Literatures, Languages & Cultures

English Literature research rated world-leading and internationally excellent

Over 90 per cent of our English Literature research has been classed as world-leading and internationally excellent by Research Professional using the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021).

Research in English Literature, and the benefits it has brought to a range of partners and beneficiaries, have received outstanding endorsements in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) – the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

Photo of five people on stage rehearsing for a play with graphic saying 5th in the UK
How Not to Drown by Nicola McCartney and Dritan Kastrati, Thick Skin Theatre Company and Traverse Theatre, co-produced with Tron Theatre and Lawrence Batley Theatre. Directed by Neil Bettles (2019). Winner of Scotsman Fringe First and Herald Angel Awards.

In Times Higher Education, English at Edinburgh is ranked fifth in the UK (out of more than 90 institutions) for the overall quality of its publications and other outputs, the impact of its research on people’s lives, and its supportive research environment.

Over 90 per cent of our research and impact is classed as world-leading and internationally excellent by Research Professional. 69 per cent is graded at the world-leading level – the highest of the REF’s four categories.

We have received this standout evaluation for research that ranges across literary history from the later Middle Ages to the present day, and is at the forefront of interdisciplinary fields including Digital and Environmental Humanities and studies of the history and future of books and material culture. Our submission covered collaboration with researchers in disciplines as varied as Education, Economic History, Informatics, and Astronomy.

People and partnerships

Our researchers have been recognised for their extensive and high-quality work with external partners, ranging from museums, galleries, and libraries to charities, theatre companies, schools, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Collectively, this work has facilitated literary and cultural engagement from Scotland to Ukraine to India to the Marshall Islands, and has enriched public understanding of topics including Edinburgh’s literary heritage, the literature of Orkney and Shetland, spy fiction, financial literacy, the impact of war and displacement, and the cultural history of childhood.

English’s research environment – which fostered this diversity of activities – was rated 100 per cent world-leading (joint top in the UK; Research Professional). The results confirm the Department’s standing as an international community of literary scholars and creative writers at all career stages whose research is world-leading in its breadth, diversity, quality, and impact on wider society.


This result is a testament to the incredible hard work and commitment of colleagues in producing research that is not only at the forefront of the discipline, but is also making a major contribution to public understanding and engagement. At Edinburgh, we’re proud of our long history as a centre for the study of Anglophone literature, and this outcome demonstrates that our scholarship and creative practice continue to pioneer new approaches and insights, especially in their increasingly international and interdisciplinary scope. We’re very well placed as a Department to continue to develop, strengthen, and diversify our world-leading research over the coming years.

Dr Paul CrosthwaiteUnit of Assessment Coordinator for English Literature - jointly with Dr Sarah Carpenter

This positive evaluation of research activity in the subject area of English and Scottish literature is fitting testimony to the sustained hard work of colleagues across the subject area over the period of the assessment. The results show the impact and significance of our growing interdisciplinary work in both critical and creative forms, and highlight the fact that research in our subject happens across geographical and disciplinary borders.

Dr Alex ThomsonHead of English and Scottish Literature and incoming Head of the School of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures (LLC)

Discover more about our research in English and Scottish Literature

Related links

Times Higher Education REF results table