The British Council has been active in Greece since 1939 and in those 80 years “our vision and goals have not changed,” says Anastasia Andritsou in her first interview as director of the institution.
A graduate of the National Technical University of Athens, with postgraduate studies in France as well as Greece and a solid career trajectory as a business executive, she has worked at the British Council since 2004. The former supervisor of the Council’s Communication of Science program became its first female and first Greek director on April 1.
What role do organizations like the British Council play in foreign countries?
As Britain’s international educational organization, the British Council’s objective is to create and strengthen cultural ties with 100-plus countries where it has a presence, but also to develop and provide education programs and opportunities to millions of people. Through our English-language teaching programs we aim to give every student and teacher a fascinating learning experience and content of a educational standard. We organize more than 3 million language exams worldwide, allowing young people to earn high-caliber qualifications but also to improve their study and career prospects. Indicatively, the Wyndham Grand Hotel in Athens is hosting an exhibition of British universities this weekend, on April 21 and 22.
At the same time, a large part of our work has to do with the arts and with promoting a meaningful dialogue between the British and Greek art scenes. We want to introduce the Greek public to distinguished British artists and to encourage synergies in areas like creative writing, visual arts, design, music and cinema.
How would you rate Greeks’ knowledge of English?
It is very high, much higher than in many other European countries, as 50 percent of respondents in surveys can carry out a conversation in English. The Greeks generally tend to invest in learning foreign languages. What’s more, the overwhelming majority of Greeks believe English to be a fundamental requirement to studying or finding work abroad.
How has Greeks’ interest in university studies in the United Kingdom been affected by Brexit?
The interest shown by Greeks has not diminished. Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) actually show a small increase in the number of Greeks who started studies in the UK in the 2016-17 academic year, that is after the referendum for Britain’s departure from the European Union. There has also been a rise in interest for 2018-19, as the British government announced that students from EU member-states who enroll in the autumn of 2018 will enjoy the same student privileges, such as reduced tuition fees and the right to get a loan, until they graduate.