Wednesday 11 April 2018

British business leaders believe speaking Mandarin Chinese will give students an advantage in their careers, with 28 per cent saying this would be ‘significant’;

While 69 per cent believe that Mandarin skills will be important for the future of British business and the economy, 66 per cent said that it was currently difficult to recruit employees who are fluent in Mandarin Chinese;

82 per cent agree that the choice of language subjects in schools should reflect important potential growth markets for British trade and business.

More than three in four British business leaders believe speaking Mandarin will give school leavers a career advantage over their counterparts, according to a survey published today.

Amongst over 1,000 senior business decision makers questioned by YouGov for the Mandarin Excellence Programme, more than three quarters of respondents said that speaking a high level of Mandarin would be beneficial to school pupils in their future careers. On average, 28 per cent thought that the advantage would be ‘significant’ – with this rising to 31 per cent amongst those working for companies with an annual turnover of £10 million or more.

While 69 per cent of those surveyed felt that Mandarin Chinese skills, particularly speaking abilities, would be important for British business and the economy in future, 66 per cent said that it was currently difficult to recruit fluent speakers from within the UK workforce. When asked about language learning more widely, 82 per cent agreed that language teaching in schools “should reflect important potential growth markets for British trade and business”.

Commissioned by the Mandarin Excellence Programme, the new survey aims to understand more about the language needs of British businesses, with a particular focus on Mandarin.

Funded by the Department for Education – and delivered by the UCL Institute of Education in partnership with the British Council – the Mandarin Excellence Programme aims to see at least 5,000 young people in England on track towards fluency in Mandarin by 2020.

Recent British Council research has found that Mandarin will be the most important non-European language to the UK post-Brexit – and second only to Spanish overall.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said:

“Education standards are rising, with 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010 but we must do more to ensure our education system is fit for the future demands of a modern economy. This research shows that young people fluent in Mandarin will be at a significant advantage when competing for jobs with their peers from around the world. That is why we introduced the Mandarin Excellence Programme, which is on track to have 5,000 pupils fluent in Mandarin by 2020. The enthusiasm and energy that both pupils and teachers are committing to this programme is inspiring, and will help Britain to compete in an increasingly global economy.”

Katharine Carruthers, Director of the UCL Institute Of Education (IOE) Confucius Institute, said:

“The findings of this survey confirm that young people achieving high levels of fluency in Chinese by participating in the Mandarin Excellence Programme will be in demand in the job market. MEP pupils and their parents should be encouraged by this and employers can feel reassured that there are young people coming through the school system who can meet business needs when it comes to communicating with one of the UK’s largest trading partners.”

Mark Herbert, Head of Schools Programmes at the British Council, said:

“Learning a country’s language connects you to its people and culture – a benefit which lasts a lifetime.  Everyone in the UK who learns some Mandarin builds another link between us and China, building greater mutual understanding and trust between our countries – the absolute bedrock of business, trade and prosperity for both nations in the future.  Learning the language is also a really rewarding experience.”

Secondary schools in England can find out more about the Mandarin Excellence Programme – including funding – and apply to join from September 2018 here:


For more information, contact Belinda Murunya in the British Council Press Office on 0203 285 3638 or

Department for Education Enquiries

Central newsdesk 020 7783 8300 / General enquiries 0370 000 2288


Notes to Editor

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,154 adults that are senior business decision makers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th and 27th February 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of British business size.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 65 million people directly and 731 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.

About the UCL Institute of Education

The UCL Institute of Education is a world-leading centre for research and teaching in education and social science, ranked number one for education worldwide in the 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 QS World University Rankings. It was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2016. In 2014, the IOE secured ‘outstanding’ grades from Ofsted on every criterion for its initial teacher training, across primary, secondary and further education programmes. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework assessment of university research, the IOE was top for ‘research power’ (GPA multiplied by the size of the entry) in education. Founded in 1902, the Institute currently has more than 8,000 students and 800 staff. In December 2014 it became a single-faculty school of UCL, called the UCL Institute of Education.

About UCL (University College London)

UCL was founded in 1826. We were the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to open up university education to those previously excluded from it, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has over 39,000 students from 150 countries and over 12,500 staff. Our annual income is more than £1 billion.| Follow us on Twitter @uclnews | Watch our YouTube channel