Results of Research Excellence Framework are published

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The results of the UK-wide assessment of university research, conducted through the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF), have been published.

The 2021 assessment process has identified a substantial proportion of world-leading research across all UK nations and English regions, and across the full range of subject areas.

For the first time, the assessment included the submission of all staff with significant responsibility for research.

This means the results provide a unique insight to the quality of research conducted across the breadth of university activity.

Recognising excellence

REF has recognised the wide distribution of excellent research, both across the UK, with over 80% of research judged to be world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*) in each UK nation and English region.

It has also recognised the wide distribution of excellent research across a broad group of universities, of all sizes and types, with world-leading quality identified in 99% of participating universities.

REF assessment process

The REF provides a robust and thorough assessment of the quality of universities’ research in all disciplines, providing accountability for public investment in research and demonstrating the benefits of that investment.

In total, 157 UK universities participated, submitting over 76,000 academic staff.

The submissions included:

  • research outputs
  • examples of the wider benefits of research
  • evidence about the research environment.

This material was assessed by a series of expert panels comprising of:

  • UK and international researchers
  • external users of research and experts in interdisciplinary research.

Executive Chair for Research England, David Sweeney, said:

Changes to the exercise have meant that we have been able to capture more of the excellent research undertaken by our globally-facing universities and the detailed results indicate that world-leading research is distributed widely across subjects, types of university, and in all parts of the UK.

This particular exercise evidences the significant contribution research across the whole of the UK makes to the government’s levelling up agenda and reiterates that the UK higher education research sector is indeed playing its role in supporting the government to achieve its ambition as a science super power.

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