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Research Excellence Framework

The REF is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

It is a process of review, carried out by expert panels for each of the 34 subject-based units of assessment. The panels consist of senior academics, international members, and individuals from outside academia with relevant skills and experience in using research.

For each submission, three distinct elements are assessed:

  • the quality of outputs (for example publications, performances, and exhibitions)
  • their impact beyond academia
  • the environment that supports research

How did we do in REF 2021?

The University has been ranked joint 7th in the UK for the quality of its research2. Across the University, 92% of Queen Mary’s research was assessed as internationally excellent or world-leading.  

Queen Mary’s strong REF performance is set in the context of its commitment to research and educational excellence, coupled with an unrivalled commitment to social justice and social mobility. Last year, the University was ranked top in the country for social mobility. That same year, Queen Mary was also the first university to have received the Platinum Watermark for Public Engagement, highlighting the significant global impact of its research and education.

Several of the case studies put forward for assessment in the REF speak to that commitment to research excellence coupled with social justice. Examples include: academics in the University’s Drama and Film Departments using art to reframe and help people engage with difficult issues such as death and violence across the world; research in medicine underpinning the introduction of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, saving thousands of premature deaths of adults and children from the damaging effects of air pollution; and academics in the School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences empowering NGOs to reduce illegal poaching of sea turtles on Cabo Verde.

Postgraduate students in a lab

Postgraduate students in a laboratory

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