1,000 signatures reached
To: The Foreign Secretary
Save the British Council
The British Council, a public body which has had its income hit due to the coronavirus pandemic, could become insolvent or have to make job cuts, wage reductions and detrimental structural changes if urgent government funding is not allocated.
Why is this important?
Since its foundation in 1934, the British Council has worked effectively to develop cultural relations with other countries and to support international mobility.
The British Council now works with more than 100 countries worldwide, creating benefits that have fundamentally changed the lives of millions of people. This work is of enormous significance in the way we are able to understand and appreciate other cultures in often turbulent times and of course, in the ways that we are able to promote understanding of our own.
The British Council has been a major disseminator of knowledge about the United Kingdom and the English language through its work in Education, Society, Arts and development projects, which benefit the partner countries and the UK.
Although it is a public body under the auspices of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the government response to the British Council’s financial situation has been slow, and the British Council’s future is now significantly under threat.
Unlike most public bodies, the majority of the British Council’s income, 85% of it, comes from commercial activity in teaching English and delivering UK examinations abroad, along with other projects.
There are over 11,000 British Council employees worldwide who promote a wider knowledge of the United Kingdom and the English language; encouraging cultural, scientific, technological and educational co-operation with the United Kingdom.
Approximately 203 of 221 British Council teaching centres and schools abroad were closed and 26 out of 41 test centres were also closed due to Coronavirus pandemic measures. This cut off the major source of income. Some teaching and exams services have moved online, where possible, and there is limited activity in some countries where the pandemic restrictions are easing. However, this is not enough to generate the income required.
These closures are having a devastating impact on the cash flow and financial reserves of the organisation with money likely to run out in the coming weeks unless vital and urgent additional government funds are secured
So far, there has been a small amount of additional money allocated to the British Council. The FCO are reviewing the operations of the British Council, and if emergency funding is offered it is likely to come with conditions which could be detrimental to the future of the organisation.
British Council employees could face wage reductions and redundancies. The organisation could be cut back or brought back under a tighter control by government ministers, losing its arm’s length and independent status which is an important factor in its global success.
Any government review of this valuable national asset should not be behind closed doors, any recommendations should be public and open to scrutiny.
We need to act now, to ensure the UK government provides the financial support to save and preserve the British Council, before it is too late.