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CULTURE | 09-09-2021 14:12

Funding gap forces British Council to scale back

The British Council, which promotes UK cultural and language relations overseas, will scale back its work in 20 countries due to a pandemic funding shortfall. Offices in a number of nations to be shuttered, including Chile and Uruguay, according to reports.

The British Council, which promotes UK cultural and language relations overseas, said on Thursday that it will scale back its work in 20 countries due to a pandemic funding shortfall.

"Due to the impact of Covid on our commercial income which we previously used to subsidise our offices overseas and an overall decline in our funding compared to pre-Covid, we face a significant funding gap," a spokesperson told AFP. 

As a result, it "will need to look at delivering our work in 20 countries remotely or digitally," it told the Politico website.

The institution's vital income from English-language teaching and exams plunged during the pandemic, as the virus forced countries into lockdown and restrictions on in-person events.

The British organisation is the equivalent of France's Alliance Francaise, Germany's Goethe-Institut, Spain's Instituto Cervantes and China's Confucius Institute.

It is a key part of UK soft power overseas, and works in more than 100 countries, with over 7,000 staff worldwide.

It was founded in 1934 to promote British culture and fight the rise of fascism.

Last year, it was forced to close 44 out of its 47 English-language schools.

The British Council needed a £145 million (US$200 million, 170-million-euro) bailout to stave off insolvency, but the government loans are due to be repaid in December.

The institution will close its centres in Chile, Uruguay, Belgium, Afghanistan, Namibia, Sierra Leone and South Sudan, according to reports, while programmes in a number of European nations – Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Malta, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland – will be scaled down, with programming expected to be run remotely from a neighbouring country.

Some of the UK's closest allies – such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – will also be hit by staff reductions at their centers, despite the government's desire to strengthen ties with these countries after Brexit. 

"The British Council has been working across Europe since 1938 and we remain committed to doing so where funding allows," said the spokesperson.

Citing the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has cut British development aid by a third this year, drawing strong criticism from the opposition and lawmakers in his own party.

– TIMES/AFP

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