Our 35 years in China




Cultural and Education of the British Embassy established

The British Council begins operations in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy, with programmes operating under the Cultural Agreement.

The Old Vic in China

The Old Vic becomes the first British theatre company to tour China.



Chinese Government Scholarship Scheme

We work with the Chinese government to establish the Chinese Government Scholarship Scheme, providing study placements for 250 scholars per year in science and technology.



English teaching delegation to China

At the invite of the Chinese government, we arrange a delegation to China to assess the quality of English language teaching.





Royal Fellowships

The Queen visits China and announces a new £1 million programme of Royal Fellowships. Under this scheme 400 Chinese students arrive in Britain in 1987.

Academic Links with China Scheme

We administer the Academic Links with China Scheme to foster working relations between university science and engineering departments in the UK and their counterparts in China.




Sino-British Friendship Scholarship Scheme

The ten-year long Sino-British Friendship Scholarship Scheme is established in 1987 at the suggestion of Sir Y. K. Pao, a leading Hong Kong businessman, to enable Chinese postgraduates to study in Britain. Three categories of award are introduced: 3-year PhDs, 1-year Visiting Scholarships and 6-month Senior Research Scholarships.




English language development

From the late 1980s to 2000, the Overseas Development Agency (later the Department for International Development), funds support to English language development in universities, including teacher training and curriculum development.



IELTS global launch

The birth of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment.




Financial Sector Training Scheme

The four-year long Financial Sector Training Scheme is launched to share UK expertise in finance. 230 Chinese trainees, identified as tomorrow’s senior managers, complete work attachments at UK banks, insurance companies, building societies, securities houses and accounting firms, gaining substantial practical experience of the UK financial sector.

British Law Week

British Law Week takes place in Beijing. Experts from the UK’s Crown Service, the courts, the police, law firms and universities participate in a project to monitor and overcome problems in implementing China's new Criminal Procedure Law.




Education UK launch

We launch Education UK - our programme to promote UK education to young people in China through delivering events and information that open up doors to studying in the UK.



Henry Moore exhibition

We bring an exhibition of 118 Henry Moore works to China. The exhibition is seen by over 115,000 people in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.


English Language Teaching Advisory Committee

We establish our English Language Teaching Advisory Committee (ELTAC) in the UK and China, to provide a bridge for knowledge and understanding between UK and Chinese professionals and organisations. Study tours to the UK by ELTAC China members foster a number of partnership projects.



Centre for English Language Learning Support

We launch our first Centre for English Language Learning Support. Developed in partnership with the BBC and China Central Radio and Television University, the Centres focus on multimedia learning, delivered through a comprehensive online offering



Chinese Language Assistants

Our Chinese Language Assistants is programme is launched. Working with China’s Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban), the programme sends Chinese teachers to teach Chinese language and culture in UK schools for one year.



Antony Gormley exhibition

We organise Antony Gormley's Asian Field exhibition in China, comprising a large-scale installation of 180,000 clay figures. It is the first international contemporary cultural collaboration at the National Museum in Tiananmen Square.



Think UK

Think UK, the 2003 flagship British Council and FCO campaign, showcases the UK’s diverse and creative expertise across a range of sectors. The main events, focussing on arts, science and innovation, take place in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing, with over 4.5 million people participating.



Partnership with National Educational Examinations Authority on IELTS

We sign an agreement with the National Educational Examinations Authority to jointly manage IELTS tests in mainland China.




UK-China Education Summit

The first annual UK-China Education Summit takes place, providing a platform for government-to-government collaboration in education.



IELTS record

China becomes the country with the world's most IELTS candidates.



EU-China Social Security Reform Cooperation Project

We manage the EU grant-funded EU-China Social Security Reform Cooperation Project, leading on policy to strenghthen China’s institutional capacity for social security policy development.



Connections through Culture

We launch Connections through Culture, a programme aimed at forging long lasting partnerships between institutions in the UK and China through providing information, advice, networking opportunities and development grants.



Climate Cool

We launch Climate Cool - a major initiative to raise awareness of climate change and encourage action in China. The programme offers an innovative and creative approach to raising awareness of climate change.





Skills for Social Entrepreneurs

The launch of our Skills for Social Entrepreneurs programme, providing skills training and professional mentoring along with access to UK expertise, global peer networks and funding opportunities. Over 1600 entrepreneurs in China have been trained since 2009.


The first major exhibition of J.M.W. Turner works opens at the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) in Beijing in April 2009. The exhibition is one of the longest running shows of international art masterpieces ever held at the NAMOC, with over 200,000 visitors.



Global Media Symposium

Alongside the China Science and Technology Exchange Centre and Fudan University, we host the first Global Media Symposium in China. Over 50 journalists and editors from Africa, North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia attend to discuss the opportunities and challenges faced by the media in reporting on climate change and sustainability.



UK-China Partners in Education

Signed at the UK-China Education Summit in 2011, the UK-China Partners in Education action plan agrees stronger links in education, skills training and language teaching.




UK Now

To mark the 40th anniversary of full diplomatic relations between China and the UK, the British Council organises UK Now – the largest ever showcase of British arts and creativity in China. A series of over 200 events across 29 cities in China sees over 800 artists from the UK participate and over four million people attend.


UK-China High Level People to People Dialogue

The first UK-China High Level People to People Dialogue takes place in London in 2012, with the UK becoming the first European country to have a People to People Dialogue with China. The second Dialogue takes place in Beijing in 2014.



Generation UK

We launch Generation UK - our flagship outward mobility programme which aims to see 80,000 UK students undertake study or work placements in China by 2020.



Social Investment Platform

We launch our Social Investment Platform, connecting social enterprises and social investors, and providing training and opportunities to secure investment funding worth as much as £900,000.

Aptis launch

We launch Aptis in China - our modern and flexible English assessment system designed to meet the diverse needs of businesses.




English online

We launch our first Learn English campaign on Chinese social network platform, WeChat.


Access to Justice

We lead on the delivery of the EU grant-funded Access to Justice programme focussing on legal aid development in three pilot regions across China. The programme will help China evaluate its current policies and improve the quality of legal aid for people in remote and inaccessible areas, especially those in disadvantaged groups.

Exams soar

We deliver over 700,000 English and professional exams per year and work across 53 test centres in mainland China.


2015 and beyond


2015 and beyond