equal opportunities and diversity

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 that 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.

Tools and initiatives

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 in Italy that demonstrate our commitment across the three main areas of our work.


We develop sustainable relationships with Italian 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 interested in 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 together, 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 major transformations taking place in our economy and our society.

Throughout our arts work we aim to give a modern, diverse picture of the United Kingdom, and to promote the debate of issues and ideas by challenging opinions and increasing understanding between cultures. Areas of equal opportunity and diversity that we have explored through our arts work include:

Gender equality issues

We supported director Tina Gharavi’s attendance at the Rome Independent Film Festival (2013) which screened her first feature length film “I Am Nasrine”.  She also participated in a public discussion on the role of women in the film industry. 

Deaf and disabled artistic practice

Italian delegate Mara Serina was invited to attend and report back on the Unlimited festival (2012), a ground-breaking three-year initiative that commissioned 29 new pieces of work by deaf and disabled artists from the UK.

We also supported Unlimited participant Claire Cunningham’s presence at the Teatro a Corte Festival (2012).  

Intercultural projects

Through our Intercultural Dialogues project in theatre (2011-2013), we worked with UK-based writers Rani Moorthy, Kwame Kwei Armah, Hanif Kureshi and Arinze Kene whose work features their experiences of the UK as first, second and third generation citizens and also sought to engage local migrant communities in Milan in the project. 

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:

Our Shared Europe

A project that brought together young social entrepreneurs from North Africa and Europe to receive skills training on social enterprise and exchange ideas with each other on opportunities for social impact investment.  Through this, they each gained a sound practical insight into each other’s cultures while also forming a diverse network and gaining skills.

Read On

We have nurtured the Read On project which gives students a chance to manage their own libraries of graded reading books, from which they read as much as possible and complete activities that are inspired by those stories.  The teachers are trained and have materials to help enrich the learning experience.  The project reaches over 4500 students between 11-16 years old across the country.  Evaluation has proven it is of particular value to improving the performance and life skills of minorities and children of immigrant families in the classroom, and those with learning difficulties.

Internationalising Higher Education

Famelab is an international competition which brings together young science researchers from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Language Rich Europe

This is a European project which looks at multilingualism policy and practice in education, public services and business sectors in order to promote best practice exchange and policy dialogue.


English is at the heart of the British Council's cultural relations work.

This programme creates opportunities for millions of people around the world through education, mobility and international engagement.

In Italy we have teaching centres in Milan, Rome and Naples 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 or specific learning needs, and we try to ensure our exams venues are fully accessible.

Our approach of structured English language learning on our courses supports each learner in the process of reaching his or her full potential and means we can often accommodate additional needs in the classroom.

Sharing experience

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

See also

External links