Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 results

Strength of research at the School for Policy Studies confirmed

The results of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) confirm the excellence of research in the School for Policy Studies.

97% of our research was rated as 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent'. The school was rated 2nd in the UK for Social Work and Social Policy and 3rd in the UK for Sport and Exercise Sciences according to the Times Higher Education rankings.

Head of School for Policy Studies, Professor Esther Dermott, said: “We are delighted with our REF results which are testament to the fantastic range of research and impact activity that is produced by staff in the School and everything that goes into developing and delivering this research.” 

School Research Director, Professor Debbie Watson, said: “This is a fantastic reflection of the policy and practice research conducted across the School which is driven by a desire to improve people's lives. Our case studies showcase impacts locally, nationally and globally ranging from gender-based violence, education for children in care, and global poverty, to premature deaths amongst people with learning difficulties and physical activity guidelines.”

Read REF 2021 assessment method.

Research & Impact

The School for Policy Studies hosts a multidisciplinary community of scholars who seek to impact policy and practice by undertaking excellent research across a range of social policy domains, drawing on:

  • social and public policy
  • social work
  • childhood studies
  • disability studiescriminology
  • social gerontology

About the Research Excellence Framework

The REF is a UK-wide assessment of university research carried out by the four UK higher education funding bodies.

Its aim is to secure the continuation of a world-class, dynamic and responsive research base across the full academic spectrum within UK higher education.

It will achieve this in the following three ways:

  • By providing accountability for public investment in research and producing evidence of the benefits of this investment.
  • By providing benchmarking information and establishing reputational yardsticks, for use within the HE sector and for public information.
  • By informing the selective allocation of funding for research.

REF 2021 submissions included research outputs, examples of the wider impact of research and evidence about the research environment. This material was assessed by a series of expert panels comprising UK and international researchers, external users of research and experts in interdisciplinary research.

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.

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