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University of Bristol ranked third in UK for excellence in legal research

Press release issued: 13 May 2022

University of Bristol Law ranked third for legal research in the UK, with a remarkable 93% of its research assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent.

The results of the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF), published today, highlight the outstanding quality of legal research at the University, scoring highly across the range of activities, including research outputs, impact and environment. 

Overall, 59% of the University’s legal research achieved the top 'world-leading' 4* rating, compared to a sector average of 41%. A further 34% of research was judged to be 'internationally excellent' and received the 3* rating.

The Times Higher Education has calculated a subject Grade Point Average (GPA) for each university across the four rating categories to compare research quality across 157 UK institutions. On this basis, legal research at University of Bristol was ranked third, a rise of six places from 9th when the results of the last REF were published in 2014. 

Submissions included research outputs, examples of the wider impact of research and evidence about the research environment, for which the University of Bristol received the maximum rating of 100% at 4* for lawevidencing the strength of its legal research culture and the intellectual quality of its staff. 

Professor Ken Oliphant, Head of the Law School: "We are delighted with this outstanding outcome, which testifies to a lot of hard work from across the School over many years." 

“Achieving a maximum score for research environment is especially satisfying. Having a supportive environment in which research has the opportunity to flourish is a precondition for everything we achieve, and it will sustain our research efforts well into the future, especially as we bring onboard a younger generation of world leading researchers." 

Professor Alan Bogg, REF lead for the Law School during the submission period:  “The preparation of the REF submission involved the contributions of many people from across the School, Faculty, and wider University. Our task was a simple one. To hold a mirror up to the brilliant research already being undertaken in the School, and Bristol’s collegial and rigorous research environment. I am delighted that this has been reflected in today’s results, and our position as a world-leading Law School recognised.” 

Professor Gavin Phillipson, the Law School’s Impact Director: Part of what the REF assesses is the impact of our research in helping to bring about real changes in law and policy that benefit people ‘on the ground’. Our Impact Case Studies showcased such change in housing law, employment rights and reproductive care in this country, in immigration law in South America and the implementation of human rights internationally. I’m immensely proud that the outstanding work of our colleagues in these areas has been so amply recognised’.  

Professor Sheelagh McGuinness, current Law School Research Director: “We are thrilled with the outcome of REF2021 which reflects the extraordinary hard work of colleagues across the Law School and the collective contributions which sustain our thriving, ambitious research community. The School will build on this solid foundation by continuing to encourage and foster collegiality and collaboration with colleagues, partners and stakeholders across the University, our city and beyond to deliver increasingly exciting, innovative and world-class research." 

Professor Patrick Capps, Director of Research for the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law and School Research Director during the REF submission period. “The Law School’s result in the REF reflects the outstanding performance of our researchers across the University. Of the eight units of assessment which find their home in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law, five ranked in the top-10 nationally. This demonstrates the breadth of world-leading research undertaken in our Faculty, in diverse fields ranging from economics, through social work, to sports science.” 

Further information

The submitted materials were assessed by a series of expertpanels comprising UK and international researchers, external users of research and experts in interdisciplinary research.  

The University’s world-leading legal research covered key areas such as human rights, health, workers’ right, international and migration law - addressing some of the most important challenges facing today’s global society.  

 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. 

For the first time, the assessment included the submission of all staff with significant responsibility for research, meaning the results provide a unique insight into the quality of research conducted across the sector.  

The University of Bristol's full REF results are available here. 

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