Thursday, January 31, 2008

The UK according to the British Council

From the draft of a post I started a couple of days ago....

"I am disturbed to read in Language Business that not only is Alex Salmond preventing climate change from encroaching into his fiefdom, he is apparently also now organising the removal of famous London landmarks north of the border; according to the British Council anyway."

The spoilsports have subsequently removed the offending picture, but I later had a bit of a wander round the site, just out of interest to see how they sell the various parts of the United Kingdom to foreign prospective students of the English language.

The intro for Wales doesn’t muck about:

The UK has an outstanding global reputation for innovative research and the delivery of quality education. As an integral part of the UK, Wales education institutions represent exceptional quality and have established a reputation for achieving excellence in teaching, learning and research.

Nice bit of pro-Union terminology there that "integral part of the UK" and also in this section you can find out more useful info about study opportunities, culture and life generally in Wales.

You get the impression that the compilers of the Northern Irish section have gone slightly on the defensive with their opening sales pitch:
It is easy to see why visitors to Northern Ireland find it so difficult to leave. A region of many contrasts, its stunning landscapes and vibrant towns and cities offer something for every visitor.

A recent comparison of recorded crime levels across the UK has revealed that Northern Ireland remains one of the lowest crime areas in the UK

Was it really that necessary to add that second sentence ("not only is it a great wee country, no one’s going to mug you"))? Not even sure that it’s still true anyway. Nevertheless, also in this section you can find out more about study opportunities, culture and life generally in Northern Ireland.

No such hint of negativity with the Scottish entry, you can almost hear the bagpipes swirling in the background:
Scotland is a vibrant and beautiful place. It is a small country, but has a great diversity of landscapes and cultures with both cosmopolitan city living and rugged unspoilt countryside. It retains a distinctive cultural identity within the UK framework and has its own unique legal and educational systems

Note how those "distinctive" and “unique”s are pushed in there, just to remind readers that Scotland is not England, we should however be grateful that “within the UK framework” is still included.
And as with Wales and Northern Ireland you can also find out more about study opportunities, culture and life generally in Scotland, although curiously in its "Great Scottish Politicians" section there are only two figures mentioned, Ramsey MacDonald (?!) and Donald Dewar (??!!).

Leaving us with England:
As with all the UK, qualifications from England are recognised and respected throughout the world. Your qualification will be a solid foundation for building your future, boosting your career and prospects for a higher salary.

English universities, colleges and schools will provide a vibrant, creative and challenging environment

As with the Wales entry a tad on the dry side, but not to worry, I’m sure in this section we’ll also find out more about English study opportunities, culture and life general, let’s just check down that English Home-page again...


The only articles listed are “British as Roast Beef” and “Praise for UK IPOD designer”

(It’s OK, no need for any English nationalists reading to get het you go,England also has an “exciting and fun culture”...but hold on minute...
”the largest country in the UK, England encapsulates much of the history and tradition for which the UK is famous”....ermmm, does it really? Isn't that rather a sweeping statement?

While you have a think about that one, to finish off on a slightly more serious note, I've got to say I was not at all impressed with how the British Council is attempting to sell the UK as a study destination. Considering all the English-language professionals they have working for them and the resources available, what this particular part of the site resembles most is a Third-Form geography project. The British Council is recognised as the main quality English-language tecahing centre in most countries it operates in, it's a pity they couldn't have made more of an effort with their home-grown promotion.

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