News

Research Excellence Framework 2021 reveals our research power

  • Date

    Thu 12 May 22

A young Black man holding a board marker is gesturing at the board in front of him to an older white man standing in the foreground.

The University of Essex is a centre of world-leading excellence in the social sciences with further research strengths across science, health, arts and the humanities according to the results of the Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF2021).

REF2021 is the system for assessing the quality and impact of research at UK universities and highlights the University of Essex’s impressive growth and increasing impact.

Essex is in the UK top 10 for five subjects based on Times Higher Education’s ‘research power’ measure which takes into account the key areas of REF2021 – research outputs, impact and environment – plus the size of the research community in each unit of assessment.

For research power, Essex is 2nd for sociology, 3rd for law, 4th for economics and econometrics, 6th for politics and international studies, and 6th for computer science. Psychology, philosophy, and business and management are also in the top 20 in the UK.

For research quality based on grade point average in REF2021, Essex is ranked 3rd in the UK for modern languages and linguistics, 6th for politics and international studies, 7th for sociology and 8th for economics and econometrics. Our world class strength in Social Sciences is underscored by politics and international studies, sociology and economics and econometrics being ranked top 10 in the UK, with the LSE the only other higher education institution that has these three Units of Assessment ranked in the top 10 for GPA.

And there are some outstanding results for individual measures, sociology is 1st in the UK for research environment, politics and international studies is 2nd for research outputs and modern languages and linguistics is 2nd for research impact.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Chris Greer said: “We have doubled the size of our research community with more than 700 academics submitted to REF2021 while maintaining a world-leading position across a range of subjects and in particular the social sciences.”

Growth and progress

The University of Essex is committed to having an impact through its research and this is highlighted by REF2021.

Since the last Research Excellence Framework Essex has increased the units of assessment it submits to from 14 to 17, increased the number of impact case studies submitted from 48 to 67 and increased its research income from £23m to £30m.

Research output, impact and environment rated as world-leading and internationally excellent has increased by 8% to 86% while the grade point average has increased across almost all subjects assessed.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster said: “Since the last REF in 2014 we have made a sustained investment in increasing the number of research staff at Essex, while maintaining a commitment to outstanding research.

“We now have a critical mass of 700 researchers with plans to continue to grow to around 1,000 by 2025. This will allow us to attract more funding to undertake world-leading research alongside bringing in further investment for our infrastructure, facilities and research environment.

“REF2021 shows Essex’s many strengths and highlights our focus on making a difference to our communities through our research.

“Today we are having more impact regionally, nationally and globally with a wider diversity of academic and non-academic partners than at any time in our past.”

Our growing research power 

The REF assessment is completed by the four UK higher education funding bodies. It provides an authoritative assessment of research at UK universities, benchmarks the performance of universities, informs the selective allocation of funding for research and demonstrates the benefits of UK investment in research.

Expert panels look at the quality of three distinct elements the quality of outputs such as publications, datasets, performances, and exhibitions; their impact beyond academia; and the environment that supports research. 

REF2021 shows the growing impact of research at Essex and its research profile continues to grow. The first results of the Knowledge Exchange Framework in 2021 confirmed that Essex is among the strongest in the UK for community engagement and supporting local growth.

Essex is also ranked 1st in the UK for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, with nine of our departments involved in more than 40 projects with businesses.

In 2022, Essex established the Institute of Public Health and Wellbeing to join its world-leading Institute for Social and Economic Research, Institute for Analytics and Data Science, and our Human Rights Centre.

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