The British Council was founded to create ‘a friendly knowledge and understanding’ between the people of the UK and the wider world.
We are a registered UK charity, incorporated by Royal Charter in 1940, and a non-departmental public body. Our Royal Charter sets out our charitable purposes and mission. Our unique status and core UK government funding commit us to public service.
We make a positive contribution to the countries where we work though the teaching of English, the sharing of arts and culture, the development of educational collaborations and opportunities, and the sharing of the UK’s values and ways of living.
Our work makes a lasting difference to the UK’s international standing by increasing the country’s influence and networks with key decision makers, influencers and the wider public globally.
We work with the UK Government and devolved administrations to ensure our work aligns with the UK’s international strategic priorities – focusing our resources overseas where we can deliver maximum benefit to the UK.
A 21st century model of public service
We operate a ‘mixed economy’ model, generating our own income, as well as receiving grant funding from government. The bulk of our turnover – 84 per cent – comes from self-generated income.
We take an entrepreneurial approach, combining commercial, contract delivery and partnering skills with a public service ethos and core UK government funding. This means that we are able to deliver maximum benefit for the UK at minimum cost to the taxpayer.
We generate income by charging for activities where local economic conditions mean customers are able to pay. Where we work under contract to governments, funders or donors, we cover our costs. We also seek to work in partnership with other great UK institutions and the private sector to maximize our reach and impact while sharing costs and risk.
Government grant remains a vital element of our funding as it enables us to represent the UK’s long term interests in strategically important countries, like fragile and post-conflict states, where it would not be possible to self-finance our operations through earned income.
The £154.9 million Foreign Office grant funding we received in 2014-15 was five per cent less than the previous year (2013-14, £162.4 million).
Despite the reduction in grant, our turnover increased to £973 million in 2014-15 an increase of nearly £109 million on the previous year. For every £1 of Foreign Office grant we generated over £5.28 of income from other sources.
In 2010-11 our Foreign Office grant accounted for 27 per cent of our income. In 2014-15 our grant accounted for just 16 per cent of our funding.
We generate the majority of our income through teaching English, providing international access to exams and qualifications, winning and delivering education and development contracts and through partnerships with public bodies, donors and the private sector.
In 2013-14 participation in British Council programmes, products and services was over 600 million, including 10.9 million face to face and 11.6 million exhibition, festivals and fair visitors.
All of our activity, whether paid for by the user of funded from other sources, is audited and delivered in line with our charitable purposes, and is regulated by the Charities Commission and verified by the National Audit Office. Any surplus we generate is used in direct pursuit of these purposes, through programmes in education, English, society and the arts.
The British Council has a Fair Competition policy which ensures that the organisation fully complies with competition and charity law. All public money is operationally and financially separate from earned income to ensure there is no cross-subsidy. This is audited annually by the National Audit Office.