Adopt the brand plan for the British Council

January 26, 1996

Roger Iredale is correct - the British Council has been put in an impossible position by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. There are real conflicts of interest.

The council needs to plan how to legally segment its activities so that it has its own trading companies. This will not stop criticism, but will increase transparency. The council must realise that it is unwise to continue to depend on the FCO for even its core funding. There is no reason why cultural diplomacy cannot be contracted out. Probably the best way forward is for embassies, who are closest to local needs and opportunities, to invite organisations to tender for franchises. This way British Council-owned businesses and other organisations, including universities, can bid to provide services including the core representation of British culture, science, education, etc. under the established and respected "British Council" brand. This approach might bring the added bonus of respect for high quality generic marketing and the avoidance of the sort of short-termism that has tainted the higher education system in its recent dealings in Turkey.

If the council follows this route it will get itself further off the FCO financial hook; and the FCO will be forced to take a more focused and direct interest in the increasingly important role of cultural diplomacy.

John Belcher

Pro rector, University of Westminster

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