Edge Hill University has had more than half of its research classed as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

The significant growth and quality of Edge Hill’s research portfolio is reflected in the results, with 62% of its research outputs assessed in the top two categories, in comparison to 40% in the 2014 cycle. All submissions demonstrated some 4* (the highest grading possible) for both outputs and impact.

Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor George Talbot, said: “The results reflect Edge Hill’s increasingly impressive research profile since the University was granted Research Degree Awarding Powers in 2008. We are on an ambitious journey of growth and the REF results are a very significant achievement, reflecting our commitment to producing quality research that has impact.”

George Talbot
Professor George Talbot

Following the last REF cycle in 2014, Edge Hill had committed to increasing its research capacity through the recruitment of exceptional individuals and nurturing current talent. This promise has resulted in the University almost doubling the number of academic staff who were returned to the 2021 exercise, demonstrating how the University has given more opportunities to support the work of both new and established researchers.

The institution also benefitted from an increased amount in funding during the REF period, up by 159%, and an additional 120 research students (from only 16 on 2014).

Professor Talbot added: “We are justifiably very proud of our researchers who are driving up the quality of research and addressing some of today’s most pressing problems. We are committed to making a real difference in our communities, the region and wider society to enrich lives and will continue our ambitious journey to develop solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges and enact change. REF only captures a small part of our research endeavours, and these results are only possible due to the support from all staff across the institution.”

Of particular note is the improvement in the impact element of the submission, with improvements in nearly all areas of research. Areas such as the high-profile work of using sport interventions to tackle mental health, informing policies designed to prevent child sexual abuse in sport and influencing policymakers around EU sports law has been recognised. The internationally renowned Centre for Sports Law Research and Centre for Child Protection and Safeguarding have established themselves as experts in their fields.

Other impact areas highlighted include education, with research focusing on how inclusive learning and teaching can improve student equity and outcomes performed well. Health-based research that is improving the lives of patients was another success story.

For the first time, Business and Biology submitted research to be assessed in this latest cycle and the quality was impressive. While Computer Science saw the biggest leap in its results, demonstrating real impact in this latest round of assessments.

Media also performed strongly, particularly within the field of work stemming from the Centre for Human Animal Studies, ensuring more people are aware of issues relating to food and companion animals.

English performed well, with research activities supporting community cohesion, while tackling issues in society through collaborative theatre; Geography, History and Psychology also saw steady improvements in the latest results.

The University submitted in all the following disciplines:

Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy
Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Biological Sciences
Computer Science and Informatics
Geography and Environmental Studies
Business and Management Studies
Law
Social Work and Social Policy
Education
Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism
English Language and Literature
History
Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management

The results will be used by the four UK higher education funding bodies to allocate research funding to universities.

About the REF

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

The REF is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies: Research England, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE). The funding bodies aim to secure the continuation of a world-class, dynamic and responsive research base across the full academic spectrum within UK higher education.

Research outputs, examples of the wider benefits of research and evidence about the research environment were assessed by a series of expert panels comprising UK and international researchers, external users of research and experts in interdisciplinary research.

In total, 157 UK universities participated. For the first time, the assessment included all staff with a significant responsibility for research, leading to a 46% increase in the number of staff whose work was considered compared with the previous REF.