Four hands touching

The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. Our work involves developing relationships with people from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures. Working effectively with diversity and promoting equality of opportunity is therefore an essential part of our work.

Our approach

Equality of opportunity is about treating people fairly and without bias, and creating conditions in the workplace and wider society that encourage and value diversity and promote dignity. It is also about trying to redress past imbalances and ensuring that dealings with clients, customers and suppliers are conducted in a constructive way which does not give rise to unjustified discrimination and supports appropriate inclusion.

Diversity is concerned with creating an inclusive environment and practices which benefit the organisation and those who work in and with it, taking account of the fact that people differ from one another in many different ways. Understanding, valuing and effectively managing these differences can result in greater participation than can be leveraged for success at individual, team and organisational level.

When we talk about equal opportunity and diversity at the British Council, we focus on 7 main areas: age, disability, ethnicity/race, gender, religion/belief, sexual orientation, work-life balance.

You can read the British Council’s equal opportunity and diversity statements.

Globally, we’ve developed a number of tools and initiatives to help us promote equality, manage diversity successfully and measure our progress.

These include our Diversity assessment framework an evidence-based evaluation completed bi-annually by all countries in which we have offices. This enables us to track our progress in mainstreaming diversity through everything we do: from managing recruitment and performance to delivering our programmes and services, from how we work with partners, suppliers and customers, to managing our staff and our working environment and culture.

In the UK, we have completed Equality monitoring of all our UK-contracted staff since 2001, helping us to build up a picture of who we employ and the impact of our Equal opportunity policy and diversity strategy. We also undertake some limited equality monitoring in our overseas offices, of both our staff and customers, where local legislations allow. This information can help us take action to address under-representation of certain groups in our workforce or our partners and customers, ensuring that we are inclusive in our programmes and services, that our staff possess a diversity of skills, backgrounds and perspectives and that we are properly representative of the societies in which we work.

Programmes and services

We try to ensure that our commitment to equal opportunity and diversity is reflected in our activities, events and services. Here are some examples of projects or initiatives that demonstrate our commitment across the three main areas of our work.


We develop sustainable relationships with French and European partners who together will create the future of art and culture. With these partners we build projects on the issues that bring us together, and the issues on which we differ.

We are particularly concerned by emerging artists and art forms, the way in which the arts reflect the diversity of our society, and how artistic projects can bring together different audiences, communities and sectors of society. We also look at ways in which the cultural sector promotes sustainable development and the role of art with regard to the major transformations taking place in our economy and our society.

We have worked with:

  • the Festival d’Aix supporting outreach music workshops with different communities in the Aix-Marseille region (2012)
  • the European Cultural Foundation organising an inter-generational encounter and knowledge-sharing between women working in the cultural sector in Europe
  • the Centre National des Arts Plastiques developing a competency-based recruitment process for cultural mediators at Monumenta (2011, Anish Kapoor) and creative workshops for different groups in Paris and Ile-de-France
  • Canal 93 in Bobigny, La Maison des Métallos and the Relais Culture Europe on a two day workshop with next-generation cultural leaders on cultural rights and access to the arts for all (2012, 2011)

Education and society

Our work in education and society has three main goals:

  • to provide opportunities for young people to have an international experience during their studies,
  • to promote positive role models in education and research, providing inspiration for young people regardless of their background,
  • to promote intercultural dialogue around themes which are changing young peoples’ lives.

Our current projects include:

    • Internationalising Higher Education: debates with French and European partners exchanging good practice and policy around equality of opportunity and access to higher education
    • Language Rich Europe a European project looking at multilingualism policy and practice in education, public services and business sectors, to promote best practice exchange and policy dialogue.
    • Our Shared Europe a project which creates opportunities to discuss and share perspectives on issues such as diversity, migration, community cohesion, intercultural and inter-faith dialogue in the European societies of our time
    • Science in Schools workshops delivered by UK researchers in English explaining their research to students in French lycées and colleges, challenging stereotypes about a scientific career. Some workshops take place in a local university or grande école with college pupils from the Eclair network, with the aim of also promoting access to higher education.


English is at the heart of the British Council's cultural relations work. What we do in English creates opportunities for millions of people around the world through education, mobility and international engagement. In France we have teaching centres in Paris, Lyon and Marseille and we offer IELTS (International English Language Testing System), BULATS (Business Language Testing Service) and Cambridge English examinations.

We can provide specific arrangements for exams candidates with disabilities and we try to ensure our exams venues are fully accessible. In partnership with the Lycée Henri IV and HEC we offer two-week intensive language courses tailored to students in their widening access entry programmes. In our courses more generally, our approach of structured English language learning to support each learner in the process of reaching her or her full potential means we can often accommodate additional needs in the classroom.

Sharing experience

We are interested to learn of initiatives in other organisations, or to participate in networks where we can share experience and learn more about diversity issues and different approaches in France. If you have suggestions or ideas and would like to get in touch with us, please email We would be happy to hear from you!