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EL quality analysis: The Benefit Of British Council Inspection

Melanie Butler explains how we quantify quality based on each centre’s results

In this special supplement we are looking at one element of the information provided in ELgo – quality. Our quality scores are entirely based on the British Council inspection reports. We are focusing on the provision for adult students, defined as those over 16 years old, and thus on three main types of course providers inspected by the Council – universities, state further education colleges and private language schools, including chains.

The British Council measures quality under four main headings: management; resources and environment, teaching and learning; welfare; and student services. In 2014 a fifth category, care of under-18s, was introduced – not only for children’s courses but also providers of adult courses enrolling anyone under 18 years old.

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Under the four main headings the British Council reports on 14 categories – or 15 for schools enrolling under-18s. Three levels of judgement are given for each category: the schools can meet the standard of the scheme in this area, it may be awarded a strength or the inspectors many note a need for improvement. Each strength or need for improvement is noted in the summary statements issued by the Council, a pdf of which can be found at www.britishcouncil.org/education/accreditation/information-students-agents/accreditation-inspections.

If a centre fails any one of the four main headings, it is placed under review and the publishable statement is withdrawn. On ELgo the entry is marked as needing to be re-inspected and none of the information is published. In the graphs in the features on these pages the percentage of centres awaiting re-inspection is marked W for withdrawn or simply stated.

The main information source on quality for these pages – and, indeed, on ELgo – is the summary statements. To calculate the overall score for each centre we add together the total number of strengths awarded to each centre and then any needs for improvement are subtracted. On ELgo the scores are then divided by the number of strengths available, normally 14 or 15, and expressed as a star score of between one and five. In order to represent them in the graphs in this section, however, we have used a 15-point scale.

By analysing the overall scores, it is possible to show not only the distribution of scores across the whole of the accredited schools but also the variation in profile between different sectors of the UK English language industry.


The British Council (BC) is the biggest inspection scheme for UK language centres; it covers 570 language centres. The Independents Schools Inspectorate (ISI) inspects 105 language schools, and the Association of British Language Schools (ABLS) just nineteen. Only the BC scheme cover all sectors: private language schools, universities, state colleges, etc. Its scoring system discriminates more exactly among the top centres – only one BC centre has a perfect score, compared to 55 per cent of all schools inspected by the ISI (see graph).