Our work in Spain began in 1940 when musician, writer and communicator Walter Starkie founded Sapin’s first British Council centre in Madrid. In October the same year classes began at our college, the British Council School.

Every year since then we have worked with thousands of students and teachers of English, cultural organisations and artists, educational institutions, academics and regional and state governments. This has all led to the enmbodiment of a vision which has remained firm as time has passed: the creation of connections, understanding and trust between British and Spanish citizens through arts and culture, education and English.

This vision is what guides our day-to-day work, helping to build a more inclusive, environmentally sustainable and equal society for everybody, regardless of gender. Our values of openness, commitment, expertise, inclusivity and forward-thinking optimism define how we go about our work, which we set out in more detail below.

Art and Culture

We create opportunities and professional networks as we encourage exchange between British and Spanish artists, to encourage intercultural understanding and artistic development. Our work in Arts and Culture meant that last year we collaborated with more than 1500 arts professionals, with 185,000 people participating in our cultural activities. 

Our work in arts and culture is done through programmes based around five core subjects: debate and reflection on present-day issues (It’s Time to Talk), gender equality and diversity in music (We Are Equals), leadership and accessibility for artists with functional diversity (Inclusive Arts), new narratives in the creative industries (Changing Industries) and the sustainable transformation of the fashion sector (Sustainable Fashion).

Education, youth and skills

We promote the internationalisation of high-quality school and further education. One clear example of this mission is our collaboration with Spanish and British universities in order to inform, build bridges and explore ways towards mobility and exchange between the university students of both countries.

We also work with governments and education authorities in Spain and the UK to encourage educational progress and improvement and biligualism in our country. The principal project in this area is the Bilingual Education Programme, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2021. Through this programme. We work alongside the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training to provide an integrated (Spanish-English) curriculum to 40,000 infant, primary and secondary school pupils across Spain.

The British Council School, the British Council’s college in Madrid and the first British college in Spain, is a benchmark in terms of bilingualism, biculturalism and high-quality education. Nearly 2000 families every academic year put their trust in its education model, and year on year students doing the exclusive bilingual bachillerato “BiBac®” get improved average grades and results in the EVAU (University evaluation), meaning they can attend the best universities in Spain and the UK.


The teaching and examination of English complete our areas of activity in Spain. Experience in these areas, investment in the professional development of our teaching staff and our work in the field of linguistic policy across the world mean that we have set global standards for teaching, learning and certification in English.

Over the past year, more than 88,700 people in Spain have entrusted us with getting them an English qualification through either Cambridge English Assessment or our own certificates such as Aptis and IELTS. In the area of learning English, 20,000 students of all ages study at our centres in Barcelona, Bilbao, the Community of Madrid, Palma and Valencia. This year has also seen the British Council begin the digital transformation of our education model.