The Press was on track to deliver another year of exceptional growth before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the middle of March 2020; but after that, things changed fundamentally. The COVID-19 lockdown focused the minds of everyone across the University of Cambridge on a set of unprecedented challenges that could not have been foreseen. I am immensely proud of the way my colleagues at the Press, as well as in Cambridge Assessment and the academic University, pulled together to address those challenges.
The Press has operated in an environment of radical change for many years and has invested heavily in developing products and services to meet the changing needs of the researchers, teachers and learners it serves in an increasingly digital and mobile world. COVID-19 has added impetus and urgency to that. The Press and Cambridge Assessment are working ever more closely to combine their complementary resources and expertise. This has produced some exceptional online teaching and testing products, and the effort is set to accelerate to new levels in a world where the internet is enabling so much opportunity to improve education. By the end of this financial year, for the first time, more than half of the Press’s revenues were earned from products with a digital component, and I expect that trend to continue as we focus on the most effective ways to deliver educational value for a global community that has learned some hard but valuable lessons about the nature of its interconnectedness.
I am pleased to record the appointment in the course of 2019–20 of Professor Kenneth Armstrong as chair of the Press Syndicate’s Academic Publishing Committee; and I thank his predecessor Professor David McKitterick for many years of service in that capacity, as well as Mr Peter Williams and Ms Annette Thomas who have stood down from the Audit Committee and Press & Assessment Board respectively. A new Academic Advisory Board chaired by Professor David Runciman has met several times to consider the strategic future of research publishing at a time of fundamental change in the landscape of access to scholarly materials. The Press & Assessment Board itself underwent an external review which resulted in more cohesive governance around a single strategy for the two organisations, Cambridge University Press and Cambridge Assessment. It is also gratifying that the Press remains so well connected to the University’s sustainability agenda relating to climate change.
The Press is uniting with Cambridge Assessment around a single strategy and collaborating closely with the research and teaching departments of the University. This will create a uniquely powerful education and research offering under the Cambridge name. It also calls for close financial alignment, and I am therefore pleased to see the Press plan to move its year-end to 31 July from next year. That change will align the Press with the rest of the University, including Cambridge Assessment, and help to simplify financial planning at the start of a period of significant further change. As with so many organisations, the Press will be financially challenged in the wake of the present pandemic, but I have full confidence that its prudent planning for a digital future based on the provision of the very best products and services, meeting the needs of researchers, teachers and learners of all kinds around the world, will see it continue to develop from strength to strength.
Professor Stephen Toope Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and Chair of the Press Syndicate