The image of Birkbeck College, London, will be overhauled to present it as a centre of research excellence under plans being developed by its master, David Latchman, who took up the post last week.
Professor Latchman, who joined Birkbeck from University College London, where he was head of the Institute of Child Health and professor of molecular pathology, wants to add to Birkbeck's image as a night school for adults.
He said: "Internally, Birkbeck is very strong. It is very strong at research - it returned a high number of staff to the research assessment exercise - and it's very good at teaching.
"We need to raise the external profile of Birkbeck. It is highly successful at research and has full-time PhD students. It is a very high-quality university with active research, and that doesn't come over."
Professor Latchman said he wanted to maintain the balance between the arts and the sciences and to expand into health-related courses, but not medicine.
Birkbeck lost its physics department to UCL in 1997. Professor Latchman said any further loss of science would be "a retrograde step".
He added that there could be a role for the college in providing courses for National Health Service managers.
In the wake of the failed merger talks between Imperial College London and UCL, Professor Latchman will seek to increase links with the other small Bloomsbury-based University of London institutes to provide a nucleus of support if the larger colleges merged or withdrew from the university.
Half a dozen large London institutions are applying for their own degree-awarding powers, which would allow them to leave the federal university.
Professor Latchman is also keen to promote collaboration with neighbouring UCL. He has a part-time chair at UCL's Institute of Child Health.