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British Council: 2019 Tailored Review

Volume 656: debated on Tuesday 12 March 2019

I am announcing today the publication of the recent tailored review of the British Council, an arm’s-length body of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The British Council was established in 1934 and awarded a Royal Charter in 1940. It builds relationships and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries, and makes a significant contribution to promoting the English language, education and British culture overseas. It is a key soft power lever.

As a non-departmental public body (NDPB) sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the British Council is required to undergo a tailored review at least once in every Parliament. The principal aims of tailored reviews are to ensure public bodies remain fit for purpose, are well governed and properly accountable for what they do.

The full report can be read on

This review involved consultation with a broad range of stakeholders across the UK and beyond, including British Council staff, the board of trustees, over 700 stakeholders and heads of mission. It provided an opportunity to better understand the British Council’s contribution to the core business of the FCO, HMG, and the interests of a wide range of stakeholders across the UK and overseas, as well as assessing the British Council’s performance, and readiness to respond and adapt to future challenges.

The review concluded that the British Council fulfils an important and unique role, remaining a world leader in its field. The British Council’s operating model is effective, however work is needed in order to strengthen evidence of this effectiveness, and how it provides value for money for the taxpayer. It also notes that more needs to be done to remain fit for purpose, including improving organisational effectiveness and increasing financial resilience. Overall, it made 29 recommendations including:

The FCO’s single departmental plan should include a high-level British Council objective;

The British Council should have clear criteria for deciding when it will develop its own products, and publicise this to the English language and education sectors;

The British Council should continue its current model of growing its commercial surplus to support cultural relations activities; and

The British Council’s activities should focus on its core strengths of promoting English language, education, and British culture.

The review has also recommended that the FCO and the British Council strengthen their strategic dialogue and co-ordination. The British Council should also strengthen its reporting of impact, while ensuring that it operates with the appropriate level of independence. A joint implementation plan is being developed by the FCO and British Council, with most of the recommendations expected to be implemented by mid-2020.

Copies of the review will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament. uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2019-03-12/HCWS1401/.