‘Deep Partnership’ – A process of opportunity or cataclysm?

August 2017 proved to be a key month for Cambridge University Press (CUP), which saw the assembly of a new board consisting of the CUP exam bodies and assessment departments combine. This organisational restructuring enabled a single new Press and Assessment Board to initiate what vice-chancellor, Professor Leszek Borysiewicz; described as “a more holistic view on identifying the opportunities both in publishing and the examinations business”. Following CUP’s annual report, revealing a sales increase of 5% and a big surge in profits for the year 2016-2017, the convergence of the publishing and examinations businesses is aiming to develop new digital solutions by drawing on the expertise between the Press’ factions.

Converging the organisational structure and core competence in what could be analysed as a horizontal process of integration, strategically, can facilitate breakthrough products through the allocation of resources and experts in the field of education. Chief Executive, Peter Phillips, praised the formation of the new Press and Assessment Board and identified that “CUP has always had a huge partnership in place with the university’s researchers — but the partnerships are now getting closer around opportunities for using digital technologies in teaching”.

So what are some examples of these “digital technologies”?

One project, in particular, illustrated the efficient cooperation between programmers and content developers to work hand-in-hand — ‘Write and Improve’. ‘Write and Improve’ is a program that makes use of machine learning techniques to give students automated feedback on written work and targets people preparing for exams. The algorithm enables users to identify what specific kinds of mistakes they made, detect language level, and provide tips on improving the likelihood of boosting their scores in future exercises. CUP realised the additional value in digital technology through what they described as an “insight into how people learn”.

CUP’s heritage in having clout across the education sector has refined their ongoing educational reforms. Providing advice on curriculum design, assessment methodology, resources for students and teachers, and teacher training, has enabled the Press to onboard their stakeholders from early on. The oligopolistic nature of the educational sector in publishing will undoubtedly enable CUP to penetrate the market by substituting their existing products with new versions and forms.

The concept of ‘Deep Partnership’ can, therefore, be used as a method of capitalizing market predictions through the collaboration of inter-departmental resources. Add to this, the quality of researchers within the university’s network who give content its contextual value. CUP describes this new formalization as the ‘Cambridge Advantage’. The critical process behind shortlisting opportunities is to have multiple sources to choose from. The benefit of ‘Deep Partnership’ is gaining access to insights on the expectations of the university’s stakeholders — and the critical role that digital offers which is to search for resources and share information within a single community.

— Mark Fikri

> Page, Benedicte. “’Deep Partnership’ Is Key for CUP.” The Bookseller, 15 Sept. 2017, pp. 20–21.