A New Role for the British Council?
Walker, David, The Independent (London, England)
Handbagged hard by Lady Thatcher, the British Council has been striving in recent years to reinvent itself as a hardnosed purveyor of paid-for English language teaching. It still sends ballets to Berlin and Shakespeare to Singapore - but there are fewer of those rather vague exchanges that once gave Malcolm Bradbury a free trip to Bucharest, allowing him to lampoon the Council mercilessly in several comic novels.
That was under the Tories. How will the pounds 430m-a-year British Council fare under Labour, now that Overseas Development (one of its principal patrons in Whitehall) has become a fully-fledged department under feisty Clare Short? The British Council is not going to get any more, that's for sure, but will ministers look on it more kindly?
One straw in the wind is the recent appointment of a new director-general, someone entirely fresh to the world of cultural exchange and a physical scientist by background. Although the Council has long had chemists and geologists on its books its public reputation, under the tutelage of the Foreign Office, has always been tilted towards the classical and humanities end of the academic spectrum. The new man is David Drewry, director of science and technology with the Natural Environment Research Council and an expert on polar ice caps. What that points to is something Labour is keen on: Britain acquiring much more of a reputation abroad for environmental protection. Drewry does not take over till the New Year and so is cagey about his plans, but he does say "without reducing the role of the British Council in English language teaching - which is vital to UK plc, I will have a different perspective." Drewry takes over in the pounds 90,000-a-year post from Sir John Hanson, who is becoming warden of Green College, Oxford. NERC is the research co-ordinating body that runs the Geological Survey and Institute of Hydrology, and Drewry's role there was to link the various branches of science involved in environmental research. He himself is a Cambridge-formed geophysicist who, before joining NERC, was head of the British Antarctic Survey and before that the Scott Polar Research Institute. (That experience taught him a lot, he says, about international diplomacy. In Antarctica some 25 different countries manage to co-operate fairly well.) He maintains an interest in his field as a visiting professor at Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, which is where he did …
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Publication information: Article title: A New Role for the British Council?. Contributors: Walker, David - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: September 11, 1997. Page number: E9. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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