Chief Executive’s Overview

Chief Executive’s overview


Peter Phillips

“Our first year has been one of resilience, innovation and collaboration.”

When Cambridge Assessment and Cambridge University Press formally came together as one organisation on 1 August 2021, we were already colleagues and friends. In fact, we’ve been working together since 1858, when the Press first printed exam papers for what was then the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate. Generations of ever-closer partnership followed.

For much of our community, the integration felt natural, even as we dealt with complications. It has been a great joy to witness peers from across what is now a single, global organisation learn from each other, forge new relationships and build something greater than the sum of our parts.

As this annual report shows, our first year has been one of resilience, innovation and collaboration, with integration already starting to unlock the huge potential of the combined organisation to deliver our mission more effectively.

That approach is evident in the way we have responded to the continuing global crises. It’s there in the way our people responded to Covid-19, delivered digitally, and met the needs of millions of learners, educators and researchers. Or in how our people swiftly offered free learning and assessment resources to Ukrainians affected by war.

As we look ahead, we know that such global challenges – from infectious disease to military conflict; climate change to energy shortages and inflation – are not going away. But they make education and research even more indispensable. What we deliver unlocks potential, helps make progress with difficult issues, and builds bridges.

Despite that tough backdrop, we remained outward looking, relentlessly focused on improving our customers’ experiences, delivering for learners, and living up to our core values. And we did so more effectively than ever before, collecting and studying data, sharing experiences across different areas, and shaping richer partnerships with our own academic University.

Integration works

Our whole community has demonstrated that integration works. More of our customers and learners now enjoy seamless Cambridge experiences with a single point of contact. This is the case even where our products and services are complex; our aim is that to our end users, it feels frictionless.

In English, sophisticated artificial intelligence-powered products such as Linguaskill show we can be at the forefront of technological and pedagogical innovation while delivering a first-rate customer experience. As we combine these advances with the whole organisation’s capability in deep data analysis and expertise in assessment and learning, we are creating powerful tools to help drive our mission.

Our acquisition of online learning technology company CogBooks allows us to combine the excellence of our content with CogBooks’ adaptive courseware technology, helping institutions deliver higher quality, flexible learning both in-person and remotely.

We deepened ties with our own academic University. When we operate together, we can bring something unique to global education. You see a snapshot of that capability in Cambridge Advance Online, which brings an outstanding online learning experience to professionals around the world. It combines unmatched teaching and learning expertise with digital tools to enable some of the foremost scholars of our time to help professionals apply cutting-edge knowledge to real- world challenges: from translational medicine to sustainable infrastructure to business intelligence.

Our work with the Faculty of Education on Cambridge Partnership for Education reform programmes worldwide – from Romania to India – and with the Cambridge Mathematics Project shows how we complement the University’s research base and teacher training capabilities to improve the lives of millions of learners.

technology support team in manila office
Ingrated services: Our technology support team, many of whom are based in our Manila office, helped bring everyone onto shared systems

Prioritising what really matters

At the 2022 Education World Forum, I spoke of the need to prioritise wellbeing for students, teachers and our whole community. In this volatile and uncertain age – where many people experienced disrupted learning and isolation – we have to reckon with the long-term consequences. Our Cambridge Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring is doing just that, with research that sheds light on teachers’ comparative wellbeing before and during the pandemic.

Such work shows the need to stand back, to try and understand what really matters. This work is hard. It can feel, to borrow James Joyce’s words, “like holding water in your hand,” but we are making important progress.

I was proud that Cambridge published a landmark new scholarly edition of Joyce’s Ulysses to mark the centenary of its first publication. And its impact will be even greater through being available to institutions around the world on Cambridge Core, joining more than 46,000 other books and 1.6 million journals on our online academic platform.

Cambridge Elements, which we first launched three years ago, has come into its own. It has developed new ways for peer- reviewed publishing to work, rethinking established models such as journal articles and monographs to develop a whole new product category. These original, succinct, authoritative and scholarly works span the arts and sciences: from The Politics of Beauty to Therapeutic Targeting of RAS Mutant Cancers.

Critically, an ever-growing proportion of this academic work is open access. New research published open access in Cambridge Transformative Journals grew by almost 70 percent over the last year. Our open access articles on Cambridge Core are read three-and-a-half times more often and receive some 60 percent more citations.

“Education and research are the drivers of success for people and for economies across the world. So, the things that we can do matter and will continue to matter as we look far into the future.”

Sustainability – making the greatest difference

We are reducing our environmental impact across our operations, while growing our global influence in informing
and shaping debate around climate change and environmental sustainability. We have committed to reach carbon zero on all energy-related emissions by 2048, with a 72 percent reduction by 2030. And we want to beat those targets.

We achieved ISO 14001 certification for our UK operations’ environmental performance, the international best practice standard. Our first UN Global compact report, available online, details more about how we are playing our part in meeting the global challenge of sustainability.

But it is our impact through our education, research, publishing and assessment work that can make the greatest difference. We are offering free access to books and journals via our specialist, themed collections. In the run up to COP26 in November 2021, we released a package of 300 journal articles and book chapters to inform decision-makers during that crucial summit.

man working in warehouse
Millions of exam scripts are scanned and stored at our secure warehouses

We are world-leading publishers about the environment and climate science, and a great example this year was Writing Gaia: The Scientific Correspondence of James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis. Their exchanges as they merged biology and atmospheric science to develop the influential Gaia hypothesis, underline why we must tackle climate change holistically, working across science, social science and humanities.

We are working with school communities, teachers, researchers, governments and learners to rethink what sustainability can mean for education. In April 2022, the UK government backed our campaign – based on a wealth of evidence from our UK exam board OCR, our Assessment Research Division, thousands of teachers and some of the nation’s foremost environmentalists and educators – to introduce a new GCSE in Natural History. It will be the first new GCSE in more than a decade, and as the then- Secretary of State for Education put it: “education is one of our key weapons in the fight against climate change.”

That’s exactly right. It’s one reason why we have appointed Christine Özden – who has been leading Cambridge Assessment International Education – to serve as our first ever Global Director of Climate Education, to work with stakeholders outside our organisation and with our colleagues to develop the impact we can have through climate education.

In our first year of trading as the Press & Assessment, total revenues rose 12 percent to £868 million compared with £772 million in the previous year. That was underpinned by a significant rise in assessments delivered and publishing materials sold as a result of the reopening of many exam centres and the recovery of markets for learning products. Substantial growth was recorded in India, Latin America and the Gulf, as well as with the return of examinations in UK schools, but regulatory changes impacted business in China markedly. Expenditure was contained for much of the year while uncertainty from Covid remained high but started gradually to return to pre-pandemic levels as market confidence increased, and we made additional payments to help colleagues with escalating price inflation around the world. There was a significant additional pensions deficit recovery charge relating to the Universities Superannuation Scheme following its 2020 valuation. Overall, our operating profit after those charges was £106 million, up eight percent on the previous year’s £98 million.

Deeper partnerships, stronger operations

None of this would be possible without the deep partnership between all of our groups. The effective delivery of our assessments for millions of people depends on critical work from our Technology and Operations teams, as well as those in our product groups. You see that in the pragmatic and rapid way that IT services are delivered in Manila and worldwide, or in the way multiple warehouses and supply chains have been unified in India, supported by our Property team. It’s also underlined by new approaches to recruitment from our People team, and process improvements driven by Finance.

Our long history gives us a sense of perspective. Education and research are, by their nature, long-term endeavours. The fruits of today’s investments in ‘greening the curriculum’, in translating the Ukrainian curriculum for displaced children, or in opening access to new findings on public health nutrition may not be fully felt for a generation. But we know that what we do has never mattered so much to so many around the world.

Our values endure, as fashions come and go. That’s what drives us as a single organisation to deliver products and services that can improve lives everywhere. It is also why, when I look back at our first year of integration, I am most excited by the potential we have yet to realise. Our best days as one Cambridge are ahead of us.

Peter Phillips signature

Peter Philips
Chief Executive