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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

1. Developments since the 1996 RAE. The School of Languages and European Studies has significantly advanced its research quality and capacity by a vigorous and research-oriented staffing strategy (see section 6 below) which has involved key appointments and internal promotion at both senior and junior levels as well as securing continuing posts for particularly able and highly research active young members of staff. From 1995/96 the University made a commitment to the development of European Studies through the creation of the School of Languages & European Studies, now led by a specialist in EU administrative theory. The University has provided crucial support and resources to promote strategic staff recruitment (6 appointments, 3 promotions) and 5 PG studentships. There are two main consequences of this strategy.
· As part of our strategic succession planning, we have appointed Professors in EU/French administration (Stevens) and French Government (Gaffney) and have promoted a Reader to a Personal Chair in German (Görner), thus ensuring the continuation of four Chairs in the School and providing professorial leadership in all research areas.
· We have recruited young staff (5 in this submission) to improve vitality in key research areas within the School, such as linguistics, European regional policy, and modern French and German culture.

The successful outcome of this strategy is seen in the fact that the School’s research in key aspects of European socio-political conditions, its linguistic foundations, institutional frameworks, and intellectual/literary traditions in France and Germany, has achieved excellence and international recognition (see RA6(a)). This is evidenced by section RA5(c) taken together with the following points.
· The number of active research staff has increased to 20, with a greater proportion conducting leading edge research, now focused in the areas described in 2.1 – 2.8 below.
· The School itself constitutes an international research unit, with up to 45% of its scholars originating from France, Germany, Greece and Canada. Scholars maintain active research networks in Europe, North America and Asia which lead to co-authored works, national and international symposia and conferences.
· The School edits a journal (Current Issues in Language and Society, ed. Wright) which has acquired an international reputation (LES colleagues on editorial board: Ager, Kelly-Holmes, Schäffner).
· The international reputation of LES staff has substantially increased, resulting in invitations to overseas conferences, and publications abroad with high-quality publishing houses and prestigious academic journals.
· There has been a significant increase in the number of colleagues on Advisory Boards of academic journals and societies (see RA6(a) section 2).
· The successful application of one junior colleague for a highly prestigious Alexander-von-Humboldt-Fellowship (at Heidelberg University).
· The School has introduced a portfolio of MSc programmes related to the research conducted in LES (5 MScs and 1 Diploma awarded to date).
· The School has enhanced its research culture by the addition of two new Research Centres alongside the Institute for the Study of Language and Society (founded in 1991). They form the basis for regular meetings, and a programme of research colloquia and distinguished guest speakers from the UK and abroad.

2. Research Environment and Research Strategy. In accordance with its strategic plan, the School is the venue for leading edge research on modern France and Germany, the interrelation of their literature and societies, on the institutions and policy making of the European Union, on applied linguistics, and on translation studies and political discourse theory. The School’s research profile depends chiefly on individual research but, where appropriate, it also promotes collaborative research, as well as national and international contacts, through the three Research Centres:
· The Institute for the Study of Language and Society (ISLS, led by Schäffner)
· The Centre for the Study of Literature and Society (CSLS, led by Stafford)
· The Centre for the Study of European Politics and the History of Ideas (CSEPHI, led by Varouxakis).
These Centres provide fora for colleagues in the School’s three academic subject areas (French, German, Politics and Modern History) to conduct their mostly interrelated and cross-disciplinary research. The work of the Research Centres is monitored and coordinated by the School’s Research Committee (chaired by Görner). They benefit from distinguished advisory boards as follows:
CSLS: Prof M Freeman (Bristol), Prof N Wood (Leicester), Prof N Saul (Liverpool)
CSEPHI: Prof F Rosen (UCL), Dr S Hazareesingh (Oxford), Prof R Elgie (Dublin)
ISLS: Prof G Lakoff (Berkeley), Lord R Quirk (UCL), Prof M Snell-Hornby (Vienna), Prof T van Dijk (Amsterdam), Prof R Wodak (Vienna).

Within the three Research Centres which initiate, coordinate and facilitate research across the School, eight areas of individual and collaborative research can be identified which have all produced internationally-recognised work:

2.1 French politics, institutional theory, political culture and discourse
Activities & Achievements: Analysis of, and major publications on, the evolution of French political culture (Gaffney/Fieschi), its presidential system (Gaffney), public administration (Stevens), the political role of women (Moores), and the strategy of the French Far Right (Fieschi). Setting up of a French/US/UK research forum for French politics (first meeting to take place in San Francisco).
Support: AHRB, French Embassy, American/British Political Studies Association.
2.2 French/British history of ideas and literary discourses in 19th and 20th century
Activities & Achievements: Established the first theory on the ordinary in Mallarmé’s works (Stafford); political philosophy and theology in French Catholicism (Sutton); studies on childhood as a motif in French literature (Moores); feminist theory in France, in particular: women, politics and fiction in 1930s France (Kershaw); exploration of identity and revolt in the writing of Jules Vallès (Moores); analysis of John Stuart Mill’s conceptions of national character, race and his reception of Tocqueville (Varouxakis).
Support: AHRB, University of Mainz.
2.3 German history of ideas and literary discourses in 19th and 20th century
Activities & Achievements: First major study on the conception of the absurd in philosophy and fiction since Esslin’s study on the Theatre of the Absurd (Görner); analysis of eccentricity in Hölderlin (Görner); establishing a poetics of scientific motifs in literature (Görner); first literary and philosophical examination of the border-motif with specific reference to Jaspers (Kirkbright); study on Droste’s poetic self-assertion (Kirkbright); major reassessment of Heine’s tragedy Almansor (Reeves); first major study on Gerhard Roth and his novellistic cycle Die Archive des Schweigens (Schütte).
Support: AHRB (small grants scheme), British Academy, Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation, DAAD.
2.4 German/European business environment and marketing theory
Activities & Achievements: First major reassessment of the business dimension to ‘Modell Deutschland’ after 1990 (Reeves); major article Discourse of Western Marketing Professionals and the effect of advertising on Anglo-German relations and on advertising and the intertextual construction of identities and stereotypes in Germany, Ireland and Britain (Kelly-Holmes); study of short- vs. long-termism in major British and German companies (Reeves); one completed PhD thesis (O’Mahoney).
Support: Lingua, EU, Mannheim University, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.
2.5 European politics, including EU public administration, institutional theory & regional studies
Activities & Achievements: First comprehensive study on EU bureaucracy (Stevens); analysis of the meaning of European cooperation from an administrative viewpoint and the scope for administrative free-zones within the EU (Stevens); first comparative analysis of Wales and Saxony as modern regions of Europe (Mathias); examination of political rhetoric and legitimation of the EU (Gaffney).
Support: ESRC.
2.6 Language diversity in the European space, language conflict, language policy
Activities & Achievements: Major study on the role of language in nation state building and European integration (Wright); leading research on the role of the communication industry in the formation of political identities and language loyalty (Kelly-Holmes); editing of the journal Current Issues in Language and Society (CILS); three international annual seminars on language policy issues including: multilingualism, social conflict, migration, education, translation and ideology as well as media and language policy (Kelly-Holmes, Wright and Emeritus Profs Ager and Knowles).
Support: ESRC, Multilingual Matters Publishers.
2.7 Linguistics and society, including sociolinguistics, and dialectology
Activities & Achievements: major studies on the semantics of negation (Larrivée); first comprehensive study on pragmatics of Yiddish (Reershemius); study on Low German/Standard German language contact which will lead to further research in this field (Reershemius); development of a theoretical account of cognitive and interactional aspects of metaphor as applied to political discourse (Chilton/Schäffner); first major examination of ‘border’-semantics (Chilton).
Support: AHRB, DAAD.
2.8 Translation Studies
Activities & Achievements: Research on the role of translation as interlingual and intercultural communication significantly advanced. Publications centre on effects of translations as products on cross-cultural interaction in politics; major articles on strategies for translating political texts (Schäffner); analysis of linguistic strategies in translating advertising texts (Adab/Kelly-Holmes) as well as literature (Reeves). Research in nature of translation competence and its development in the context of university training led to 1997 international conference at Aston involving internationally leading scholars (organised by Adab/Schäffner; main speakers included A Neubert and A Chesterman) and the subsequent publication Developing Translation Competence (ed Schäffner & Adab). Contributors at CILS seminars: G Toury, T Hermans, M Snell-Hornby & H Hönig.


3. Postgraduate research culture. Since the last RAE the policy has been to ensure high standards by introducing new regulations and procedures for the admission, supervision and monitoring of PhD students. Prospective applicants must provide a written proposal (8-10 pages) and their applications must satisfy the Director of Research plus two other members of the School that they have both appropriate qualifications and realisable research goals. Supervisors who have not supervised a student to completion have an Advisor. Students submit a Qualifying Report at the end of their first year and have an oral exam; their progress is monitored annually. Theses are normally read in draft by two members of staff (in addition to the supervisor) before submission. The Research Committee reviews the progress of all research students at the beginning of each term. The School integrates research students into the School’s work through seminars, participation in the production of edited volumes (eg two research students were involved with Görner and Kirkbright in editing the volume Nachdenken über Grenzen (Iudicium, Munich 1999) and with Kirkbright in German Cosmopolitans (Iudicium, Munich 2000)). The German postgraduate colloquium meets regularly on a monthly basis and invites external speakers. Similarly, each of the Research Centres organises a minimum of two seminars per term open to postgraduates. A summer doctoral school gives students researching language and language pedagogy the opportunity to present their work. Students also participate in seminars led by visiting and internal academic staff.

4. School’s structural arrangements for promoting and supporting research
4.1 Research Committee
The Research Committee, chaired by the Director of Research, coordinates research strategy and develops new research initiatives in conjunction with the heads of academic subjects groups. It discusses and approves strategic developments presented in the annual reports of the Research Centres advising, as appropriate, on funding opportunities. The Committee was instrumental in setting up Research Centres, appointing their Coordinators, and enhancing quality control mechanisms within the School, which it monitors by overseeing the admission and progress of research students. Additionally, it routinely advises on, and coordinates research grant applications by, academic staff, administers the staff sabbatical leave scheme, and appoints Research Fellows.
4.2 Internal Research Funds An independent charity, The Aston Modern Language Research Foundation, with academic staff membership, disposes of funding of up to £2,000 p.a. to assist academic staff and postgraduate researchers in travel, field work and publication.
4.3 Sabbatical Leave Scheme The sabbatical leave scheme entitles all staff to research leave of one teaching period in five, designed to prioritise research leading to publication. Five colleagues have been granted leave since the scheme’s relatively recent inception, leading to monographs and (co-) edited books which have already appeared or will be published in 2001/02 (Adab, Kirkbright, Schäffner, Sutton, Wright).

5. School Research – achievements, activities and plans
The School’s plans, outlined in the 1996 RAE, have been fulfilled and, in terms of publications, exceeded. Examples of the outcomes of the plans are presented here.
· Six younger researchers (Adab, Fieschi, Kelly-Holmes, Kirkbright, O’Mahoney, Stafford) were to be encouraged to take an active role in the School’s research by completing PhDs and publishing their work. All six have since completed; two have published their theses as books (Kirkbright, Stafford), others in the form of articles in refereed journals. Four young staff subsequently appointed (Kershaw, Larrivée, Mathias, Varouxakis) - all have PhDs and are actively publishing.
· As planned, contracted monographs have been completed. Sections RA5(a)2, RA5(c) and RA6 contain details of achievements of staff in producing and actively continuing to produce monographs.
· Development of the project "Language and Ethnicity“ has proceeded through CILS, with support from ESRC and Multilingual Matters, and through a joint Aston-Antwerp project on language and national ideologies supported by the British Council and the Flemish Foundation for Scientific Research. The project "Analysis of Political Discourse“ has led to development of a joint theory of political discourse (Chilton & Schäffner) which appeared in T van Dijk (ed), Discourse: A Multidisciplinary Approach (Sage, 1996), and the 1997 international conference held at Aston (papers to be published by John Benjamins).
· To encourage development of postgraduate research, professorial support funding has been used to provide five studentships since 1996 (all students currently writing up their PhD theses).
· In the past five years Translation Studies have been further developed and expanded, represented through Adab’s, Reeves’s and Schäffner’s international profiles and publications in the field and the work of their research students.
· Following Görner’s Inaugural on "The Poetics of Science“ (1997), the Aston Culture and Science Forum was founded and based within the German section. Its purpose is to generate and engage in interdisciplinary research between the humanities and natural sciences.

6. Staffing Plans. We seek a balance of leadership, experience and potential, and appoint staff to maintain or expand strong representation in our strategic areas. In addition to professorial appointments and internal promotions, new potential has been introduced at more junior levels (Kershaw, Larrivée, Mathias [formerly Cardiff], O’Mahoney, Reershemius [formerly St. Andrews], Schütte, Varouxakis), which clearly indicates that LES is a highly attractive place to establish a research career. These new appointments strengthen French and German areas and increase research expertise in political science, linguistics, cultural and business studies. The two appointments in 2000/01 enhance our research expertise in French cultural and gender studies (Kershaw), and German politics, Federalism and Regionalism in Europe (Mathias). The School is expected to make two further appointments at lecturer level in 2001/02.


Users of this website should note that the information is not intended to be a complete record of all research centres in the UK

Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

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