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British Council Founded Founder Type Area served Product Key peopleRevenueWebsite
United Kingdom Government
Cultural Institution
British cultural and language education
Vernon Ellis (Chair) Ciarán Devane(Chief Executive)
£781 million (2012/3)
British Council building in LondonBritish Council building in Hong KongBritish Council Office in Dhaka, Bangladesh

The British Council is a British organisation specialising in international educational and cultural opportunities. It is registered as a charity both in England and Wales and Scotland. Founded in 1934 as the British Committee for Relations with Other Countries, and granted a royal charter by King George VI in 1940, the British Council was inspired by Sir Reginald (Rex) Leeper''s recognition of the importance of "cultural propaganda" in promoting British interests. Its "sponsoring department" within the United Kingdom Government is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, although it has day-to-day operational independence. Martin Davidson is its chief executive, appointed in April 2007.

  • 1 History
  • 2 Initiatives
    • 2.1 Teaching
    • 2.2 Working abroad
    • 2.3 Sports programmes
    • 2.4 English for peace
    • 2.5 Online initiatives
  • 3 The Selector
  • 4 Other activities
    • 4.1 Cafés Scientifiques
    • 4.2 ZeroCarbonCity
    • 4.3 Love''s Labours Lost – British Council-supported Shakespeare play in Afghanistan
    • 4.4 Young Creative Entrepreneur Awards
    • 4.5 The Prime Minister''s Global Fellowship
  • 5 Controversy
    • 5.1 Expenses
    • 5.2 Israel and Palestine
    • 5.3 Dissident Chinese writers
    • 5.4 Cuts
    • 5.5 Accountability
    • 5.6 In literature
  • 6 Chairs
  • 7 See also
  • 8 External links
  • 9 References


The impetus for what became the British Council arose in the Foreign Office during the late 1920s when the official cultural organisations of the French, Germans and Italians were being quite successful. Together with some like-minded individuals they created the "British Committee for Relations with Other Countries" in 1934. The word "committee" was quickly dropped and it became the "British Council for Relations with Other Countries". Initially the committee''s work focused on two areas, support for English education abroad and promulgation of British culture through lecture tours, musical troupes and art exhibitions. The first geographic area to be targeted was the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, followed by the poorer countries in Europe and then Latin America. In 1936, the organisation''s name was officially shortened to the "British Council". The council worked out of the various British consulates, but then began opening its own offices in various countries, starting with Egypt in 1938. The overseas associates of the British Council collected information about local conditions, opportunities and openness to British initiates, which information was compiled in London. These "information" functions were transferred to the newly recreated Ministry of Information in 1939 at the start of World War II.

During the war most offices in Europe and the Middle East were closed, except in neutral Sweden, Portugal and Spain. Instead, educational opportunities were provided in the refugee camps within Britain, and for Allied servicemen stationed there. In 1939 the "Resident Foreigners Division" was established to manage those services. By the end of the war there were British Council assistance centres in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Oxford, Stratford-on-Avon, and Wilton in England, Edinburgh and Leith in Scotland, and Cardiff in Wales, as well as a centre for the Society for Visiting Scientists and an Allied Lawyers'' Foyer. In 1940 a Royal Charter was granted to the British Council by King George VI.

In 1942, the British Council undertook a promotion of British culture overseas. The music section of the project was a recording of significant recent compositions by British composers: E.J. Moeran''s Symphony in G minor was the first work to be recorded under this initiative, followed by recordings of Walton''s Belshazzar''s Feast, Bliss''s Piano Concerto, Bax''s Third Symphony, and Elgar''s The Dream of Gerontius.

After the war, the British Council focused on Europe, but due to lack of funds, closed its offices in many other places. In August 1944, after the liberation of Paris, Austin Gill was sent by the council to reestablish the Paris office, which soon had tours by the Old Vic company, Julian Huxley and T. S. Eliot. As refugees returned home, about half of the inland centres were closed, but the rest undertook the new mission of providing support for foreign students and short-term visitors.

After the reconstruction efforts, funding from the Foreign Office declined, and the British Council was forced to pull out of a number of countries for political reasons, including most of Eastern Europe, China, and Persia. Overall the world-wide network deteriorated. The raison d''etre for the British Council came under attack in a series of four government review commissions that produced the Drogheda, Hill, Vosper and Duncan Reports, respectively. The British Council survived, but with a lower profile. In 1943-4, the Bland Report that emerged from a Foreign Office review of postwar intelligence needs and organisation concluded the best prospects of ''cover'' for intelligence activity "would come from ''the creation of small businesses which would in fact be solely run in the interests of the SIS''; the recruitment of established British businessmen who ran their own private concerns and would ''have no-one to fear in the shape of a board of directors in London''; and ''the obtaining of cover from semi-national and often non-profit making British institutions with offices in foreign countries.'' These could include British railway companies or the British Overseas Airways Corporation. Another possibility was the British Council, though it was somewhat grumpily noted that the Council had ''never been ready in the past to lend the smallest assistance to the SIS.".

The role of British Council in Burma in 1947 came under scrutiny with release of classified documents to a BBC investigation by journalist Feargal Keane into the role of dissident British colonial officials in the assassination of the then Burmese independence leader Aung San (father of Aung San Su Kyi). The BBC programme quoted from a 1948 document sent by the Chief of Police in Rangoon to the British Ambassador stating their belief that there had been British involvement in the assassination of Aung San and his Cabinet for which one of his political opponents was hanged and that "the go-between" had been a British Council official named in the programme.

In August 2011 a journalist from The Irish Times discovered a certificate dated 2007 issued by the British Council in Tripoli to a daughter of President Gadaffi who had previously been said to have been killed in a US raid on Gadaffi''s residence in 1986.

2000s and later Russia

In late 2007 the Council ran into difficulties in Russia, when the Russian Foreign Ministry ordered it to close its two offices outside Moscow. The Ministry alleged that it had violated Russian tax regulations, a move that British officials claimed was a retaliation over the British expulsion of Russian diplomats allegedly involved with the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. This caused the Council to cease carrying out all English-language examinations in Russia from January 2008. The tax case was still in the Russian courts as of December 2008.


On 19 August 2011, a group of armed men attacked the British Council office in the Afghanistan capital, Kabul, killing at least 12 people – none of them British – and temporarily took over the compound. All the attackers were killed in counter-attacks by forces guarding the compound. The British Council office was relocated to the British Embassy compound, as the British Council compound was destroyed in the suicide attack.


The British Council in Tripoli, Libya was targeted by a car bomb on the morning of 23 April 2013. Diplomatic sources were reported as saying that "the bombers were foiled as they were preparing to park a rigged vehicle in front of the compound gate". The attempted attack was simultaneous with the attack on the French Embassy in Tripoli on the same day that injured two French security guards, one severely, and wounded several residents in neighbouring houses. A jihadist group calling itself the Mujahedeen Brigade was suspected possibly linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Initiatives Teaching

There are 70 British Council Teaching Centres in 53 countries. It taught 1,189,000 class hours to 300,000 learners in 2006/07 . The British Council claims to be "the world''s largest English-language teaching organisation".

In its examination centres, the British Council administers 1.5 million UK examinations to over one million candidates each year. It is also working with the UK''s award bodies to extend the range of professional qualifications available overseas. The Council also oversees British schools operating internationally through bodies such as COBIS, NABSS, and the European Council of International Schools.

The British Council helps to run the global IELTS English test

The Council jointly runs the global IELTS English-language standardised test with University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations and IDP Education Australia.

In July 2011 the Hong Kong edition of China Daily reported on the flourishing "ghost-writing" industry that critics suggest has sprung up around the British Council IELTS tests in China.

A major IELTS corruption scandal in Western Australia resulted in prosecutions in November 2011.

In schools in England, the British Council is working with the Department for Education to help three million children gain an International School Award to increase their "understanding and appreciation of other cultures". There are now 2,700 UK schools working towards an award. In the Middle East, the British Council runs a school links programme bringing children in the UK together with those in the region in order to break down negative perceptions of Britain and foster "inter-cultural dialogue". To date, 153 schools in the Middle East are involved in 53 collaborative projects.

In January 2012 the press in Pakistan reported that the Federal Investigations Agency was investigating a British Council visa scam associated with their "Connecting Classrooms" programme.

Working abroad

Within the UK the British Council administers the International Association of the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE). This programme operates in over 80 countries worldwide and offers students, studying in the UK, the opportunity to take an internship as part of an international placement working abroad.

The programme accepts highly motivated undergraduates studying a technical degree i.e. engineering, science, architecture or pharmacy, and are in their second year or above and have a strong desire to work abroad in a paid, course-related internship. Placements typically occur for 8–12 weeks during the summer months, however opportunities exist for positions lasting up to a year, suitable for anyone interested in working abroad during their placement or gap year.

The programme also offers employers the opportunity to hire high calibre foreign undergraduates. For many companies in industries which are currently experiencing a shortage of graduates e.g. electronic engineering, this can provide an important source of labour.

Sports programmes

On playing fields in 40 countries the British Council hopes that young people have learned new leadership and team-building skills by being involved in "Dreams+Teams" sports festivals. This programme has trained 5,500 "young leaders" and has reached 280,000 people in their schools and communities. The British Council is expanding its activities to help more young people prepare for "global citizenship".

In April 2011, fifty football coaches from Israel were trained in Israeli-Arab coexistence skills as part of the Football 4 Peace programme, in the UK, so that they will be able to run Football 4 Peacecamps during the summer in Israel. It was developed by the British Council, the Israel Sports Authority, the University of Brighton in the UK and the Sports University in Cologne, Germany and is funded by the European Union. Coaches from Jordan and Ireland are also part of this programme. The Chelsea School of Sport, part of the University of Brighton, hosts the program.

English for peace

"Peacekeeping English" is an important and growing element of British Council English-language work in Africa and other parts of the world. It works with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence to improve the English-language skills of military personnel through the Peacekeeping English Project (PEP). PEP is helping train approximately 50,000 military and police service personnel in 28 countries worldwide, amongst them Libya, Ethiopia and Georgia. The Peacekeeping English Project is managed by the British Council and funded by the UK government global conflict prevention fund.

Online initiatives

In 2007, the British Council China Region launched a new community website for English learners and teachers across mainland China and Hong Kong. The site already has over 30,000 members. English Online has social networking functionality as well as a range of podcasts for English learners – .

The British Council has entered Second Life Teen Grid to create an educational island for learners of English as of 2007.

In 2011, the British Council launched a new global website for IELTS test takers called ''Take IELTS''. The site provides IELTS test takers with: information on the structure of IELTS; advice on how to register for the test; a range of free preparation material and access to video content. – .

In 2013, the British Council relaunched the global website Education UK for international students interested in a UK education. The site receives 2.2 million visitors per year and includes a search tool for UK courses and scholarships, advice and articles about living and studying in the UK. – .

The Selector

The Selector is a weekly two-hour radio show, which is sponsored by the British Council. Originally launched in 2001, The Selector is an international showcase for new music from the United Kingdom, covering a variety of genres including indie, dubstep, folk, soul and hip hop, and features interviews, guest DJ mixes and exclusive live sessions. It avoids many mainstream acts, in favour of emerging talent and underground styles. With an audience estimated to be in excess of 3 million listeners, The Selector is syndicated to 33 countries around the world including Mexico, China, Colombia, Israel, Poland, Malawi, Hungary, Indonesia and Bulgaria.

The English version of The Selector is presented by Goldierocks and is broadcast in numerous non-anglophone countries around the world. The show is also syndicated in a kit form, allowing non-English speaking presenters to create unique versions of The Selector in their native language. In Indonesia, for example, The Selector occupies a section on the popular Now Generation show, presented by Dewi Hanafi on Trax101.4FM in Jakarta. The show is also sometimes recorded overseas – in 2010 it was recorded together with partner stations in Mexico, Mauritius and Kazakhstan.

Other activities Cafés Scientifiques

In the UK and some other countries, the British Council runs cafés scientifiques, informal events to engage people with creative ideas about science. They take place in cafés, bars and bookshops and begin with a short talk from a UK scientist or science writer. Events so far have brought together audiences from as far away as India and Malaysia to discuss the social and ethical aspects of issues from Darwin to DNA, from global warming to artificial intelligence.


ZeroCarbonCity is the British Council’s global campaign to raise awareness about climate change and the energy challenges facing the world’s cities. It chose climate change as the major theme for its science work "to underline the leadership being shown by the UK in tackling this major issue, the Prime Minister''s commitment to use the G8 and EU presidencies to renew efforts to confront the global challenges". The programme included a touring exhibition, an online global debate and series of seminars and conferences. 62 countries have participated in ZeroCarbonCity and 2.5 million people have been reached directly by the campaign.

After a successful Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs youth campaign in 2006, the British Council began the "Climate Change Champions" scheme to select young champions from 13 countries (three from each), representing the G8+5. The project''s aim is to allow youth ambassadors to spread awareness about climate change''s effects and mitigation solutions in their own communities.

British Council UK joined the 10:10 project to help them reduce their carbon footprint. One year later they announced that they had reduced their carbon emissions (according to 10:10''s criteria) by 26%.

Love''s Labours Lost – British Council-supported Shakespeare play in Afghanistan

The British Council-supported production of Love''s Labours Lost in 2005 was the first performance of a Shakespeare play in Afghanistan in over 17 years. The play was performed in the Afghan language of Dari and the British Council claims that "the capacity audience responded enthusiastically to the eternal and universal themes of Shakespeare’s play and to the local references and music". By 2010, however, the emphasis of British Council activity in Afghanistan had shifted, according to the Council''s Director in Kabul Paul Smith, who had blogged:

"I can’t recall much from my induction day into the British Council in September 1983, apart from being issued with my official British Council briefcase (marker penned 13/1983/Smith) by a man in a brown overall and having sherry with the Director General at 6pm prompt. However, I do remember the strict rule, in the day’s first session, that British Council officers should be active in any area of social, education or cultural life except ‘the strictly no-go areas of religion, politics and defence’. And so we dilettante cultural attachés set off to skirt our way around so much that really matters in people’s lives. Well, the international crises of our new millennium have clearly proved that culture, in the broadest sense, is central to geopolitics. Surely we must be convinced now that, if we don’t do politics and we don’t do religion, then we don’t really do culture properly. We can be ideologically neutral and still facilitate the crucial talk and action about global issues amongst world faiths and power structures. So, religion – check, politics – check. But, hold on, defence? Militarism? Guns and bombs? It’s been an enlightening experience for me to find that programmes of military English are core to the work of the British Council in Afghanistan."

In August 2011, the British Council in Afghanistan – which had been involved in language training for the Afghani airforce – was attacked and its offices destroyed.

Young Creative Entrepreneur Awards

The British Council has joined in work on promoting the UK experience with the creative industries abroad, including running a series of awards for young creative entrepreneurs worldwide such as the International Young Publisher of the Year, International Young Design Entrepreneur of the Year and International Young Music Entrepreneur of the Year awards.

The YCE award programme is divided into two strands: one for international creative entrepreneurs from emerging economies, and another one for UK creative entrepreneurs, such as UK Young Publishing Entrepreneur Awards.

The Prime Minister''s Global Fellowship Main article: The Prime Minister''s Global Fellowship

The British Council is responsible for the running of this programme, although it is funded by the Department for Education. The British Council administers training for the 100 fellows each year, delivers the programme in each country and is involved in co-ordinating their activities upon their return. (For more information, see main article The Prime Minister''s Global Fellowship.)

This article''s Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article''s neutral point of view of the subject. Please integrate the section''s contents into the article as a whole, or rewrite the material. (August 2013)

Conservative MP Mark Lancaster, now Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury, the then Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin, and other MPs were involved in rows over expenses incurred on undisclosed taxpayer-funded British Council trips.

In June 2010 the British Council''s then Chief Executive Martin Davidson faced press criticism for expenses claimed in apparent breach of British Council''s own internal rules for overnight stays in London.

Israel and Palestine

The British Council has been a primary partner of the Palestine Festival of Literature since the Festival''s beginning in 2008. In 2009, the Israeli police, acting on a court order, closed down the venue scheduled to host the Festival''s closing event since there was Palestinian Authority involvement, but the British Council stepped in and the evening was relocated to its grounds.

The British Council supports the festival, also known as PalFest. A controversial issue arose in 2012, because PalFest''s website states that they endorse the "2004 Palestinian call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel". Susanna Nicklin, the council''s director of literature said in response: "The British Council is a non-political organisation, and we believe that international cultural exchange makes a powerful contribution to a more peaceful, tolerant and prosperous world. Therefore the British Council does not support cultural or academic boycotts."

Dissident Chinese writers

In April 2012 British Council faced a storm of protest over the exclusion of dissident Chinese writers from The London Book Fair in 2012. Critics included English PEN and journalist Nick Cohen writing in The Observer – as well as Alastair Niven, a former Literature Director of The British Council itself.


In March 2007, the British Council announced its "intention to increase its investment in the Middle East, North Africa and Central and Southern Asia. This will largely be funded by cuts in other services, libraries and office closures across Europe." In June 2007, MPs were told of further closures in Tel Aviv and East Jerusalem (where there had been a British Council Library since 1946). The British Council libraries in Athens and in Belgrade are also to close. Similarly in India, the British Council Libraries at Bhopal and Trivandrum were closed despite protests from library users as part of the Council''s policy to "reduce its physical presence" in the country and to divert funds to mega projects in the fields of culture, education, science and research.

At the end of December 2009 the British Council Library in Mumbai closed its doors to its members for the last time. Indian commentators were unimpressed by promises of online alternatives.

British Council libraries and offices have also been closed in a number of other countries judged by the British Council to be of little strategic or commercial importance as it refocused its activities on China and the Persian Gulf area. Council offices were closed in Lesotho, Swaziland, Ecuador and provincial Länder in Germany in 2000–2001 — as well as Belarus — prompting Parliamentary criticism. Subsequent promises by British Council Chair Neil Kinnock to a conference in Edinburgh that the Belarus closure would hopefully prove to be just a "temporary" withdrawal proved illusory. The British Council office in Peru also closed in September 2006 as part of a rethink of its strategy in Latin America. In Italy British Council closed its offices in Turin and Bologna, and reduced the size of offices in Milan and Rome (with the closure of the library in the latter).

Charles Arnold-Baker, author of the Companion to British History said of the British Council''s shift in priorities: "This whole policy is misconstrued from top to bottom. We are going somewhere where we can''t succeed and neglecting our friends in Europe who wish us well. The only people who are going to read our books in Beirut or Baghdad are converts already."

The article also points out that the Alliance française and the Goethe-Institut, unlike the British Council, are both expanding and replenishing libraries Europe-wide. France opened its new library in Tel Aviv in 2007 — just a few months after the British Council closed there and shut down the British Council library in West Jerusalem. In Gaza, the Institut français supports the Gaza municipal library in partnership with the local authority and a municipal twinning link between Gaza City and the French port of Dunkerque. In Oslo British Council informs Norwegian callers that "our office is not open to the public and we do not have an enquiry service". Goethe Institute also has a more visible presence in Glasgow than the British Council. There is now, in contrast, only one British Council office left in Germany – and that is in Berlin.


Formally it is to its sponsoring department, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, that the UK Parliamentary Table Office refers any parliamentary questions about the British Council.

The effectiveness of British Council efforts to promote higher education in China was examined in the UK by the House of Commons Select Committee on Education and Skills in a report issued in August 2007. It expressed concern that in terms of joint educational programmes involving Chinese universities, the UK lagged behind Australia, USA, Hong Kong, Canada and France. In its evidence to this committee, the British Council had argued that "UK degrees are highly valued by international students for their global recognition. International students adopt an essentially utilitarian view of higher education which is likely to increasingly involve consideration of value for money, including opting for programmes at least partly delivered offshore". As their preferred marketing ''model'', the British Council gave the example of India where their UK India Education and Research Initiative is being ''championed'' by British multinational oil companies such as BP and Shell, the pharmaceutical giant GSK and arms company BAE Systems.

Criticism of British Council marketing efforts in this area have also come from Scotland where The Sunday Herald obtained documents under the Freedom of Information Act showing that the British Council''s Marketing Co-ordinator in the USA had been referring to the University of Stirling as ''The University of Sterling'' (sic) and also documenting ''tensions'' between Scottish Executive civil servants and British Council in India and China over overseas promotion of universities in Scotland where education is a devolved responsibility. The Sunday Herald reported that these turf wars were undermining the Scottish Executive''s key Fresh Talent policy.

Some of the activities of the British Council were examined in 2007/08 by the National Audit Office (NAO). The NAO''s report, The British Council: Achieving Impact, concluded "that the British Council’s performance is strong and valued by its customers and stakeholders". It also concluded, however, that its English classes are elitist and have unfair advantages over commercial providers, as well as questioning thousands of unanswered phone-calls and e-mails to British Council offices.

As part of its examination of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report, the Foreign Affairs Committee spends an hour each year examining witnesses from the British Council but even this level of scrutiny is undermined by a Commons ruling exempting MPs from the requirement to declare overseas trips paid for by The British Council.

Two members of the Public Accounts Committee (Nigel Griffiths MP and Ian Davidson MP) were office-bearers in the British Council Associate Parliamentary Group. Nigel Griffiths MP was Vice-Chair of this British Council lobby group until stepping down as an MP following a sex scandal on House of Commons premises being exposed by a Sunday newspaper.

In 2008 the British Council was called before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) following earlier publication of a National Audit Office report. The subsequent PAC report confirmed that Nigel Griffiths MP – Vice Chair of The British Council Associate Parliamentary Group – was part of the small number of PAC members who approved this report on the British Council despite not having been recorded as being present during the evidence session – in June 2008 – where the British Council''s Chief Executive was cross-examined. Mr Griffiths had earlier travelled to Russia and spoke favourably of British Council activities there in January 1998 around the time that their man in St Petersburg (Stephen Kinnock) was expelled.

In April 2009 the British Council was told to clean up its act by the Information Commissioner after losing staff data that included details of their trade union affiliations and lying about the encryption status of the computer disc lost.

Following the accusations made against the British Council in Russia (see above) Trevor Royle, the experienced Diplomatic Editor of The Sunday Herald quoted a ''British diplomatic source'' admitting: "There is a widespread assumption that The British Council is a wing of our Secret Intelligence Services, however minor. Officially it is no such thing but there are connections. Why should it be otherwise because all information is invaluable? After all, the British Council also deals with trade missions and inevitably that involves low-grade intelligence-gathering."

In 2005, along with the Alliance française, the Società Dante Alighieri, the Goethe-Institut, the Instituto Cervantes, and the Instituto Camões, the British Council shared in the Prince of Asturias Award for the outstanding achievements of Western Europe''s national cultural agencies in communications and the humanities. At the time of this joint award the full extent of The British Council''s closure policies in Europe was not yet public knowledge.

In literature

Royle also goes on to note that the novel The Russia House by John Le Carré (former consular official David Cornwell) opens with a reference to The British Council. The organisation''s "first ever audio fair for the teaching of the English language and the spread of British culture" is "grinding to its excruciating end" and one of its officials is packing away his stuff when he is approached by an attractive Russian woman to undertake clandestine delivery of a manuscript which she claims is a novel to an English publisher who she says is ''her friend''!

It is also featured in one of the scenes in Graham Greene''s The Third Man — the character Crabbin, played by Wilfrid Hyde-White in the film, worked for The British Council. In 1946, the writer George Orwell advised serious authors not to work for it as a day-job arguing that "the effort is too much to make if one has already squandered one''s energies on semi-creative work such as teaching, broadcasting or composing propaganda for bodies such as the British Council". In her autobiography, Dame Stella Rimington, the first woman head of MI5, mentions working for British Council in India prior to joining the British Intelligence Services.

The British Council has been referred to (and its man on-station, Goole) – frequently in a humorous way by Lawrence Durrell in his collection of anecdotes about a diplomat''s life on foreign postings for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – Antrobus Complete.


The Council has been chaired by:

  • 1934–37 Lord Tyrrell
  • 1937–41 Lord Lloyd
  • 1941–45 Sir Malcolm Robertson
  • 1946–55 Sir Ronald Adam
  • 1955–59 Sir David Kelly
  • 1959–67 Lord Bridges
  • 1968–71 Lord Fulton
  • 1971–72 Sir Leslie Rowan
  • 1972–76 Lord Ballantrae
  • 1977–84 Sir Charles Troughton
  • 1985–92 Sir David Orr
  • 1992–98 Sir Martin Jacomb
  • 1998–2004 Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws
  • 2004–09 Lord Kinnock
  • 2010–present Sir Vernon Ellis

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