1 October 2021

The British Council: changing lives

Tom blogs about the invaluable role that the British Council plays in supporting young people in learning languages – and how that support is now threatened by cuts.

I grew up in an area of Hull which is not particularly well connected to other parts of the UK, let alone the wider world. Without the British Council, I may have never come across someone from another country or culture when I was at school. Through the Language Assistants programme, run by the British Council, I was able to meet native speakers of French and German who inspired me to study languages and opened my eyes to the world beyond my classroom. I went on to study French at university as a direct result of this, and I then became a Language Assistant myself through the British Council in France where I taught English for a year.

This was a life-changing opportunity for me and gave me the experience that I needed to stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs after I graduated, particularly as I was not able to undertake unpaid internships in London which many of my wealthier classmates could do.

Without the British Council’s support, the options for my compulsory year abroad would have been too financially prohibitive: I couldn’t have afforded to study abroad as paying for tuition fees and accommodation without any income would have bankrupted me. Generations of people from working-class backgrounds have benefited from this same programme, and I am now proud to say that I am the head of the programme for the whole of the UK.

The British Council changed my life, and has changed the lives of millions of young people in the UK and beyond over the years. Cuts to the British Council threaten this as it will force us to focus on income-generating schemes, rather than delivering on our core charitable objectives which help young people in the UK and beyond.