The UCML Winter Plenary, entitled “Planning the Future: Research & Policy” took place on 18th January 2019. A summary of the topics covered by each of our speakers, questions asked, as well as presentation slides can be found here. Audio recordings are available on request for Charles Forsdick and Susan Hodgett’s talks. Please email

Charles Forsdick ‘REF 2021’

Charles outlined both the context within which the summer consultation for REF 2021 took place, and gave an overview of the current standing of the Research Excellence Framework. He spoke in particular about upcoming changes in REF 2021 following the Stern review of July 2016, the implications of changes for staff and the ways in which outputs are assessed, including interdisciplinary outputs.

A REF Code of Practice is currently being drafted, and colleagues are encouraged to contribute to this process.

Related documents:

Susan Hodgett – ‘Subpanel 25: Area Studies’

Susan gave an overview of the number of submissions and profile for Area Studies in 2018. She defined Area Studies broadly, explaining that AS is defined both geographically and historically.

She highlighted the innovation of Area Studies research, which crosses disciplines, and reminded colleagues that there is a broad range of work which may be submitted to REF, such as edited books, multiple submissions and bodies of work in non-traditional formats.

Related documents:

Questions regarding REF:

  • How do you assess translations?
  • Is there a minimum number of staff required to submit a unit of assessment?
  • At what point does modern languages research become interdisciplinary?

Wendy Ayres-Bennett – ‘Language policy in the UK’

Wendy outlined both the difficulties and opportunities to effect change through language policy in the UK. She spoke about the need for collaboration across different departments to strengthen the voice of languages as a sector.

She informed colleagues about policy workshops which are centred around languages at both primary and secondary level, alongside languages in HE.

Related documents:

Janice Carruthers – ‘UK ML Policy and (i) the Devolved Administrations, (ii) PhDs & postdocs’

Janice situated the policy of devolved administrations within the context of increased divergency in education and assessment systems. She highlighted positive developments and innovation in the devolved administrations, as well as summarising key priorities for a UK-wide strategy.

She also spoke about the situation for doctoral studies, and the relative success of modern languages applicants.

Related documents:

Neil Kenny – ‘Modern Languages policy in the UK’

Neil explained the British Academy’s role in discussions around funding, in particular research project funding.

He suggested strategies for the effective messaging of the languages agenda, and identified areas where the case could be made for the inclusion of languages in government initiatives. He also spoke about the potential of Routes into Languages within this discussion.

Bernardette Holmes – ‘Working with UK government & policy-makers’

Bernardette spoke to colleagues about the reality of being part of policymaking, which moves quickly and is constantly changing.

She emphasised the importance of responding to consultations, and the role of HEIs in the collaborative mechanisms of policy reform.

She also outlined the main activities of Speak to the Future.

Questions regarding Policy:

  • How do we encourage the eligibility of non A level language qualifications/non-traditional routes into languages?
  • Do our degrees reflect the strategic position of languages not only as a subject within humanities but also within other fields, eg STEM?
  • How will state schools cope with an increasingly wide range of qualification types (eg the eBacc)?
  • How do we make sure we build sustainable links with policy-makers?
  • Are HE practitioners aware enough of policy issues in their daily practice?

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