Sensitive to the views of  other stakeholders?

 Now that would make a change

Hugo Swire ,the Minister of State at the FCO, in a debate on 10 November ,on the British Council,  reminded the House that although the British Council makes a significant contribution to the UK international profile and …Its role is more relevant than ever: That  the  most recent Triennial Review  “also found that activity was not always well aligned with other bodies representing British interests overseas, and concluded that transparency, accountability and clarity of purpose should be improved.” The other British interests alluded to here are ,in the main, other UK  education providers.(ie exporters)

He added “I would argue that the threat from the commercial activities of the British Council has been real. Our concern is that in some ways, particularly in the provision of English language teaching and exams, it can freeze out the private sector. That is why I am pleased that the British Council has introduced a new independent complaints process run by Verita, which will help it better to hear and understand stakeholder concerns, including the concerns of the English language teaching and education sector, and take steps to address them.”

The British Council had adamantly refused, for many years, and despite regular complaints from other education providers, to accept that its operations in commercial areas represented a conflict of interests, and that it  lacked transparency in the  way it ran its commercial operations .  Essentially the BC was competing against other  UK providers, while nominally, at least,  it was supposed to be promoting them abroad, aided by taxpayers money and the good offices of our diplomats.  Instead the BC cherry picked the best contracts and competed directly with other UK providers for many others.  The Triennial Review accepted that these concerns had some substance. It stated that ‘Concerns raised with the Review Team suggest that the Trustees have not this far been sufficiently active in listening and responding to external stakeholder concerns or understanding and managing conflicts of interest.”

‘We recommend that the British Council operating model be amended in order to increase transparency relating to income generating activity, reducing the potential for conflicts of interest;’

‘We recommend that the British Council, FCO and other relevant Government departments agree to establish an effective complaints mechanism for UK providers that feel they have been unfairly disadvantaged by the British Council and that this includes an option of appeal to an arbiter independent of the British Council or its Board. ‘

It also recommended ‘that clearer separation is achieved through either legal or administrative means and that, particularly if an administrative solution is pursued, some transfer of responsibility for commercial support to UK educational providers is agreed by both organisations.’


The British Council has awarded Verita a three-year contract to provide its independent complaints review service. The British Council operates in over 100 countries, building cultural relations between the UK and the rest of the world through arts, education and society programmes. Verita consultant Jess Heinemann said: “As a charity and non-departmental public body, The British Council has a duty to ensure that its complaints process is fair and transparent. It chose Verita because of our reputation for independence and treating people fairly. “With such diverse operations, we expect to deal with complainants from a wide range of individuals and organisations, many of whom may be unfamiliar with the complaints process. Our goal is to satisfy all parties with well-judged resolutions.”