University of Bedfordshire is celebrated for its world leading research in English

Thu 12 May, 2022
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Research carried out by the University of Bedfordshire into English language proficiency and improving methodologies for its assessment has been recognised by the Research Excellence Framework as world leading, the highest rating possible.

REF 2021, the system used to assess the quality and impact of research conducted by all UK universities, released its results today (Thursday 12 May). It classified 72% of the research submitted by the University’s research institute, the Centre for Research in English Language Learning and Assessment (CRELLA) as world leading. This placed it third in the country in research conducted in the field of English and English Language.

Professor Rebecca Bunting, Vice Chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, commented: “These results are truly exceptional. REF 2021 marks an important advance in the recognition of language testing as a field of study and the leading role of the University of Bedfordshire within that area.

“It is fantastic news for the University of Bedfordshire and testimony to the quality of the research carried out at the University."

Through the REF, Bedfordshire has pitted itself against the more traditional universities and is placed above both Oxford and Cambridge in the English unit of assessment, ranking 3rd out of 92 submissions.

CRELLA’s research has had a major impact on international language test providers, enabling them to clarify the proficiency levels underpinning their English language testing. CRELLA works closely with leading test boards both in the UK and abroad including Cambridge Assessment, government organisations such as the British Council and charitable organisations such as the Eiken Foundation of Japan.

CRELLA has led the way in investigating the effects of digital technology and the introduction of innovative approaches on the assessment of language skills. Its research has resulted in the development of the ‘socio-cognitive framework’ (SCF). Originally conceived by the Centre’s founder, Professor Cyril Weir, the SCF has been continually developed over the past 20 years. The SCF now provides a comprehensive representation of real-life language use in the digital age, enhancing the quality of English assessments around the world.

As with much of the research carried out at the University of Bedfordshire, CRELLA’s research into English language proficiency levels has obvious benefits to society, improving job prospects, increasing transnational mobility and opening doors to educational and training opportunities for millions of English language users.

Professor Anthony Green, Director of CRELLA, said: “I would like to thank all my colleagues at the centre for this significant achievement. I am delighted that the impact of our research has been acknowledged with our submission achieving 100% world-leading, 4* impact.  The results reflect very well on our expertise and our strength as a global centre of excellence for research in this area.”

Professor Andrew Church, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: “Without doubt CRELLA conducts research which has huge impact, is quite rare and utterly distinct. This is not English research as you might find at other universities.

“Examining boards deal with high volume, high stakes work. Through CRELLA’s work, we are helping to better define English language proficiency levels, including the important language abilities needed by students in the digital age.”

157 UK universities took part in REF 2021. It assessed the quality and impact of research and will be used by the four higher education funding bodies to allocate about £2 billion per year of research funding to UK universities.


Notes to Editors

  1. Available for interview - 

Professor Tony Green, Director of CRELLA, Professor in Language Assessment and Professor Andrew Church, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation.

For interview opportunities with Tony and/or Andrew contact 01582 489399                                     


  1. Professor Cyril Weir OBE founded CRELLA in 2005 when he took up The Powdrill Chair in Second Language Acquisition funded by the Steele Charitable Trust and led CRELLA until 2015. In 2015 Cyril was awarded an OBE in honour of his services to English language assessment.


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