James Martin, Director of British Council Cyprus talks to ELT NEWS about the role of the British Council and the services offered

(Reading time: 3 - 6 minutes)

James Martin, is the current Director of British Council Cyprus and has extensive experience in the field of exams. Before coming to Cyprus, he was based in Prague and held the position of Business Development Manager Europe for the Cambridge English exams.

When was the British Council established in Cyprus? (year, location, mission)

We’ve been based in Nicosia since 1940 and have a reach across the island.  The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and the countries we work with – including Cyprus. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and those countries – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. This helps make the world a better, safer place.

In broad terms, in Cyprus we have been helping people achieve their goals through the exams we administer; such as IGCSE, KET, PET and IELTS as well as enrolling in a UK University. And we are proud to be considered as a trustworthy organization that supports people in achieving their goals.

How do you cater for the needs of language schools, teachers of English and the general public?

Let’s deal with each of these in turn:

Language Schools:   We work with over 1000 language schools across Cyprus delivering a range of UK and qualifications (such as Cambridge English, IGCSEs, A’Levels) and also providing related training and information to their teaching staff to help their students prepare for the exams. We also have our loyalty schemes, the Addvantage and Partner Schools Global Network, through which schools can receive benefits such as use of logos, free places on seminars and others.

Teachers of English:   In addition to the assistance we provide for teachers to better prepare students for their exams, we also provide a range of continuing professional development products and services for teachers wishing to progress in their careers.  We also work closely with relevant ministries, often acting in a consultative capacity. Our programmes not only train teachers to better prepare students for their exams but also through our Child Protection programme for example, teachers are equipped with tools on how to protect children from harm or risk of harm.

The general public:   As well as delivering UK qualifications from over 70 awarding bodies to anyone who wants them, we offer expert and impartial advice to people wanting to study in the UK. We are committed to offering our services to everyone in an equal and inclusive way, giving free access to information.

You administer many English language, professional and university exams. Does the British Council guarantee transparency in the delivery of the exams?

As the official representative of UK education globally, the British Council delivered UK qualifications to almost 2 million candidates.  Cyprus is one of the more diverse and complex exams operations we have, covering English language exams, school exams, professional exams and university exams.  Over 140 UK awarding bodies trust the British Council with the delivery of their exams.  In addition to the test-day spot-check inspections by awarding bodies, we also have internal spot-check inspections when we are running exams; we are subject to comprehensive and regular complete audits of our exams operations which is run independently of country operations to ensure transparency; we also hold regular internal and external training for all of our exams staff. 

So, yes, we can guarantee transparency because we are subject to more checks than what takes place as a market standard.  This is clearly reflected in the number of people sitting exams with us because they trust us.  It is this quality seal that test takers trust and one of the reasons why candidates take their exam with us.

What are the benefits of taking an exam with the British Council?

Apart from the security and compliance assurances I’ve just mentioned, the British Council provides a comprehensive service from pre-registration to post-results.  We have fully-automated registration and payment services available 24/7 saving people time; and we also have greatly experienced staff who can assist with any questions or concerns.  We recognize that people take exams to create life opportunities and that this can create a lot of stress for candidates; our whole offer is aimed at providing assurance through our years of experience to make the complete journey as stress-free as possible.  Finally it is worth pointing out that all of our staff – full-time and part-time are fully trained in our Child Protection policies.

What other services do you offer?

We run loyalty schemes for institutions who register candidates with us.  These schemes offer a broad range of support materials and training aimed at candidates, teachers and parents. Many of these are unique to the British Council and so cannot be obtained elsewhere, such as Learn English Exams website for our Cambridge English candidates, Child Protection, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, as well as a range of workshops related to wider school issues and development. We also offer the Road to IELTS website which is available to anyone registering with us for the IELTS test.  In addition to the above, the British Council has a wide range of useful Apps for candidates to use, along with very popular MOOCs.

Another service we offer is that we, as the official representative of UK education overseas, are completely impartial – we have to be as it is a key part of our mission and this is why people have trusted us around the world for around 80 years.  Unique in this sphere, the British Council represents all UK universities and other education institutions along with a huge number of exams awarding bodies; our impartiality ensures that anyone coming to us for a service will have the full range of options presented to them equally and it will be up to them to decide from the information we provide what is best for their individual situation. UK universities trust this process and that is why around 70 of them participate in our education exhibitions in Cyprus each year. Our full services can be found at: www.britishcouncil.com.cy

How do you promote cultural bonds between Britain and Cyprus? 

Many studies have provided evidence that student mobility, which our exams and higher education services pave the way for, is a key ingredient in driving both international development more broadly and inter-cultural understanding. As an organization, we are committed to maintaining and strengthening cultural and educational relationships and connections with the people of the countries of the EU as the UK prepares for its exit from the EU. In this regard we have engaged extensively with sector leaders across the EU to work towards a common European future for the people of the UK and the EU member states in the fields of education and culture after the UK has left the EU.•



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