The British Council has been a major disseminator of knowledge about the United Kingdom and of the English language since its foundation in 1934, working with over 50 countries. Since the start of the Covid-19 public health crisis, the British Council has had to close most of its schools and test centres across the globe, leading to a substantial budget deficit. Although a public body under the auspices of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the government response to the council’s financial situation has not been positive, and the council’s future is now significantly under threat.
UCML considers the British Council one of its closest allies in its mission to support study, teaching and research in modern languages, and has therefore launched a campaign to raise awareness of the vital role the British Council plays in languages education. To this end we have written a letter to the Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, as well as other key stakeholders, and support the campaign launched by the Public and Commercial Services Union, which includes an Early Day Motion in Parliament. The PCS campaign has helped secure some concessions, but the threat remains.
Read the UCML letter to the FCO here:
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office responded to our letter on 15 July:
Baroness Coussins, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages, raised the issue in the House of Lords on 18 May. Read her statement here.
John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, has written a letter in response to our campaign that recognised the significance of the British Council and its work in Scotland:
A letter expressing similar support was also received from the Scottish Government’s Directorate for Advanced Learning and Science:
Peter Weir MLA, the Minister of Education in the Northern Irish Executive, has written a letter reinforcing the importance of the British Council and expressing support for its vital work:
A number of other organisations have written letters of support for the British Council in response to our campaign.
- The Association for University Professors and Heads of French (AUPHF)
- The Arts & Humanities Alliance:
- Professor Sally Mapstone, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of University of St Andrews:
What has the British Council ever done for me?
The work of the British Council has had a lasting effect on many both within and beyond the Modern Languages community. The links below spotlight the impact of just some of the British Council’s many schemes:
UCML has published stories from just some of the individuals who have experienced first-hand the invaluable work the council does. Please contact the UCML Vice Chair for Communications, Emma Cayley, if you have a story to contribute. You can read these stories here:
UCML have also started the hashtag #whattheBritishCouncilhasdone. The Tweets below (which can also be viewed on UCML’s Twitter feed) give a flavour of some of the British Council’s amazing work. Head to Twitter and get involved!