FCO Performance and Finances - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents


Written evidence from the British Council

The past year saw the British Council work directly with over 18 million people, using the UK's most attractive assets—English, education and the arts—to create connections for Britain. In doing so, we continued to increase our global impact and our value to the UK taxpayer.

Highlights for 2009-10 include:

  1. attracting 230,000 visitors to the Turner from the Tate exhibition in China and 5 million visits to the exhibition website;
  2. connecting 2.2 million young people through our school-linking programmes;
  3. improving physical education for six million young people in 15 countries through International Inspiration—the International Legacy programme for the 2012 Games;
  4. teaching English to almost 300,000 students and delivering UK examinations to 1.5 million people—earning income of £306 million (up 16% from 2008-09) and generating £45 million in exports for UK exam boards;
  5. developing new free and low-cost English-teaching programmes in India including training programmes for over 2,000 master trainers and 500,000 teachers in Andra Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Madras, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Sri Lanka; and
  6. leveraging £2.50 from customers and partners for every £1 of Government grant (up 13% from 2008-09).

As we've done this we've initiated the largest staff restructure in our organisation's history, reducing our UK staff by more than 30%.

1.  WORKING WITH THE UK'S MOST ATTRACTIVE ASSETS—IN THE MARKETS THAT MATTER

Our programmes and projects use the country's most attractive assets—its culture, education and language—to create competitive advantage for the UK in the markets that matter.

English

  1.  We taught English to nearly 300,000 learners in 48 countries, and delivered 2 million exams to 1.5 million individuals worldwide.
  2. We successfully launched low-cost teaching centres in Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad reaching 4,500 learners.
  3. We launched seven new mobile phone applications, downloaded by 135,000 learners. 10.3 million unique visitors accessed our free global learner websites (including Arabic and Chinese language versions) and 3.1 million visitors accessed our global teacher websites, downloading material that will reach 21 million students.
  4. We manage Accreditation UK, the quality assurance scheme for UK-based English-language teaching covering over 500 institutions.

Education

  1. Connecting Classrooms, our school-linking programme, supported 4,800 schools partnership and directly involved 870,000 young people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
  2. Skills for Employability, a global programme that uses UK expertise in vocational training to improve skills programmes around the world, worked in 45 countries—including Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey and Yemen.
  3. In Higher Education, we support the Government's strategy to increase international opportunities for UK Higher Education institutions. Through this work, we helped attract more than 400,000 international students to the UK who contribute more than £8 billion to the UK economy.

The Arts

  1. The British Council created the cultural programme for the hugely successful British Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo. Over seven million people visited the UK Pavilion. Its innovative design, by Thomas Heatherwick, showcased the UK's creativity and received critical acclaim.
  2. Connections through Culture India supports performances by artists and arts organisations in the UK and India including: an Indian tour by UK theatre company Complicite (covered on prime-time nationwide television); a new partnership to bring the Hay Festival to Kerala; and, from November 2010, Anish Kapoor's first exhibition in India.
  3. International Inspiration, the London 2012 international sporting legacy programme, uses the power and appeal of UK sport to enrich the lives of children worldwide. International Inspiration led the Brazilian Government to create a national scheme for extra-curricular sport and educational activity drawing on UK experience. The Brazilian programme, called Segundo Tempo, brings high-quality physical education to millions of children from Brazil's most disadvantaged communities.

2.  BRITISH COUNCIL AROUND THE WORLD—BUILDING UNDERSTANDING AND TRUST FOR THE UK

Our network builds connections for Britain in countries where the UK divides opinion and where there are opportunities for UK culture, education and English language to provide Official Development Assistance.

English

  1. In Afghanistan we broadcast a series of radio and TV programes for teachers of English who live in remote areas. Using mobile phone networks, in addition to traditional radio/TV broadcasts, we expect to provide all 48,000 teachers of English in Afghanistan with British Council materials by the end of 2010-11.
  2. In Iran we have developed a series of English-language television programmes for young adults which will be broadcast on BBC Persian later this year and give them an insight into life in the UK.
  3. In Rwanda we are supporting the Government's decision to adopt English as the language of instruction. To date we have trained over 44,000 teachers. To support this work, and in recognition of Rwanda's Commonwealth membership, we opened premises in Kigali.

Education

  1. In Iraq we are working with UNICEF and the Ministry of Education to improve teaching. Through a project covering standard-setting, skills development, leadership and management we will support almost 3,000 teachers and reach over 150,000 children by 2011-12.
  2. In Burma, in partnership with the FCO and the Open University, we delivered Open University courses in social studies to 40 civil society activists helping them move to become effective catalysts for positive social change. In addition we offer uncensored access to the internet and attracted 230,000 people to our libraries last year.
  3. In Zimbabwe, 76,000 people visited British Council libraries in Harare and Bulawayo. These are vital sources of information and study materials for young professionals. We supported Zimbabwe's universities using funds provided by the Department for International Development to establish six capacity-building links with UK counterparts. More are planned for the current year.

The Arts

  1. In Iraq, we supported the development of the country's first National Youth Orchestra. In 2009, its first summer school included 33 Iraqi musicians from across the country.
  2. In Pakistan, we helped establish the Karachi Literature Festival, in partnership with Oxford University Press, bringing British writers to Pakistan and providing a platform for contemporary writers in Pakistan.

3.  LOOKING AHEAD

The UK Government announced its four-year Spending Review in October. The British Council received a 17% cash cut, or a 26% real terms cut, over the four-year period, reducing our Grant-in-Aid funding to £149 million by 2014-15. While the reduction presents challenges for us we understand the need to play our part in helping to reduce the UK's public spending deficit.

We initiated a voluntary redundancy programme in 2009-10. This will see a reduction in UK posts by 500, equivalent to a third of the UK workforce, delivering annual savings of £12 million. Total planned changes to our corporate support services and UK operations will deliver savings—in the UK alone—of £85 million by the end of 2013-14.

The Spending Review settlement ring-fences our core grant funding for the next four years. It allows us to maintain substantially our global network and global cultural relations impact for the UK. In addition, the Foreign Secretary made clear that we will remain a Non-Departmental Public Body sponsored by the FCO.

We will have to make some difficult choices as we decide our plans for the next four years, but we intend to build a robust future for the British Council using the best of the UK's cultural and educational resources to build opportunity and trust for the UK worldwide.

27 October 2010



 
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