Research Excellence Framework results

Explore our research
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Top 20 for research excellence

Essex ranks in the top 20 UK universities for research excellence (REF 2014, intensity weighted GPA, mainstream universities, THE 2014) and is in the top 4 for social science research. Once again our politics research is first in the UK – as it has been since rankings began in 1986. We are also ranked 25th in the UK for research quality (The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020).

The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the national assessment of research quality and impact. Our diverse strengths in conducting world-leading research were reconfirmed by REF 2014. We entered 14 different subject areas and seven were ranked in the UK’s Top 20 for research excellence, across social science, science and the humanities.

The results are used by the UK’s higher education funding bodies to allocate around £2 billion each year to university research. Our research case studies demonstrate the benefits of this investment, highlighting how our research improves society and economic prosperity. Examples of our impact include:

The REF replaced the national Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), which was last conducted in 2008.

Overall result

The REF is made up of several different measures and we focus on research intensity, which looks at the quality of research, its impact, the research environment and the proportion of staff submitted to the REF. We call this ‘research excellence’. On this measure we’re ranked 19th in the UK.


Top for politics
5th for economics
10th for art history
12th for sociology
13th for sport science
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Subject quality profiles


Subject  'Research excellence' (intensity) ranking 'Research quality' (GPA) ranking World leading research 4* Internationally excellent research 3* Internationally recognised research 2*
Social Sciences          
Politics and International Studies 1st 1st 68% 19% 12%
Modern Languages and Linguistics 35th 8th 40% 43% 14%
Sociology 12th 7th 38% 40% 20%
Economics and Econometrics 5th 7th 32% 61% 7%
Business and Management Studies 24th 38th 17% 55% 25%
Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory 10th 10th 32% 57% 11%
Philosophy 14th 9th 34% 51% 11%
Law 17th 26th 23% 48% 28%
English Language and Literature 35th 36th 29% 46% 22%
History 21st 43rd 19% 52% 27%
Science and Health          
Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience 27th 13th 40% 50% 10%
Biological Sciences 31st 35th 3% 63% 32%
Computer Science and Informatics 29th 36th 22% 49% 25%
Sports and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism 13th 27th 13% 41% 43%