Group Chief Executive's introduction

Chief-Executive's overview

Saul Nassé Chief Executive of Cambridge Assessment

Saul Nassé

Group Chief Executive, Cambridge Assessment

It was back in October 2019 – at the start of the period covered by this report – that Jackie Rippeth, our Chief Financial Officer, announced that she would be retiring. Jackie joined UCLES, as the organisation was known back then, in January 1999 and helped guide us through challenges and opportunities alike with wisdom and great common sense.

But it’s safe to say when Jackie announced that retirement, she wouldn’t have expected that her last few months in the organisation would have been defined by the challenge of facing COVID-19. It has been a period like no other of our working lives, and Jackie was a great example to us all, showing the same resilience she applied to all aspects of her work.

We've flipped the way we are delivering learning, assessments and qualifications around the world and we've innovated our products.

Naturally in her role Jackie always had a laser focus on our revenues and surpluses, and the pandemic has seen both affected to a significant degree. We were enjoying strong growth before the global lockdown, but the disruption has hit all areas of Cambridge Assessment. But organisations show their true mettle under stress and our people have responded brilliantly.

I’m really proud of the way we continued to serve learners around the world as well as look after our teams. We’ve flipped the way we are delivering learning, assessments and qualifications around the world and we’ve innovated our products. At times this has been difficult and controversial, but I am proud of how our teams have responded to help young people progress in their lives.

Our partnership with Cambridge University Press deepened over the course of this year, to such an extent that a natural next step was the creation of a single organisation. The move is in response to a growing desire from learners, teachers and researchers to engage with Cambridge in a joined-up digital way, and the demand for innovative products that combine expertise in learning and assessment.

And already we have seen the development of a single education reform unit across Cambridge Assessment and the University of Cambridge – the Cambridge Partnership for Education. This unit will enable us to better support governments and educational organisations around the world, not least as they respond to the challenges COVID-19 has created.

Another enormously exciting development this year was the joint acquisition with the Press of ELiT (English Language iTutoring), a world-class artificial intelligence (AI) capability to support English language teaching, learning and assessment. The team at ELiT have already worked with us on ground-breaking projects and resources for learners such as Write & Improve and the AI that powers Linguaskill – Cambridge English’s new online test that has been designed to help organisations check the English levels of individuals and groups of candidates.

It’s not possible to look back on the past year without reflecting on the killing of George Floyd, and the calls for change and an end to racism. Our values as an organisation commit us to championing diversity, trust and respect and we are playing our part in tackling all forms of inequality through the millions of learners we reach every year. But we also work hard to promote equality and diversity in our workplace. We have a committed group of staff networks that play a huge role in shaping our thinking and the experiences of working for Cambridge Assessment around the world. We have the right values, but we recognise that there is more we can do to tackle inequality and build a more diverse organisation that truly reflects the communities we serve.

Lastly, to finish where I began, with Jackie’s retirement. I’m delighted to formally welcome her successor Vanessa McPhee to the organisation. Jackie’s are big shoes to fill, but Vanessa, who came to us from the microprocessor firm Arm, has a strong track record in delivering financial analysis and change. So welcome Vanessa and a very fond farewell Jackie.

Saul Nassé 


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