Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden University Centre for Linguistics

LUCL Assessment 2018

In early 2019, the QANU (Quality Assurance Netherlands Universities) published its Report on the Research Review of Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL). This review takes place every 6 years as part of the overall monitoring and safeguarding of research quality in the Netherlands.

Based on a self-assessment report and a site visit, an international evaluation committee consisting of world-renowned university professors representing a broad range of linguistic disciplines, assessed LUCL over a period of 6 years (2012 – 2017).

In their report, the evaluating committee finds LUCL’s research quality and viability to be ‘very good’, meaning that its research is internationally recognised and that the institute is considered to be very well equipped to face future opportunities and challenges. LUCL’s relevance to society is assessed as being ‘world leading’.

There follows a brief summary of the QANU Research Review (research quality, relevance to society and viability), including comments made by LUCL’s Academic Director Niels Schiller:

Research quality

In assessing the research quality, the committee first highlights LUCL’s mission and its informal organisational structure consisting of three research programmes. The committee recognises these programmes as being dynamic and overlapping in focus areas. It concludes that LUCL’s informal structure “fits best with its non-hierarchical internal organization and the institute’s culture” resulting in increased cooperation between groups. It goes on to state that “the institute’s mission relates to linguistic diversity, a theme that runs through all groups and which generates a stimulating intellectual environment with a sense of coherence and shared mission.

The committee is particularly impressed with the institute’s expertise across the different issues relating to linguistic structure and its diverse methodological perspectives. It notes the institute’s embracing of modern data science and statistical methods across all sub-disciplines. LUCL’s publication and grant acquisition track-records is considered ‘very good’ and “internationally highly visible and widely-recognized”.

https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/binaries/content/gallery/ul2/portraits/humanities/n/n.o.-niels-schiller-2.jpg/n.o.-niels-schiller-2.jpg/d200x250 “Our mission at LUCL is one of inclusivity, engagement and collaboration. We strive for excellent research, studying linguistic diversity from a wide range of perspectives. In this highly competitive and ever-changing discipline we recognise the need to be open to other disciplines and remain visible with regards to our publications.”

Relevance to society

The evaluating committee acknowledges its initial concerns on learning of the increased importance being attached to the societal relevance of all research. However, on reviewing the different ways LUCL is facilitating this link, the committee concludes: “LUCL makes an outstanding contribution to society through the high quality and great quantity of its outreach activities”. The report highlights several excellent examples of LUCL’s societal relevance at various levels: the Taalmuseum, engagement in various outreach activities, research projects such as AThEME and SpeechView, and contributions to the news fact checkers NieuwsCheckers from Leiden University.

https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/binaries/content/gallery/ul2/portraits/humanities/n/n.o.-niels-schiller-2.jpg/n.o.-niels-schiller-2.jpg/d200x250 “At LUCL we continue to look for opportunities for further collaboration, whether locally, such as with the municipality of Leiden in setting up the Taalmuseum but also internationally, such as in the research project AThEME. I am very proud that our efforts have been recognised by the evaluating committee.” 


In the report, LUCL’s mission and current structure is hailed as providing a highly integrative and stimulating environment. The report goes on to state that “there is an increasingly dense network of collaboration that brings together theoreticians with experimentalists as much as with historical and descriptive linguistics in various ways, including shared supervision of students and postdocs.” The committee finds that LUCL is “well-prepared for the future”. It does note, however, that the funds coming into LUCL are increasingly student-driven. Increasingly heavy workloads due to more and more teaching demands, as well as new grant requirements, are considered “potential threats to the institute’s focus and research strategy”. The evaluating committee encourages LUCL to continue on the path of investing in data science and use of quantitative methods.

https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/binaries/content/gallery/ul2/portraits/humanities/n/n.o.-niels-schiller-2.jpg/n.o.-niels-schiller-2.jpg/d200x250 “We are aware of the challenges and pressures the current policies on education and grants bring with them. I believe that our mission and research strategy allow for enough flexibility to face these challenges head on. We will take on board the committee’s recommendations to carefully monitor the situation.

Assessment - group level

In assessing each of the LUCL research programmes, the evaluating committee finds the research quality of the group Descriptive and comparative linguistics to be ‘excellent’, which means this group is considered to be world-leading in its particular field. The research quality of the other groups (Theoretical and experimental linguistics and Language use in past and present) is also regarded as internationally recognised and coined as ‘very good’. In terms of ‘Relevance to society’ all three groups are judged to be ‘excellent’. Finally, on determining the viability of each group, that is, governance, leadership and strategy, all three groups fall into the ‘very good’ category meaning that each group is very well equipped for the future.

Please read the full report for further assessment of LUCL’s PhD programme, Research integrity and Diversity. The full report also includes recommendations made by the evaluating committee as well as an overview of SEP evaluating criteria.

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