UCL: UCL comes second in the UK for research power

UCL has come second in the UK for research power by a measure of average research score multiplied by staff numbers submitted. For this, 93 per cent of our research was graded 4* ‘world leading’ and 3* ‘internationally excellent’. Our research received a ‘grade point average’ of 3.50 (out of 4) – an improvement from 3.22 in 2014. A total of 3,432 UCL academics submitted to this REF process.

UCL came second in research power only to Oxford (1st) and we maintained our position as top in the UK for research power in medicine, health and life sciences as well as social sciences. Other UK leaders in research power include Cambridge (3rd), Edinburgh (4th), and Manchester (5th).

The REF is carried out approximately every six to seven years to assess the quality of research across 157 UK universities and to share how this research benefits society both in the UK and globally.

The results are significant for benchmarking research excellence across UK institutions and are used by the four UK higher education funding bodies to inform the allocation of around £2billion of public investment in research every year. This Quality Related (QR) funding enables us to invest in the best people and facilities, to provide an environment in which early career researchers can thrive and work with our partners to address the biggest challenges facing humanity.

Through our interdisciplinary work, UCL researchers have been collaborating with local and international partners on a range of issues – from tackling inequalities and climate change and addressing health challenges including COVID-19, HIV and cancer. They have helped preserve ancient heritage for future generations, transformed social care policy and practice, and worked with industry to supply cutting-edge technology for international space missions.

Dr Michael Spence, UCL President & Provost, said: “This is an incredibly impressive outcome that everyone in our community can feel really proud of. It reflects dedication and hard work, inspired thinking, proactive collaboration and a huge appetite to explore, discover, and create benefit. The result is that we are not only delivering research of an exceptionally high quality but also using it to make a real, tangible difference to lives and societies worldwide.”

UCL submitted evidence of a breadth of research activities including 8,052 research outputs such as journal articles, books, designs, exhibitions and performances. We also shared 194 impact case studies showcasing diverse impact across every faculty to combat the most pressing global challenges of our time, and we provided evidence of the environment that enables us to deliver impact.

UCL came top for research power in the main panels of ‘medicine, health and life sciences’ and ‘social sciences’. We also saw success with our faculty of Laws, and departments of the Institute of the Americas and Philosophy with all three coming top overall by research graded 4*.

We saw improvements in our scores within each of the four main panels. Of the 32 subject units assessed across the three elements of ‘output’, ‘impact’ and ‘environment’, 78 per cent increased their score compared to REF 2014 by grade point average – which is a simple measure of the overall or average quality of research. No subjects saw a drop in research quality.

Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement), said: “My congratulations and thanks to everyone who played a part in achieving these results, both members of the research community and those thousands of professional staff who support them. This includes everyone who has played a role in the development and dissemination of original, significant and rigorous research outputs, the delivery of public benefit through research-informed impact with reach and significance, and in the formation of vital and sustainable research environments.

“I am also grateful to the members of the UCL REF team and their sterling work throughout the process, and to members of the UCL REF Steering Group – in particular its Main Panel leads, Professor Sasha Roseneil, Professor Stella Bruzzi, Professor Ivan Parkin and Professor Geraint Rees.”

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