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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Cambridge’s global reputation in Modern Languages and Linguistics recognised in REF 2021

The results from the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF) have highlighted the global impact of Cambridge’s research in the field of Modern Languages and Linguistics.

The Unit of Assessment, comprising Cambridge Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics and the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, far outranked all other UK universities in terms of its research power. Whilst considerably increasing the numbers of researchers entered in the REF compared to the 2014 REF, 85% of Cambridge’s overall submissions within the Modern Languages and Linguistics Unit of Assessment have been rated as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, demonstrating the major impact that researchers in our departments are making every day.

The REF is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions and is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies: Research England, the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland.

Among the data submitted by universities and other institutions are case studies that describe the impact of their research – where they have made a difference to society, health, the economy, for example.

The Modern Languages and Linguistics departments, including the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, returned 125 academics to the REF (115 FTE), an increase of 30 compared to the previous exercise in 2014.

The various departments did particularly well in terms of the impact that their research has made to culture and society (cf. Together they returned 9 case studies, of which 89% achieved a 3* or 4* rating, indicating ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’ quality.

In terms of Environment, the entire Unit was judged to be ‘world-leading’ (72.5%) or ‘internationally excellent’ (27.5%).

While the Times Higher Education’s GPA rankings placed Cambridge at 13th nationally for Modern Languages and Linguistics in REF 2021, it recognises Cambridge as top in the country in terms of research power. The GPA score, which measures the average rating of all the submitted research, has increased from 3.2 in 2014 to 3.31 in 2021.

Professor Kantaris, Chair of the Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics Faculty, said: “We are particularly proud that this is our most inclusive REF submission yet. We have submitted the research of staff from across the full range of our exciting, world-leading research culture, from young postdocs to senior professors, not forgetting the many valued staff employed in the Cambridge Colleges.”

Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, added: “I would like to congratulate and thank everyone who has taken part in this year’s REF for all their hard work, which we believe has paid off in these results. What we see today is not just the excellence of Cambridge research, but also the breadth of its impact, with researchers across many disciplines bringing a fresh perspective on how we tackle major problems facing our world today.”

For the purpose of the REF, each academic discipline is assigned to one of 30 out of a possible 34 units of assessment such as Clinical Medicine, Chemistry, Business and Management Studies and Philosophy. Each unit is judged by three criteria – outputs (such as publications, performances, and exhibitions), their impact, and the environment that supports research.

Our global research

Cambridge research spans all seven continents, covering more than 100 countries, from the Arctic to Zambia. Our researchers partner with organisations in these countries to ensure that our collaborations address local needs and benefit those communities most in need.

Read more about the global impact of Cambridge research