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British Council in Bulgaria: education makes a difference

As we recently announced, Campus X is thrilled to welcome the British Council Bulgaria. We will host their English courses for teenagers, which will launch this February.

Today we meet the Head of British Council Bulgaria’s Teaching Centre - Oliver Steel (Noll). Noll tells us more about his daily challenges and motivations and explains how education can make a difference – both locally and globally. Let’s dive right in.

Introduce yourself in a few words and what you do

for the British Council.

I’m Noll Steel - Head of the British Council Teaching Centre in Sofia. I’m responsible for business planning, and for ensuring that we develop our people, products (courses) and processes in line with the expectations of our customers. In short, my job is to try and make sure we are the best we can be and that we are always getting better at what we do.

What’s the best thing about your job? What motivates you on a daily basis?

The great thing about working in education – in both academic management or non-academic roles – is that you get to make a difference. As an educator, there’s nothing more satisfying than building positive relationships with learners and helping them grow. Our students all have dreams, plans, and ambitions and we help them to make these happen.

Your career has taken you to various locations. What inspired, challenged and/or surprised you the most?

I’ve been lucky enough to work for the British Council in seven countries and these have all been incredibly rewarding personal and professional experiences. I come from a ‘mixed’ (English-French) background and I’m fascinated by culture – by what makes us different and what we have in common. In Sri Lanka, the way people rocked their heads (side to side) to say ‘yes’ took me completely by surprise; yet here I am in Bulgaria – thousands of miles away – and people do something very similar. It really is a small world.

What does the British Council Bulgaria do? What are the key advantages of operating in Bulgaria and what are the challenges you face?

We do cultural relations. And we have been doing this over the past 80 years since we first opened an office in Sofia in 1939. This involves working with and through people to build relationships and trust, creating opportunities for people to do and learn new things, and promoting the UK’s cultural diversity and expertise in education. It is just as important we continue to strengthen cultural ties between the UK and Bulgaria now as ever, and to show that even if the UK is leaving the EU, it will remain part of European culture, cultural exchanges, student mobility, and research collaborations.

What are some of the most interesting projects the British Council realizes in Bulgaria?

Well, aside from our Teaching and Exams operations which have grown significantly in recent years, we do a lot of great work in education, science, and the arts. A couple of years ago, we worked with the Diplomatic Institute on a very successful training project to support Bulgaria’s Presidency of the European Union. For the last ten years, the British Council has been organising the annual Sofia Science Festival which is part of Sofia Municipality’s cultural calendar and is a partnership with the Ministry of Education & Science. You may have heard of FameLab, the UK’s global science communication which became international through the effort of – among others – British Council Bulgaria’s Country Director, Lyubov Kostova. There’s more information about all these projects on our website.

Why did you decide to launch your English courses for teens at Campus X?

After opening a first partner centre in Lozenets in 2017, we were looking to expand the reach of our teaching operation to the Mladost area. We met with the Campus X Community Manager in October, we were really impressed by the space and the team’s openness to a space sharing arrangement. We just took it from there and everyone in the Campus X team has been positive, professional and easy to work with. It’s been a pleasure and makes me very optimistic about our future relationship

What’s next for the British Council?

Onwards and upwards. In the coming years, we obviously want to do more of what we currently do – to innovate, improve and grow. In terms of our English language courses, in particular, we want to continue to build on our reputation for quality and to establish our Young Learners courses as a ‘must’ for any parent who wants the best for their child.


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