Research Excellence Framework 2021

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions and the impact of research on the wider world outside of academia, including benefits to the economy, the environment, society and public policy or services.

REF 2021 results

33rd for overall research quality

We have increased our overall research quality ranking by 12 places to 33rd in the UK.

Top 20 for research outputs

We are ranked in the top 20 for the quality of our research outputs.

41% of research rated world leading

41% of our submitted research was rated as world-leading.

Results highlights


For research power for health professions


For our research outputs in law


For the real-world impact of our economics research and 10th for the quality


For our research outputs in computer science


For the impact of our English research


For research power for engineering

Top 10

For the outputs of our business research

Top 20

For the real-world impact of our business research


The REF is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies: Research England, the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland.

The Research Excellence Framework was first carried out in 2014, replacing the previous Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).

The 2021 Research Excellence Framework was originally due to run from 2014 to 2020. The submission deadline was originally 30 November 2020, but this was extended to 31 March 2021 to allow for delays due to Covid-19.

The REF is a process of expert review, carried out by expert panels for each of the 34 subject-based Units of Assessment (UOA’s), under the guidance of four main panels. Expert panels are made up of senior academics, international members, and research users.

View REF results.

Research income

Our total research income over the REF 2021 assessment period (2014-2020) was £284 million.

Postgraduate research degrees

We have awarded 1,745 postgraduate research degrees over the REF 2021 period (2014-2020).

Our submission

We made submissions to 14 Units of Assessments (UOA).


Number of staff submitted to REF 2021


Staff contacted FTE submitted to REF 2021


Number of outputs submitted to REF 2021 (60% of assessment)


Number of impact case studies (25% of assessment)