The British Council, which spearheads a government-backed drive to recruit more overseas students to UK universities and colleges, has launched a strategy to modernise and re-focus its operations.
It plans to cut bureaucracy and overheads, invest in information technology and concentrate more of its efforts on reaching wider and younger audiences in transitional countries such as China, Russia and South Africa.
The council has 7,300 staff and offices in 110 countries. Its £5 million overseas student recruitment campaign is organised by its education promotions arm, the Education Counselling Service.
This year the council merged with British Training International in an effort to improve the promotion of British further and vocational education and training.
Following a spending review in July, its grant from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is to rise from £136 million in 2001-02 to £159 million by 2003-04.
How spending on the recruitment campaign will be affected by the new strategy will not be announced until next month. The council said that the promotion of education and training, the arts, literature and science, and the teaching of English would remain at the forefront of its work.
But it said that more resources would be put into supporting human rights, fighting corruption and helping reform government structures "in response to a high demand for this activity".
The realignment of operations will result in the British Council closing its offices in Belarus, Ecuador, Lesotho and Swaziland, and withdrawing from a number of capital cities.
Baroness Kennedy, who chairs the council, said it was imperative that it responded to the globalisation of society, culture and politics.
"New ways of communicating enable us to take up this challenge as never before. The strategy that the British Council has endorsed is one that re-channels the council's energies to meet the demands of the 21st century," she said.