In my country, several universities are prefixed by "Universidade Federal", which can be translated to "Federal University" (e.g., "Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro" to "Federal University of Rio de Janeiro"). When publishing a paper, should we translate this part of the name?

This is a obscure topic; I have some teachers that use "Federal University" and others that use "Universidade Federal". Once I heard that it is better to keep the original name of the university because it helps to keep its identity. However, even translated, it still is very easy to find. If you Google for both names, they will come up in the first positions of the ranking.

Should we translate or keep unstranslated?

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    More on the trivia side: translating can lead to ambiguities: for instance, the names of the Université libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel both translate to "Free University of Brussels". Mar 18, 2014 at 9:41
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    @FedericoPoloni: Same with the two Catholic Universities of Leuven, also in Belgium Mar 18, 2014 at 11:59
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    And some others are partially untranslatable. "Complutense (de Madrid)", means "from Compluto", the (very) old name of a nearby city (where the university is not anymore).
    – Davidmh
    Mar 18, 2014 at 14:41
  • @DaveClarke good examples - and those aren't even in the same city! Mar 18, 2014 at 18:10
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    The name of the institution is a proper name and IMO should not be translated. It would be the same as translating someone's name in conversation, and I certainly would not refer to a gentleman from Germany whose name was Johann Müller as "John Miller" just because I'm speaking English. The proper name of the institution you mentioned is Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro - I suggest you use it no matter what language you're writing or speaking in. Mar 19, 2014 at 2:45

2 Answers 2


The first thing to do is to check if the university has any recommendations about this. If none exist, then the second aspect is to consider if the university is well known under one or another form of the name. The purpose of providing an affiliation and proper address is for the sake of communication. Before e-mail and Internet, most correspondence went by post so a proper address was very important. Now e-mail is used, which means the affiliation is mostly to identify the author and the author's affiliation. Web sites are usually bilingual so finding the university or department is possible in both English and the native language. Most will probably use the English translation because it makes most sense if the remainder of the paper is in English. A point to make is that if one uses the native language for affiliation etc. then problems will arise for those not familiar with, for example, Cyrillic, Chinese or Japanese. So it seems the best way to communicate affiliation/address is to use English translations that are hopefully officially accepted by the university.

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    +1 for checking university recommendations. I know mine has specific guidelines for these issues.
    – Mangara
    Mar 18, 2014 at 12:43
  • Related to this is following the university's example. The English language home for Université libre de Bruxelles says "The Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) is a multicultural university with almost one third of its students and researchers from abroad." Jul 19, 2016 at 3:24

I think that most English speakers will recognise that "Universidade" means "University", especially in an academic context, so there's no need to translate the term. On the other hand, if you were referring to something less obvious to English-speakers, like 고려대학교, I'd add "(Korea University)".

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    And that illustrates the difficulty of translations generally. 고려 is "Goryeo", the name of a medieval Korean dynasty and the etymological basis for the exonym "Korea". Koreans call their country 한국 "Hanguk", meaning roughly "this country". An analogy would be if Koreans called England "Tudoruh", after the ancient royal house of Tudor. Given all this, should 고려대학교 be rendered as Goryeo University or Korea University? Mar 18, 2014 at 20:27
  • I think that using Hangeul or hanja characters when writing to a non-Korean audience would be counterproductive as it would limit the number of people who could read the paper. As someone said earlier, check with the institution to see what their recommendations are. In the absence of such recommendations, I'd say go with whatever you think is best - I think that either Goreyo or Korea would be fine. And thanks for a bit of Korean history. Mar 19, 2014 at 2:53
  • @Malvolio What's Korean for "university", transliterated into English? If it's "university" then I suppose you could argue for either "Goryeo University" or "Korea University". But if the Korean word is something else, why would you write "Korea" in transliterated Korean and "university" in English? Mar 19, 2014 at 4:10
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    @DavidRicherby -- I think you missed my point. The university isn't named for country of Korea; it is named for something else entirely. There is in fact a Korea University -- but they transliterate the name! Mar 19, 2014 at 5:21

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