Protest at office closures

December 15, 2000

More than 100 German and British academics have launched a bi-national petition protesting against the British Council's plans to close four regional offices in Germany - Hamburg, Munich, Leipzig and Cologne - leaving the Berlin office as the council's only outpost there.

The protest was presented to the British ambassador in Berlin, Sir Paul Lever, following the announcement of a new global strategy in late October. The council's investment plans include a financial redistribution with an emphasis on information technology programmes.

Organiser and historian Franz Bosbach, president of the Prince Albert Society, said: "This is a serious threat to traditional Anglo-German cultural diplomacy." He said the drive to make profit out of cultural activities was damaging a highly respected institution.

The protesters include Lord Asa Briggs of Lewes, president of the Victorian Society, Keith Robbins, vice-chancellor of the University of Wales, and Helmut Ruppert, president of Bayreuth University.

Tony Andrews, director of the British Council, Germany, defended the reforms. He said use of electronic media would mean "relationships between our countries, especially among young people, will improve".

Academics said the council was most needed in eastern Germany given the rise of political extremism.

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