Leader: The look's new, the goal is not

The world, especially that of higher education, does not stand still. To continue to reflect the academy, we must also change.

January 10, 2008

A new journal must ... stand for something, at the very least for a certain community of interests. It must have a personality, and if it is to succeed it must respond to something which already exists in the society it serves." In the 36 years since those words were written in our inaugural issue, the community that The Times Higher has served has changed enormously. In October 1971 there was some discussion about the improbable end of tenure, a total demolition of the preposterous idea of a private university in, of all places, Buckingham and a brief report from a young journalist named Christopher Hitchens on the introduction of continuous course assessment at Birmingham University's medical school.

Since then, the number of universities in the UK has more than doubled and the number of students taught by them has risen almost tenfold; few people can recall tenure and rather more have heard of Christopher Hitchens.

The publishing world has changed just as rapidly, if not more so, than that of higher education. In the offline, unwebbed Seventies most of the adult population read a newspaper, but now only a minority does. Magazine readership, on the other hand, is stable or increasing. That is one powerful and obvious reason why we have changed our format from a newspaper to a news magazine. The second is equally practical if slightly superior - we would prefer to share shelf space with The Economist and New Scientist rather than floor space with Motorcycle News and Loot. The third is unabashedly cosmetic - magazines look more attractive - and the fourth ergonomic - they are more manageable, durable and portable.

Packaging can only get you so far, however, even in the 21st century. What was true in 1971 is equally true now - we do not deserve to be a success if we do not reflect the concerns and interests of the community we serve. So our focus will be what it has always been, the guts of higher education - the news, the analyses and the debates. To help us, we have enlisted the help of a distinguished editorial board. They will from time to time advise, chastise, suggest and reflect. They are not responsible in any way for the content, tone and direction of the publication. That responsibility is wholly mine.

&#8220Our focus will be what it has always been, the guts of higher education - the news, the analyses and the debates.”

We will also continue our tradition of publishing a broad range of views an any given topic in higher education even, or perhaps especially, if they contradict our own.

We have changed a few things. As we are no longer a supplement of another publication nor owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International, but part of an independent publishing group, we have lopped the last word from our title to become Times Higher Education. And we have added two new sections - Research and People. The first will concentrate on the latest intelligence from the funding councils, recent grant winners and the most cited papers and academics. The latter will highlight promotions and appointments and carry a regular obituary. An "enhanced and expanded" Laurie Taylor can still be found on the back page, and we have given a great deal of thought to our books section, which we hope you will find more pertinent and engaging. From today our website - www.timeshighereducation.co.uk - will be free and its archive completely accessible to subscribers and non-subscribers alike.

Not everyone will like what we have done; change, after all, isn't universally popular. But we have consulted widely and we are proud of the new Times Higher Education. If you think we could do with more consultation, send your suggestions to me at the address below. In the meantime, I hope you find something in these pages of the disputation, serendipity, diversity and originality that make the university community such a rewarding one to serve.

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