British Council announces changes
- I heard Martin Davidson, director general designate of the British Council,
interviewed briefly on the Radio 4 (BBC) Today programme. This is a short
article from the Radio 4 website. It is an important statement, and is going
to affect a lot of colleagues around the world, directly or indirectly,
positively or negatively.
[image: BBC NEWS]
Muslim focus for British Council
* The British Council, which promotes British culture and education
overseas, is cutting its budget for Europe to shift its focus to Muslim
The Council says it plans to close offices, libraries and information
centres on the continent.
It will then spent up to £20m on a three-year programme to strengthen links
with the Islamic world.
The Council's director general designate said the move was vital to bridge a
"widening gap of trust".
Martin Davidson insisted it was time to tackle the "new challenges the world
faces" by forging new relationships with the Middle East and Asia.
* It is essential that we step up our investment to build trust and
understanding between these countries and the UK *
Martin Davidson, director general designate of the British Council
Overall, funding for European countries will be slashed by 30% over the next
Instead, money will be devoted to spreading British values in Islamic
countries and in particular to fund projects that steer young Muslims away
Mr Davidson said: "We can achieve more impact for less money by changing the
way we work.
"This unlocks funds to invest in areas of the world such as the Middle East
where cultural relations can make a major contribution to the UK's long term
security and prosperity.
"It is essential that we step up our investment to build trust and
understanding between these countries and the UK."
Iraq and Afghanistan are two of the 50 countries that will receive a 50%
increase in funding.
* 'Britishness' *
One flagship project called Reconnect will work with madrassas - religious
schools - in countries like Pakistan to try to combat radicalisation.
Some initiatives will be run in Europe too, for example, a multi-lateral
scheme to strengthen European identity among European Muslims.
The Council was founded in 1934 after the government became concerned about
the need to promote "Britishness" abroad.
It receives an annual grant of £186m from the Foreign Office and earns a
further £300m from paid-for English language classes and examinations.
Currently, the council operates in 109 countries and territories across the
globe, but this move will see it reduce its public presence in Europe from
19 countries to nine.
Offices have already shut in Bulgaria, Germany, Slovakia and Belgium, and
more are expected to follow later this year in Finland, Hungary, Slovenia,
Austria and all three Baltic states.
Science, arts and education events will also be cut back and almost all
information centres will close.
* Partnerships *
Orchestra tours, like that by the London Sinfonietta to the Baltic States
last year, will no longer be funded, but logistical support will still be
given to travelling artists.
Self-financing language schools and other projects like the Erasmus
university exchange programme will also continue.
More and more, Mr Davidson said, the Council would work in partnership with
other European nations, rather than on its own.
"We share a common set of values with our European partners and by working
with them we can have greater impact within Europe and beyond," he added.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/02/26 10:28:08 GMT
(c) BBC MMVII
Dennis Newson (retired)
Dennis Newson (retired)
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