The Cultural Relations Collection; Culture, Education, English
The Cultural Relations Collection brings together thematic essays to explore the work of the British Council and to reflect on our approach to cultural relations around the globe.  ©

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What is the opportunity?

This is a call to researchers at UK universities to partner with us to propose essays for our Cultural Relations Collection – with the chance to win up to four essay prizes of £1,000 each, reach a broad public audience and engage stakeholders beyond the academic research community.

Launched in 2019, the Cultural Relations Collection features short and accessible essays that explore British Council contexts and case studies to reflect on the theory and practice of cultural relations more broadly. They ask also what new insights can be gained by looking afresh at what we do across different sectors and regions through this common cultural relations lens.

Essays published to date have covered themes drawn from across our work in higher education, schools, civil society, arts, exams and assessment and the English language, amongst other areas.  

We have identified ten potential essay themes for this call, drawing on expertise and insight from across our global network. Most of these themes address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its significance and implications for international cultural relations going forward.

There is also a common interest across all the themes in developing essays that would examine our work in Official Development Assistance (ODA) contexts.

Study objectives

We are looking for proposals for essays that address any of the following strategic themes:

  1. Cultural exchange through the British Council teaching centre network: Connecting Countries. 
  2. The impact and interaction of festivals upon emerging creative economies in Sub Saharan Africa.
  3. The process of cultural relations: DICE and Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth.
  4. 'Going virtual' through science communication at the time of a pandemic: FameLab.
  5. How collaborations in science and innovation contribute to sustainable development and cultural relations: The Newton Fund.
  6. Teachers as agents of cultural relations and intercultural understanding.
  7. Lifelong connections: the value of British Council alumni.
  8. Language for Resilience in cultural relations: then and now.
  9. Cultural relations in international intercultural urban environments.
  10. From cultural relations to cultural intelligence: Southern Africa Arts.

View summaries of each theme in the pdf at the end of this page. 

Through developing essays around these themes, we aim to generate new insights into our work around the globe and its significance and value for the wider study of cultural relations. Our approach to the essay writing process is collaborative, and will unfold over two stages:

Stage One: Research partners selected through this call will be put in touch with members of British Council staff who are working in related areas. Partners will be asked to develop their proposals into more detailed abstracts and essay outlines, liaising with these British Council contacts. The resulting submissions will be expected to reflect this process of consultation and knowledge exchange.  

Stage Two: Following a further peer review process, the most promising three or four submissions will be selected to be written up in full for publication as part of the Cultural Relations Collection.  

Responsibility for writing the essays will rest with the selected research partners, who will each be awarded a £1,000 essay prize. They will be expected to continue to engage closely with the relevant British Council colleagues throughout the writing process and to bring the perspectives, insight and expertise of these colleagues into the framework of the essay.  

This collaborative approach is intended to encourage reflection and knowledge exchange, potentially informing future British Council programme development. We are keen to bring current scholarship, research trends and critical theory into dialogue with the professional experience and practice-led, ‘on-the-ground’ expertise of our global staff.

We will encourage opportunities for those proposals not selected for development into full essays to be taken forward in other formats, e.g. as blogs, conference papers, podcasts, webinars.

Qualifications required

This Call is open to all researchers affiliated to a UK university.

We welcome proposals from those at all career stages, though the opportunity might be particularly suited to PhD and early-career researchers.

We also welcome proposals from more established academics who have emerging ideas that they want to ‘test out’ or apply to new research contexts.

Selection criteria: Research partners will be selected based on the extent to which their proposals demonstrate:

        i) academic expertise in areas related to the essay theme/topic

        ii) relevance to the British Council context and background for the essay theme/topic

        iii) awareness of wider cultural relations research contexts and questions with which an essay on the selected theme/topic could engage

        iv) experience of writing for broad public audiences

        v) commitment to knowledge exchange, collaboration, policy engagement or partnership working with organisations or individuals from outside                      higher education

Our intention is to select one research partner for each of the essay themes.

Proposals will be scored on a scale of 0 (weakest) to 5 (strongest) against each criterion, with each criterion given an equal weighting, giving an overall score out of 25.

Once research partners have been selected, further selection criteria will be developed for the next stage: i.e. to decide which submissions are to be published as Cultural Relations Collection essays.

Outputs and deadlines

Essay proposal submission deadline: 10 July 2020

Selection of research partners: applicants to be notified of outcomes by 24 July 2020. We anticipate selecting up to ten research partners at this stage (with the aim of selecting one partner for each essay theme).

Proposal development – stage one: selected research partners to be put in touch with relevant British Council colleagues in order collaboratively to develop abstracts and detailed essay outlines – to be submitted by 28 August 2020.

Proposal development – stage two: peer review process to select the most promising three or four submissions to be written up in full for publication as part of the Cultural Relations Collection. We anticipate selecting up to four proposals for publication. £1,000 essay prizes will be awarded to research partners whose submissions are selected at this stage.

Essay writing: deadline for submission of first drafts December 2020 (TBC).

Editing, design and publication of essays on British Council website: Early 2021.

How to apply

Submit your proposal using Microsoft Forms

Essay proposal submission deadline: 10 July 2020

Any questions? Contact or 

See also