It's taken 12 years and many millions of the public's hard earned. Can you believe it? Can you believe that until a couple of weeks ago there was a publicly funded project called "The Prime Minister's Initiative" which existed to actually increase the numbers of international students coming to these shores? Blair started it in 1999 and the British Council then rubbed its hands in glee as it was, of course, gifted the contract by Number 10, and so was able to spend further shedloads of money to support its self-importance and to pursue an activity about which they were too ignorant to realise how little they knew. In no time they were out of their depth, and in no time resorted to deceit in order to attempt to cover their incompetence. It has been another British Council managed disaster.
- The last prime minister actually bragged in the pre-election televised debates that he had CUT the number of students by 60,000, for heaven’s sake
- The present prime minister doesn’t understand the difference between international students and immigrants, and seems to think that weak English is a good reason not to learn it, and is in any case probably an indicator of terrorist intentions
- The main vehicle for reaching the international student market – the British Council’s “Education UK” website – has never worked or done anything except confuse and deter the market.
What we got was a classic case of damaging political interference in a market that was until then doing very well (since government stepped in, UK market share has fallen). The politicos interfered, the inept British Council put itself centre stage to predictably disastrous effect, the numbers game led to system abuses, that problem was compounded by a panicking Home Office who foolishly linked visas to unsuitable and unregulated accrediting bodies and failed to implement a system of visa logging, and now further panic has led to what was arguably the greatest post war success story being dumped on from a great height, as ever more negative messages are sent to the market by our worryingly inadequate government.
The British Council still has the blurb about the PMI on its site, but that’s to be expected, as the organisation is at least a year behind the game. It still says what they are going to do in February, March and May 2010, so it was probably about then that they lost interest as the prospect of more shovels of misplaced public cash receded. So now it’s dead. What a mess. What an expensive, damaging, predictable and unnecessary mess.