Research in Modern Languages in the UK continues to be both varied and prolific and is increasingly understood to cover ‘world’ languages such as Arabic and Mandarin and to encompass scholarly endeavour across a range of fields beyond traditional literary philology. Government belief in our field has also grown in recent years, and we have the strong support of the British Academy and the All Party Parliamentary Group, which have both benefited from close collaboration with UCFL.

National Languages Strategy

In July 2020, the British Academy, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Association of School and College Leaders, the British Council and Universities UK produced a report encouraging a national strategy for languages.

The document represents a call for action to reverse the demonstrable decline in language skills in the UK, but also warns that without action the UK risks damaging its ability to produce world-leading research in languages, which is, the report reminds us, “central to our understanding of societies across the world, both past and present”, and “has demonstrable academic, social, and cultural impact across a wide range of fields, both local and global”.

UCML fully supports the actions detailed in the report.

You can read the full report here:


UCML is proud to support the SHAPE — Social Sciences, Humanities & Arts for People & the Economy. The initiative seeks to combat the devaluing of non-STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) subjects by reinforcing the vital importance of subjects that help us “understand ourselves, others and the human world around us”. For more details, visit

Multilingualism and Language Learning: Linguistic practices and attitudes of university students learning languages in Europe and beyond. 

‘Multilingualisms and Language Learning’ is an AHRC-OWRI funded project headed by SOAS Professor Anne Pauwels. The focus of this research project is on the intersection between multilingualism, language learning and higher education. The constantly increasing voluntary and forced mobility of people resulting from the forces of globalisation and political instabilities in various regions are having a dramatic impact on the linguistic make up of many nation-states, especially in Europe. New forms of linguistic diversity and multilingualism are emerging, involving different linguistic practices.

These developments may result in changing attitudes towards multilingualism and in different views about the learning of other languages (e.g., which and how?). To date these issues received limited attention in the context of higher education. As universities play a key role in the preparation of the next generation of global citizens, it is important to examine students’ linguistic profiles, language attitudes and language learning experiences as well as to gauge their language learning needs to operate successfully in the linguistically diverse and complex environments created by globalisation.

This research project forms part of a large–scale research initiative ‘Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community’, an AHRC-Funded OWRI Programme, based at the University of Manchester. More details on the OWRI projects can be found below.

Research Activities

In 2016 the British Academy published its Born Global Report, which makes a powerful and original case the importance of Modern Languages, in teaching as well as research.

The AHRC is investing up to £ 20, 000, 000 over four years in four major projects in the Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) and has established a Modern Languages Advisory Group chaired by Michael Worton to oversee OWRI and to secure its legacy for the benefit of the subject community in both universities and schools. In 2017 the AHRC appointed Professor Janice Carruthers (Queen’s University Belfast) as lead fellow in Modern Languages. She works alongside Professor Charles Forsdick (Liverpool), the lead fellow for the research theme in Translating Cultures. The AHRC’s policy statement on Modern Languages is attached below. The four flagship OWRI projects are:

In 2019, the AHRC produced a booklet, The Power of Languages, that described some of the research being undertaken by the OWRI projects, and highlighting the many transformative dimensions of language learning and linguistic diversity.

In May 2020, the Creative Multilingualism project published Creative Multilingualism: A Manifesto, available as a free e-book, that details the findings of the 7 research strands of the project and makes a powerful case that multilingualism and creativity are mutually enriching. The project also published a report detailing its five main impact areas–Professional Development, Creativity, Perceptions, Networks and Connections, and Motivation–and focusing on the creative dimension of languages:

Also in 2020, the MEITS project published a book, How Languages Changed My Life, that testifies to the power of languages and multilingualism.

The Global Challenges Research Fund, overseen by UK Research and Innovation, offers many opportunities for imaginative cross-disciplinary researchers in Modern Languages. More information on AHRC’s Modern Languages activities can be found here.

UCML is represented at meetings of the Arts and Humanities Alliance and the Advisory Council of the Institute for Modern Languages Research.

Research Excellence Framework

In REF 2014 Modern Languages’ research power and our national profile were enhanced by collapsing the single language disciplines into one and amalgamating us with Linguistics, with Area Studies forming an additional panel. The configuration remains the same for REF 2021 when the sub-panel for Modern Languages and Linguistics (Panel 26) will be chaired by Charles Forsdick, and the sub-panel for Area Studies (Panel 25) will be chaired by Susan Hodgett.

Institute of Languages, Cultures, and Societies (ILCS)

The ILCS (formerly IMLR) is part of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study and it serves to support and promote research in Languages. Through its six research centres it hosts workshops, seminars, conferences, and lectures, as well as hosting publication series, including the Journal of Romance Studies. The ILCS also houses the Germanic Studies Library, with wide holdings in German language and literature, and runs a fellowship programme.

The ILCS works closely with UCML through the ILCS Advisory Board, at which UCML is represented, and through the UCML-AMLUK Special Interest Group, hosted and managed by the ILCS.

Research related documents

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