The British Council was founded in 1934 and incorporated by Royal Charter in 1940. We are a public corporation, a charity and an executive non-departmental public body with operational independence from the UK government. Our Patron is HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Prince of Wales is our Vice-Patron.

The Royal Charter which governs our work sets out the objects for which we exist.  These are:-
'[to] advance, for the public benefit, any purpose which is exclusively charitable and which shall
(a) promote cultural relationships and the understanding of different cultures between people and peoples of the United Kingdom and other countries;
(b) promote a wider knowledge of the United Kingdom;
(c) develop a wider knowledge of the English language;
(d) encourage cultural, scientific, technological and other educational cooperation between the United Kingdom and other countries; or 
(e) otherwise promote the advancement of education.
All our work contributes to our purpose and Royal Charter aims and is regulated by the Charities Commission and audited by the UK’s National Audit Office. 

The British Council has a group structure which, in addition to the British Council charity, includes subsidiary undertakings in the UK and overseas. Information regarding these separate legal entities is provided in the governance statement and notes to the accounts sections of the British Council’s annual reports. The annual reports can be accessed under Corporate Reports and Documents.