Barbara Wickham, Director British Council India
Barbara Wickham, Director British Council India

Barbara leads the India operations of the British Council across our work in English, Education and Arts. She is committed to strengthening the educational and cultural exchange between India and the UK by building connections, trust and understanding. This includes:

  • launching a gender equality framework in STEM institutions across India in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DST, Ministry of Education, India), called GATI (Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions)
  • working with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to strengthen the capacity of schools at the secondary level (classed 6 to 10) through competency-based assessments, supporting the NEP
  • working towards mutual recognition of academic qualifications (in higher education) between India and the UK, by partnering with the Ministry of Education 
  • hosting the largest delegation of UK vice-chancellors in September 2019
  • and investing in research and innovation and working with several state governments on initiatives to improve the quality of teaching and learning

Over the last year, Barbara has led on steering the organisation’s response and innovation in digital delivery since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. She is focused on strengthening both the people to people and institutional links between the two countries, via both physical and digital initiatives.

Barbara has had a lifelong passion for education and English having started her career as an English language teacher in Cairo. She enabled considerable numbers of young people in different countries to improve both their own lives and those of their communities by putting the skills that they need to be successful, at the heart of our programme.

Prior to joining the India team, she led the British Council operation in Bangladesh for over 4 years.  During this time, she established the British Council as a strategic partner for the Government of Bangladesh's aspirations for quality education for all - across primary, secondary and tertiary; building on the considerable legacy of our library at the heart of Dhaka University and transforming this into a 21st-century cultural centre for the people of the city and beyond with the introduction of digital resources as well as using our expertise to support the transformation of the public library network across the country into modern, thriving community resource centres.

As a committed environmentalist, she's proud to have established a carbon-neutral operation in Bangladesh through a mangrove rehabilitation scheme and would like to achieve the same goal for our India operation. Barbara is Strategic Lead for Child Protection across South Asia and is committed to ensuring that all children that we work with across all our programmes are safe from harm.

Barbara has worked across the globe from the Middle East, Europe, East Asia and Latin America to Africa but has spent the longest part of her career in South Asia in Nepal, Pakistan and most recently Bangladesh. She studied history and applied linguistics and speaks Spanish and Mandarin, and is now learning Hindi too.  She was appointed OBE in the 2017 New Year Honours List for Services to Cultural Relations between the UK and Bangladesh and the UK and Pakistan.