REF confirms world class quality of Keele research

Posted on 18 December 2014
We have achieved an impressive set of results - we have done well right across the board, with some outstanding performances.

Keele's position as a leading university for research of world class quality and international excellence has been confirmed today (Thursday) by the UK-wide Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The REF assesses the quality of research in all higher education institutions in the UK. It has found that 97% of the University's research is classified as world leading and of international importance. The University also saw improvement in all 17 disciplines it made a submission to.

It confirmed that Keele has top rated research departments in all of its three Faculties: Health, Humanities and Social Sciences and Natural Sciences, and the REF results reveal the University's world class research activities across a wide spectrum of subject areas.

The results represent a major improvement in Keele's performance from the last research assessment exercise in 2008. Then, 11% of submitted research achieved the top grade. Now, some 21% is judged to be 4* or 'world leading' - the highest available category score, and 71% judged to be in the top 2 categories compared to 46% in 2008.

Subject areas where research at Keele has been rated world class are Allied Health Professions, Primary Care, General Engineering, History, Music, English, Politics, Law, Biological Sciences, Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, Physics, Maths, Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy, Philosophy, Business and Management and Computer Science.

The performance in some units of assessment, most notably Allied Health Professions, Primary Care, General Engineering and History is particularly outstanding, showing that our research in Primary Care and Health Sciences, Science and Technology, Pharmacy, Chemistry, Life Sciences and History are among the best in the UK.

The results also show that research at Keele is having a genuine impact on the world around us with all areas having highly ranked examples where society has benefited from the research undertaken at Keele. Primary Care, Allied Health Professions, History, Politics and Philosophy proved to be the best in the UK in terms of the proportion of impact rated as being world or internationally-leading.

Keele University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nick Foskett, said: "I think that this is just fantastic. We have achieved an impressive set of results - we have done well right across the board, with some outstanding performances in some areas.

"The results are a great tribute to the research work of our academic staff and I congratulate them on their hard work. We have done better in every single area of assessment and have world leading research in all 17 units."


The REF is a country-wide exercise administered on behalf of the four UK higher education funding bodies. The four funding bodies allocate about £2 billion per year of research funding to UK universities, based on the quality and volume of each university’s research. They aim to support a dynamic and internationally competitive UK research sector that makes a major contribution to economic prosperity, national wellbeing and the expansion and dissemination of knowledge.

To distribute funds selectively on the basis of quality, the funding bodies assess universities’ research through a periodic exercise. This was previously known as the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), and was last conducted in 2008.

The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) assessed the quality and impact of research submitted by UK universities across all disciplines. The results will be used by the funding bodies to allocate research funding to universities from 2015-16.
As well as informing funding allocations, the REF provides accountability for public investment in research, demonstrates its benefits, and provides important reputational yardsticks and benchmarking information about the research performance of UK universities.

The four UK funding bodies are: the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Scottish Funding Council, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and Department for Education, Northern Ireland.

REF2014 key facts:

  • 154 UK universities took part. They made 1,911 submissions for:

52,077 academic staff
191,232 research outputs
6,975 impact case studies.

  • 36 expert sub-panels reviewed the submissions, overseen by four main panels
  • around £2 billion per year of research funding will be allocated on the basis of the results.