World-leading research and impact in all subjects submitted to REF 2014

Published on: 18 December 2014

Research and impact in all units of assessment submitted to #REF2014 have been ranked as world-leading – with 92 per cent of research rated as of international quality - and the institution is ranked 16th nationally* when you take account of the proportion of staff submitted.

This Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) is the first national evaluation of research quality in the UK since 2008 and looked at the economic and societal impact of research for the very first time. Exeter has made a huge rise since 2008 (from 56 per cent to 82 per cent of world-leading or internationally excellent research) and is now equal 19th nationally and 18th in the Russell Group.

Exeter has three subjects ranked in the top five nationally, eight in the top 10, and around 80 per cent of its subjects in the top 20, based on their proportion of world-leading and internationally excellent research. When looking at the very highest, 4* grade for world-leading research, Exeter is now ranked 16th in the UK. See our REF results website.

Our key highlights

  • 82 per cent of our research is world-leading or internationally excellent - this is up from 56 per cent in 2008 and above the REF national average of 76 per cent.
  • Our world-leading (4*) research has increased from 17 per cent to 29 per cent compared to 2008.
  • Our market share of world-leading or internationally excellent research has increased by 22 per cent.
  • We have eight Units of Assessment in the top 10 nationally for world-leading or internationally excellent with three in the top five (Theology (2nd), Area Studies (3rd), Politics (5th), Sociology, Education, Sport, Public Health, Biological Sciences).
  • We rank 16th nationally for world-leading (4*) publications and 11th in the Russell Group.

The University of Exeter has performed extremely well in humanities and social sciences, whilst strengthening its capacity and research reputation in physical and life sciences, including entering the assessment for Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences for the first time ever.

In an email to staff Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Steve Smith said the results were ‘excellent’ and thanked ‘academic and professional services colleagues for the extraordinary amount of work they have carried out in producing fantastic research in their Colleges and across the University as a whole’.

He added: “The results show that 82 per cent of research carried out by colleagues at the University is either world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*). This is a 26 per cent increase in the amount of 3* and 4* research since the RAE in 2008 and is substantially higher than the national average of 76 per cent.”

Professor Nick Talbot, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer, said: “We have a growing reputation now as a science powerhouse which has been greatly enhanced by our collaborations with the Met Office, for example, and links with local and national industrial partners.”

Key college messages

The College of Engineering, Maths and Physical Sciences put in a strong and consistent performances, particularly in world-leading (4*) and internationally excellent (3*) research.

  • UoA 7 – Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. This submission included academics from three Colleges and five UoAs. With 89 per cent of the research is world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), this gives a national ranking of 13 out of 45.
  • UoA 9 – Physics: 90 per cent of the research is world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), this is a ranking of 15 out of 41 submissions.
  • UoA 10 – Mathematics: 83 per cent of the research was ranked as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), this was a significant improvement on the RAE 2008 when 59 per cent of research was ranked at 4* or 3*. This unit received a national ranking of 24 out of 53 submissions for both 4* and 4* plus 3* research.
  • UoA 11 – Computer Science: 23 per cent of research was ranked as world-leading (4*). This unit is ranked 26 out of 89 nationally.
  • UoA 15 – Engineering: 92 per cent of research was assessed as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*). This gives a national ranking of 15 out of 62. Research publications were particularly strong with 95 per cent of outputs rated at 4* or 3*.

The College of Humanities has performed well with very strong results for History and Theology. Five out of seven UoAs have 30 per cent or more of research ranked as world-leading ( 4*).

  • UoA 17B – Archaeology: 78 per cent of the research is world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), a ranking of 17 out of 74 submissions. One-hundred per cent of research impact was rated as 4*or 3*.
  • UoA 28 – Modern Languages: 30 per cent of research was graded as world-leading (4*) which has more than doubled since 2008, this is a ranking of 22 out of 57 for 4*. Seventy per cent of their research Environment was rated as 4*.
  • UoA 29 – English: 35 per cent of research was graded as world-leading (4*), a raking of 25 out of 89 nationally. One hundred per cent of research impact was graded as 4* or 3*.
  • UoA 30 – History: 43 per cent of research was graded as world-leading (4*), this has more than doubled since 2008. This unit is ranked 8 out of 83 nationally.
  • UoA 31 – Classics: 30 per cent of research was graded as world-leading (4*), a ranking of 9 out of 22. Forty per cent of research impact was rated as 4*.
  • UoA 33 – Theology: 83 per cent of research was rated as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), a ranking of 2 out of 33. One-hundred per cent of research impact was ranked 4* or 3*.
  • UoA 35 – Drama: 30 per cent of research was rated as world-leading 4*, this is a ranking of 26 out of 84 at 4*plus 3*). In this unit 60 per cent of the research environment was rated as world-leading (4*).

In the College of Life and Environmental Sciences there has been a strong and consistent performances across the College with significant improvements since 2008.

  • UoA 4 – Psychology: 85 per cent of the research is world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), a ranking of 19 out of 82 nationally. This is a significant improvement from 2008 when 55 per cent of research was rated at 4* plus 3*.
  • UoA 5 – Biological Sciences: 88 per cent of the research is world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), a ranking of 10 out of 44. This is a significant increase from 2008 when the amount of 4* plus 3* was 50 per cent.
  • UoA 7 – Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. This submission included academics from three Colleges and five UoAs. With 89 per cent of the research is world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), this gives a national ranking of 13 out of 45.
  • UoA 17A – Geography: There has been a significant improvement from 2008 with 77 per cent of the research is world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*) up from 60 per cent. This ranks 20 out 74.
  • UoA 26 – Sport and Health Science: 89 per cent of the research is world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), this is a significant improvement from 35 per cent 4* plus 3* in 2008 and gives a national ranking 6 out of 51.

All Units of Assessment within the College of Social Science and International Studies are top 10 nationally, except for law which is 11th when combining world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), with stand-out performances for Area Studies and Education.

  • UoA 20 – Law: 85 per cent of the research is rated as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), compared to 73 per cent nationally. This is a ranking of 11 out of 67 submissions nationally.
  • UoA 21 – Politics: 30 per cent of research is rated as world-leading (4*) and 84 per cent as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), this is verses a Unit of Assessment averages of 28 per cent and 68 per cent respectively. This is a ranking of 5 out of 56 submissions nationally.
  • UoA 23 – Sociology: 77 per cent of research is rated as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), this is up from 55 per cent in 2008. This unit is ranked 9 out of 29 submissions nationally.
  • UoA 25 – Education: 44 per cent of research is ranked as world-leading. This is a ranking of 6 out of 76 nationally. This unit received a score of 87.5 per cent at 4* for their research environment.
  • UoA 27 – Area Studies: 45 per cent of per cent of research was rated as world-leading (4*). One-hundred per cent of impact was graded as 4*.

In the University of Exeter Business School both Business and Management and Economics have seen strong performances.

  • UoA 18 – Economics: 72 per cent of research was assessed as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), a ranking of 18 out of 28. This unit was and also ranked 18 out of 28 for 4* research.
  • UoA 19 – Business and Management Studies: This is the largest Unit of Assessment in the country with 101 submissions. We has 73 per cent of research was ranked as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), which is higher than the national average for the discipline of 69 per cent. This represents an overall ranking of 27 out of 101.

The University of Exeter Medical School gave a strong performance for one of the newest and most rapidly growing medical schools in the UK.

  • UoA 1 – Clinical Medicine: 39 per cent rated internationally excellent (4*) overall, a ranking of 11 out of 31 submissions nationally. Eighty-per cent of research impact was graded at 4*.
  • UoA 2 – Public Health: 85 per cent of the research is world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), a ranking of 9 out of 32 nationally. In this unit 100 per cent of research impact was graded at 4*or 3*.

Although the REF results give an indication of the overall quality of the research being delivered, since universities could choose how many staff they submitted, to understand the full picture for any given department you must take into account the proportion of staff who were submitted for assessment, or the 'intensity'.

For more information and a full results table please see our #ExeterREF website.

*Not including specialist institutions, or those with anomalous data.

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