University World News turns four

On the face of it, there is nothing special about a fourth anniversary. Other annual milestones - first, fifth, tenth and so on - seem more appealing. But when University World News was launched on 14 October 2007 the journalists involved were uncertain that their audacious idea of producing the planet's first international higher education newspaper would last four months. So we are celebrating reaching four years.

There is a lot to be proud of, given the newspaper's beginnings as a 'cooperative' of two dozen mostly education specialist journalists who ploughed their hard-earned money and volunteer time into forming a company in London and setting about the relentless task of producing a weekly newspaper, mostly written by them.

Editorially, the newspaper has grown and improved by the year.

We now have 55 correspondents around the world including 19 in Africa, 13 in Europe and nine each in the Americas and Asia, and commission many other journalists around the world on a less regular basis.

We are pleased to use local rather than 'expat' journalists - though given that we really are international, perhaps the notion of expat is redundant - and believe this gives our coverage of higher education news and issues depth and authenticity.

Starting with co-editors Geoff Maslen in Australia and myself in South Africa, we now have regional editors for Asia (Yojana Sharma), Europe and the Middle East (Brendan O'Malley) and the Americas (Philip Fine). With Mandy Garner joining University World News as Commentary editor, we have also given greater voice to academics in this section.

The audience of University World News has grown rapidly from the few thousand readers at launch, the contacts of our journalists and others we identified in our countries as surely interested in the stories we would be publishing. Today we have more than 32,400 registered readers in some 150 countries.

Readers are spread around the world quite interestingly. The largest number is in Europe, at 8,400, with most of these readers in the non-English countries outside the United Kingdom, although the UK has the highest number of readers.

The second largest group of 7,100 readers lives in Africa, which has a monthly regional edition. Nearly 40% of our readers receive the Africa edition as well as the Global edition, and so Africa has a readership of 12,500, with 5,400 readers based outside the continent but interested in its higher education. Readership of the Global edition is more than 27,000.

Africa is followed by North America with 6,700 readers. The boosting of Asia coverage after Asia editor Yojana Sharma joined University World News, helped to build readership in this region to more than 4,000 and there are nearly 2,000 readers in Australia and New Zealand.

We would like to grow more, and so appeal to readers to let colleagues in your and other institutions know about University World News. It is easy to register by clicking on the 'Receive our free newspaper' button on the top left of the website.

The popularity of the website has also expanded rapidly. In the fourth month after launching, January 2008, the website received 12,700 visitors and had 51,200 pages viewed.

Last month there were 76,200 unique visitors to the website, a six-fold increase, and the number of pages viewed had grown a whopping 15-fold to reach three quarters of a million (773,000).

The constant production of original content by University World News meant the newspaper quickly caught the eye of Google, and our content often features on the first page of keyword searches on search engines.

Our correspondents generate between 80 and 100 articles a month, on top of the articles we publish by academics and other higher education professionals and the World Round-up section comprising leads to important higher education news produced by other publications.

Not surprisingly, since we are the world's only truly international higher education newspaper, our readers are very interested in the international stories we write.

Last month the most-read story, written by Geoff Maslen, was about a British Council report which found that international students were turning to the internet over printed university prospectuses when planning study abroad.

A commentary written for University World News by Sir John Daniel of the Canada-based Commonwealth of Learning, on new guidelines for open educational resources, was highly read, as was an article based on a presentation by Professor Hans de Wit of the University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, about the internationalisation of higher education moving into a new phase.

Readers are also interested in the major national developments that our correspondents around the world report on. Last month's second most popular article was written by our correspondent (and shareholder) in Greece, Makkie Marseilles, about the occupation of more than 80 schools and departments by protesting university students.

University World News is globally recognised as a quality higher education newspaper. In the past year we have been a media partner to the 2010 OECD Institutional Management in Higher Education Conference in Paris and the Talloires Network Leadership Conference in Spain in June, and before that the 2009 UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education.

We are forging a partnership with the International Association of University Presidents and the United Nations around the UN Academic Impact initiative, and the Africa edition is a partner to the respected research project HERANA, the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa, funded particularly by the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

In June this year University World News was delighted to co-host the Worldviews International Conference on Media and Higher Education with Inside Higher Ed, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto, and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations and its publication, Academic Matters. The topic was right up our street, and the conference in Toronto was a great success and will be repeated.

Despite these gains, the future of University World News is not secure. We are a group of journalists proud of our editorial professionalism but without much business savvy (though we are improving). We took the decision to be a free service, in an effort to ensure access to the information we provide to all people interested in higher education, everywhere.

Since joining the newspaper in 2009, Canada-based global advertising manager Stephanie de Bono has steadily grown income through advertising sales, and University World News has also been able to survive with help from the Ford Foundation in Africa, some income generated by special report writing - and through the volunteer work provided by its highly committed, and unashamedly dogged, journalist shareholders. Finance director Tim Homfray in London, and Naomi Davidson in South Africa for the Africa edition, keep our finances shipshape.

We are seeking an investor interested in helping University World News to grow as a financially sustainable and profitable newspaper committed to providing a free higher education news and information service. We are also looking for greater support from tertiary institutions and organisations through advertising, as we reach a large and ever-growing audience of higher education professionals around the world.

And finally, we are seeking expertise and advice from you, our readers, on how we can further grow and improve University World News. We would like to celebrate, with you, our fifth anniversary.

Karen MacGregor


Congratulations on the 4th Anniversary of UWN. It is a great achievement.

I hope it goes from strength to strength. I read it carefully every Sunday night. It is an excellent way to prepare for the week.

Giles Pickford

Congratulations! And while you say that a fourth anniversary may not seem special, instead you could always think of it as entering your second Olympiad!

Steve Foerster

Congratulations also from me. I read your weekly paper with interest, and I now find your foiur years' archive a useful resource for learning about developments in countries and on some topics.

Gavin Moodie