Covid-hit British Council sells Indian IELTS business to IDP

Deal worth £130 million reflects financial woes of UK educational organisation

July 1, 2021
English language test
Source: iStock

The British Council has sold the Indian arm of its IELTS English language testing business, in a sign of the financial challenges facing the organisation.

The council – the UK’s international educational and cultural organisation – said that it had sold the business to IDP Education for £130 million.

Kate Ewart-Biggs, the council’s interim chief executive, said that the deal would enable the organisation “to improve its financial position following the impact of Covid-19”.

The council traditionally has an annual income exceeding £1.2 billion but the pandemic has devastated its English language testing business, traditionally a major source of funding. Meanwhile, ongoing government funding to the council is expected to be cut by about £10 million annually.

The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, is the world’s most popular English language assessment for study and migration, and is the only one approved by UK Visas and Immigration. IDP already jointly managed the test, alongside the council and Cambridge Assessment.

Under the terms of the deal, all IELTS tests in India will be delivered by IDP, and British Council employees working on the test in India will join IDP.

Ms Ewart-Biggs said the IDP deal would “simplify and improve the customer experience for IELTS test takers”.

“As IDP already delivers IELTS in India, the high-quality service provided to IELTS customers will remain the same,” Ms Ewart-Biggs said.

“To ensure we could continue to deliver on our global cultural relations mission, we explored strategic options for the English examinations business with IDP in India in 2020. The proceeds of the sale will enable British Council to improve its financial position following the impact of Covid-19 on our finances.

“Our wider British Council work will continue in India. We remain committed to realising our goal of building trust and understanding between the United Kingdom and India through arts, education, assessment and the English language.”

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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