We are delighted that REF 2021 confirms our position as a leading centre for research in Literature, Language, and Creative Writing. We are in the top 10 of all modern universities for overall research power, according to Times Higher Education.

54% of our outputs were judged to be world leading or internationally excellent. The results also confirm that our research is making a real difference to people in the wider world, with 100% of our impact being judged as having outstanding or very considerable reach and significance. These results show our commitment both to producing ground-breaking research and to making a positive difference to people, especially when it comes to holding power to account, challenging contemporary structures and amplifying marginalised voices. Our overall results are indicative of our research ambition and our transformative civic engagement in the broad area of English Studies, with particular expertise in nineteenth-, twentieth- and twenty-first-century literatures, languages, and cultures.

Between 2014 and 2021, we increased our research income by 50%. Members secured funding from a diverse range of sources, including the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the GB Sasakawa Foundation, the British Academy Newton Fund and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).   

These excellent results are particularly rewarding as the Unit has more than doubled in size since REF 2014. We have expanded while maintaining a gender-balanced submission, with 15 women and 14 men being entered to REF 2021. Our PhD completions have risen significantly, and we currently have over 40 postgraduate research students undertaking doctoral studies. The Unit has expanded from its Literature focus in 2014 to one that now encompasses Language and Linguistics and Creative Writing. With this new depth and breadth, the unit now has research specialisms in areas such as Translation Studies and Digital Storytelling.

Results in REF 2021

  • 54.4% of our research outputs were judged to be world-leading or internationally excellent.
  • 100% of our impact was rated as having outstanding or very considerable reach and significance.
  • 52.5% of our research environment was judged as having the vitality and sustainability to produce world-leading or internationally excellent research.

Research areas 

Our researchers belong to the Centre for Studies in Literature (CSL) and the Centre for European and International Studies Research (CEISR). Across these centres, interdisciplinary clusters enable us to address key societal issues that relate to several of the University's research themes, including Democratic Citizenship.

Body Politics members have produced ground breaking research that makes critical interventions into the representation of the female body in cosmetics advertising and literary portrayals of violence against Native North American women. 

Time, Space and Environment members have led research into reading and writing in times of crisis, and they have produced innovative publications on John Ruskin, affective landscapes, and questions of national identity.

Language Across Borders Research Group members have secured significant funding from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the GB Sasakawa Foundation for their impactful work on the role of the human translator in an increasingly machine-led world, as well as AHRC funding for research into translation and LGBT+ cinema in China. 

Our research also helps to underpin the University’s civic ambition. For example, researchers belonging to Culture, Community and Heritage have developed collaborative links with The D-Day Story museum to preserve and analyse Holocaust narratives, and they have made the city’s rich and varied literary heritage accessible online for the first time via the Portsmouth Literary Map


Impact case studies

We submitted three impact case studies demonstrating the reach and significance of our research in the following areas:

Portsmouth History banner with inset photo of Dr Laurel Foster

Reviving the feminist history of Portsmouth

With Heritage Lottery Fund support, Dr Laurel Forster’s research has catalysed a shift in understanding and placed women’s pioneering action at the forefront of Portsmouth history. Forster’s work has recast the history of Portsmouth, giving women and their struggle for equality its rightful place. And a growing global audience, increasingly able to access this new record through archive availability and online media, is being educated and inspired to action by the potential power of ordinary women’s life narratives and grassroots activism. In recognition of the project’s significance, Portsmouth City Council is sponsoring a permanent bronze statue in Guildhall Square as a lasting legacy.

Person speaking into a microphone

Empowering translation workers in an increasingly automated language service industry

Our research helps shape the world of translation, in education and business. Translation is vital in our globalised economy and a multi-billion industry, but the position of the human translation workforce is threatened by AI-led machine translation. Dr Begoña Rodríguez de Céspedes’ research mapped a route to cement human skills into the translation process and maintain a sustainable professional workforce. As a result of this research, there has been a significant material change in translator-education policy, extending its reach across the EU and beyond. In the UK, the Institute of Translation and Interpreting used our research to launch a new public relations strategy. In Japan, this research has begun to influence the way Language Service Providers design their operations.

Wyre Forest in Worcestershire

Transforming the complex legacies of John Ruskin for his modern-day heirs

Dr Mark Frost’s research attests to our positive impact on cultural heritage organisations and the environment. Research into the history of John Ruskin and the Guild of St George has built awareness of the Guild’s past in order to shape its practice in the present. Supported by Frost’s research, the Guild thrives today as a charitable body with 300 international members involved in arts, crafts, environment, conservation, agriculture, social policy, and education. This research helped the Guild address the darker side of its Victorian heritage, while reaching out through public events to promote its enduring ideals. Frost helped the Guild to foster economic, cultural, artisanal, and community activities, and to direct new attention to Ruskin’s visionary environmental and social critique of Victorian modernity. 


Collaborations and partnerships

We're proud to be leading members of many collaborative networks. Unit members have worked with local partners to establish the Portsmouth Writers’ Hub, and the highly successful Community Interest Company (CIC) Star & Crescent Community Media brings together writers and unit members to provide consultancy on writing projects and to produce collaborative funding bids.

Our research is also forged through vibrant international collaborations. In this REF period, we hosted 42 visiting academics from institutions such as the University of Caen and Shanghai Maritime University. Outputs from these exchanges have included a project grant from Shandong Youth University of Political Science to look at links between systemic functional grammar and pedagogy. We have co-authored many outputs with colleagues from institutions including the Free University Brussels, Goethe University Frankfurt and Kanto Gakuin University. We have a long-running collaboration with the University of Málaga, given shared expertise in Neo-Victorian literature, and a more recent collaboration with colleagues at the University of Copenhagen exploring the sociology of reading. Unit members are also part of a digital storytelling project, which involves devising immersive narratives for a series of European community projects.