The British Council is an organization that was founded 82 years ago with the intention of promoting British culture and English education abroad. Today, the goal has changed only slightly to promoting friendly knowledge and understanding between the UK and the rest of the world, while continuing to offer English language classes.
The British Council now operates in over 100 countries, including Italy, bringing with them bilingual education that focuses on sharing the UK’s teaching expertise and bringing the two cultures together for collaborative programming.
Easy Milano got the opportunity to speak with Steve Oxley last week, the director of the British Council in Milan, to discuss this organization, its work and how he likes living in Italy.
Steve Oxley has been with the British Council in Milan for 2 years now but this is not his first post within the company. Most recently he was in Prague but has also worked for the British Council in Egypt, Japan, Portugal, and back home in the UK.
What do you think is the most important aspect of the British Council?
The most important aspects of the British Council are creating opportunities worldwide, trading opportunities, and education. The British Council has been operating in Italy for 70 years and has been in the same building here in Milan for 40 years. “We work with people,” Oxley said and building trust between people is an important aspect of what is done there.
What are some of your recent initiatives?
This year is the celebration of 400 years of Shakespeare through programs under the title of “Shakespeare Lives.” This includes screening of his plays all around the world, as well as online, in order to celebrate the legacy of the playwright. British Council Italy is organizing a series of events throughout 2016 as a part of this series. They also have a presence at the La Triennale di Milanoexhibition and a partnership with the National House in the UK to put on shows throughout Italy in their original language.
How closely do you work with the British Embassy and the British government?
The British Council operates independently through the Royal Charter but they are sponsored by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and do remain in contact when appropriate.
How long will you stay in Italy for? What are you goals here (personal and work related)?
He will definitely be here for one more year, Oxley said and probably a second but beyond that he cannot be sure where his career will take him. His personal goals are to enjoy as much of Italy as he can because he loves living here. In terms of professional goals, Oxley said that he strives to make the British Council the top English language school in Milan, as the main goal of the British Council is to teach English.
What are some highlights about living in Italy?
He very much enjoyed visiting Venice for the first time and he said that despite many people having the opposite opinion, he very much so likes the public transportation in Milan.
As an expatriate, what do you miss most about the UK?
Oxley said he is able to keep up with British television and the premier league and can generally dip into British culture when he gets homesick while living here in Italy but the one thing he is unable to get a hold of is British cheeses. He says that this is one of the things he misses.
How will England fare in the Euro 2016 Tournament?
Oxley said the hope is always that they will win but he said that he realistically expects a quarterfinals appearance for the English squad.
 The British Council Annual Report 2014/2015