The future finances of Britain's universities could ultimately lie in the hands of a journalist. In the pre-budget report last week, chancellor Gordon Brown announced that the former editor of the Financial Times would lead a review on the links between business and UK universities.
Richard Lambert's report, expected next summer, will be part of a wider Department of Trade and Industry review of UK innovation performance. His suggestions will be too late to feed into the Department for Education and Skills review of higher education, expected in January.
However, the report, commissioned directly by the Treasury, could be pivotal to higher education funding decisions. In particular, it could provide evidence for setting up a system that separates universities into those specialising in research and those concentrating on teaching, a move believed to be favoured by many in government.
Mr Lambert was born in 1944 and educated at Fettes College in Edinburgh, the school that Tony Blair later attended; he went to Balliol College, Oxford, which led to a 36-year career at the FT . He left the newspaper in 2001 after ten years as editor, during which time the newspaper's circulation almost doubled, overseas sales almost trebled and a US edition was launched.
Since leaving the FT , Mr Lambert has been working on a report on the BBC's News 24 channel for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. He is also finishing a short fellowship at Harvard University, in the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, investigating the way non-governmental organisations and the media have influenced public policy.
Other commitments include being a governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company and UK chairman of the Franco-British Colloque, a high-level group of industrialists and politicians from the two countries. He is a member of the International Advisory Board of British American Business.