The Commonwealth

1. The Commonwealth is a major force for progress in the world.

2. The Commonwealth offers great opportunities for the UK and fellow member states.

3. The British Council’s work across the Commonwealth brings direct benefit to UK and Commonwealth prosperity and security.

A force for progress

  • The Commonwealth member states share unique ties of history, language and institutions with the UK and each other.
  • The Commonwealth is an important advocate for human rights around the world. Countries aspire to join the Commonwealth and its role spreads observance for human rights and the rule of law.
  • Commonwealth members are united through a commitment to democracy, freedom of expression, peace and international co-operation, the rule of law and opportunity for all.

The Commonwealth offers great opportunities for the UK and fellow member states

  • With a combined population of over two billion, including leading economies such as Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, South Africa and the UK, the Commonwealth offers immense economic opportunities to member states.
  • The Commonwealth offers new market opportunities for the UK with a significant demand in the fields of science, sustainable development, engineering, higher education and services where the UK is a world leader.
  • The growing wealth and cultural aspirations of the middle classes in Commonwealth countries offer natural opportunities for UK-based cultural and educational institutions, artists, writers and creative entrepreneurs based on historic cultural ties.

Our work across the Commonwealth brings direct benefit to UK and Commonwealth prosperity and security

• We build links between higher education institutions in the UK and Commonwealth member states, improving the exchange of scientific research and innovation.

• We provide access to English language teaching to millions of Commonwealth citizens, enabling them to access international opportunities and building trust and opportunity for the UK.

• We showcase the best of the UK’s arts and creative industries in Commonwealth countries, generating opportunities for both new talent and established artists and businesses to create new work and access new markets.

• Our work in fragile and post conflict states across the Commonwealth is supporting demilitarisation and promoting the rule of law; building capacity in government institutions, education systems and civil society; and giving millions opportunities for development and learning.

• The opportunities we provide for learning, creativity and exchange of ideas give young people, creative entrepreneurs and academics from the UK and across the Commonwealth the chance to imagine and shape a better tomorrow.

Facts

  • We have been working in Commonwealth countries for decades. We opened our offices in Australia and Malaysia in 1947, India in 1948 and South Africa in 1959. We are also present in the newest countries of the Commonwealth, Mozambique (1995) and Rwanda (2009) and have opened in South Sudan which has applied for membership.
  • In Pakistan, 100,000 subscribers are learning English using our core English products. ‘Jobseekers’ and ‘Ufone English with British Council’ are two popular SMS and Internet Voice Recording applications made available through a new telecom sector partnership.
  • As part of our INSPIRE programme we are supporting 10 partnerships between Bangladeshi and UK universities, covering curriculum development, collaborative programmes, teacher and student exchanges and research cooperation. A further 13 partnerships supported by the British Council continue to function independently.
  • In India we have trained over 8000 teacher educators who have in turn trained 836,000 English language teachers. While the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI), which started in 2006, has now been responsible for 1,000 UK-India partnerships in education and research that have the potential to deliver substantial, long term prosperity benefits for both countries, 25,000 exchanges of academicians, researchers, staff and students creating lifelong links between the UK and India. 35 million young people have benefitted through train the trainer UKIERI programmes.
  • The British Council is supporting UK higher education institutions to expand in new markets. Malaysia is the top country for transnational (TNE) provision of UK qualifications in the world, with around 58,000 students currently studying for UK qualifications. Five of the 25 UK university and two boarding school overseas branches are based in Malaysia and more UK universities and higher education institutions are planning to set up a presence in the country. The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus based outside of Kuala Lumpur has over 4,500 students from Malaysia and 70 other countries.
  • In Northern Nigeria and the Niger Delta, we are delivering a reconciliation and stabilisation programme funded by the Department for International Development (DfID). This programme looks at the reasons behind conflict, helps improve conflict management mechanisms and supports the role of women in building peace.
  • Through the DfID-funded Justice for All programme, we strengthen the rule of law and its institutions in Nigeria (e.g. police, courts) and make justice accessible to everyone in society, particularly the poor and marginalised.
  • South Africa celebrated 20 years of democracy in 2014 and to mark this anniversary we organised Connect/ZA, an arts exchange and showcase to encourage cultural collaborations between South Africa and the UK, renewing the foundations for the next 20 years of UK engagement with this fast-changing country.
  • In Canada the Language Assistants Programme saw 27 English Language Assistants from the UK travel to Québec and 23 French Language Assistants come to the UK to teach French in 2014/15.
  • In 2014 we brought the largest delegation of UK artists ever to the Sydney Biennale in Australia in partnership with Creative Scotland, and Welsh artists to the Melbourne Writers Festival building new awareness of the regional diversity of the UK and its artistic vibrancy.
  • Commonwealth Class was a special initiative from the BBC, British Council and Commonwealth Secretariat which ran between spring 2013 and autumn 2014. The initiative offered free access to teaching resources, classroom activities, online debates and competitions to mark the run-up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Pupils in more that 100,000 schools around the Commonwealth took part in this initiative. A  second phase of Commonwealth Class, run in partnership by the British Council and the Commonwealth Secretariat, will run from 2015 until the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast City, Australia, in 2018