and Goethe Institute. We initiated a new regional ELT conference, which was opened jointly by the Minister of Education and HMA. A highlight of the year was the visit by 10 UK primary Head Teachers to Belgrade. A reciprocal visit is planned in November this year. Finally the Serbian Ministry of Education is a strategic partner in the Education Gateway project launched by Secretary of State, Charles Clarke and 27 schools are now registered to participate in the link-up with schools in the UK.

  We are expanding our joint project between the National Theatre and the Royal National Theatre for the development of theatre directors and new writers to include Serbs working outside Belgrade. In October last year this project was voted as one of the 10 most significant projects by the International & European Theatre Network for East—West cultural exchanges and voted 3rd best project by the Council's Visual Arts, Film and Literature department from a field of over two thousand projects.

  In March 2004, we launched the UK-SE Europe Forum when we brought together young political leaders from all of SE Europe to meet and work with their counterparts from the UK. The initial conference went well and we are expecting these groups to be working together on a variety of projects over the coming two years. In 2004, we will also launch the culture and youth strands to this important project realising through mutuality a strong and concrete engagement between the region and the UK.

  During the year we conducted several evaluations of our operation. The spotlight review focussed on re-churning of resources and the investment in a Knowledge and Learning Centre. The review was positive. Equally we conducted an in-depth long-term evaluation of our impact through interviews of our leading clients. Our score was +1.4 (on a scale from -2.0 to +2.0) indicating strong impact with our key clients. We were also pleased with the strong support from the Embassy in the FCO questionnaire, with an overall rating of seven, the highest possible rating.

  Through our public diplomacy programme and extending our project work, we have been able to engage with and influence far greater numbers of people than in the previous years. The number of visitors to our offices has increased from 50,000 to 65,000. The number of people using our e-centre has increased to 1,400 per month. Our electronic newsletter is now distributed to 1,000 people per month. We have exceeded our target for candidates for UK qualifications by 21% and in the reporting year had 2,870 candidates. We have also doubled the number of people visiting our web site to 3.200 per month and have increased our offer through the use of the "Athens" password system, information literacy and study skills toolkit plus Global Enquiries and KnowledgeUK site.

  We are also currently working with over 200 journalists in SaM and had over 700 press mentions during the reporting year emphasising the importance of the media in getting our messages and appreciation of UK involvement in SaM across to as wide a number of people as possible.

  We will build on this platform over the coming year.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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