Martin Davidson of the British Council (BC), a subsidised quango that is supposed to represent UK education abroad ,in a letter to ‘Education Investor ‘this month wrote interalia:
‘We believe that our mission is to support and promote the UK and UK institutions and aim to do that professionally and in partnership with others. However we are also aware that we will sometimes compete with other providers as well as collaborate.’
Unsurprisingly given this admission and what they have encountered in the market, UK Education providers say that this is a clear example of a conflict of interests.
How does the BC decide when to compete with a provider and when to collaborate? How can other providers trust an organisation that at one minute claims to represent them (using taxpayers money) and at another competes against them for contracts? What criteria does the BC use to decide when to compete and when to collaborate? Providers are not aware of any published criteria or code of conduct to inform this process- so how exactly does the BC decide? And how much information does it withhold from its competitors in order to secure an advantage for itself and its perceived commercial interests?
That these questions have to be asked (The BC doesnt have credible answers to them, by the way) demonstrates that the British Council is not fit for purpose in its role as the representative of UK education interests abroad.
One further question arises.How would the BC fare in the market if it competed on a level playing field , deprived of its subsidies, and without any political patronage protecting it? That is, of course, one question to which we all know the answer .