Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Keele University’s role as a centre for outstanding, world-class research has been reaffirmed in the UK-wide Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021).

REF 2021 was jointly conducted by the four UK higher education funding bodies, which every seven years assess the quality, impact, and environment that supports research in higher education institutions in the UK.

REF 2021 results for Keele indicate a 75% increase in the volume of world-leading research across the University compared to the last REF in 2014, with 80% of Keele’s research being classified as either world-leading or internationally excellent (4* or 3* rated research).

For the 2021 exercise Keele’s submissions also saw a 25% increase in the number of staff submitted, reflecting its continued growth as a genuine research-led university, which places an equal emphasis on excellence in both research and education.

Professor Trevor McMillan, Vice-Chancellor of Keele University said: “We are delighted that our research has been recognised as being world-leading by the independent REF expert panels. Keele researchers work tirelessly to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges, from food security, healthcare and environmental sustainability, to helping businesses innovate and making our communities healthier and safer. These results today are a tribute to their hard work and dedication, and the impact that their research is having on society.”

Research from all three of the University’s faculties (Humanities and Social Sciences, Medicine and Health Sciences, and Natural Sciences) all performed strongly in this year’s REF, with particularly outstanding performances in Allied Health Professions, English Language and Literature, Engineering (Bioengineering/Regenerative Medicine and Chemistry), Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care and Physics.

Additionally, Biological Sciences, Psychology, Geography and Environmental Studies Business and Management Studies and Computer Science. all saw significant increases in their gradings compared to REF 2014.

Keele was one of 157 UK universities which participated in REF 2021, which collectively submitted evidence from over 76,000 academic staff. Submissions included research outputs, evidence and testimonials about the positive impact the research is having on society, and evidence about the research environment.

This material was assessed by a series of independent expert panels comprising UK and international researchers, external users of research, and experts in interdisciplinary research.

Steven Hill, Chair of the REF Steering Group and Director of Research at Research England, said: “The real differences made to people’s lives, both across the UK and around the world, that are narrated through the impact case studies are in many cases humbling and, in our current times, a significant example of this is provided in our universities’ outstanding contribution to the Covid pandemic.

“Universities and their staff have had to respond to the pandemic in multiple ways. Their commitment to working with the funding bodies to deliver REF 2021 has been considerable. The incredible contribution both of those making the submissions and of our expert panels, through these unprecedented times, has allowed us to deliver a rigorous and timely set of results.”