15 Jun.
2022

Research Excellence Framework 2021

The University of Manchester's position as a research powerhouse has been confirmed in the results of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF).

Key results

  • We have retained fifth place for research power1.
  • Overall, 93% of the University’s research activity was assessed as ‘world-leading’ (4*) or ‘internationally excellent’ (3*).
  • We ranked in 10th place in terms of grade point average2 (an improvement from 19th in the previous exercise, REF 2014).
  • The Times Higher Education places us even higher at eighth on GPA (up from 17th place), as their analysis excludes specialist HE institutions.
  • In the top three nationally for nine subjects (Unit of Assessment by grade point average or research power).

About REF

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. Manchester made one of the largest and broadest REF submissions in the UK, entering 2,249 eligible researchers across 31 subject areas.

The evaluation encompasses the quality of research impact, the research environment, research publications and other outputs.

REF results

Overall, 93% of the University’s research activity was assessed as ‘world-leading’ (4*) or ‘internationally excellent’ (3*). The evaluation encompasses the quality of research impact (96% 3* or 4*), the research environment (99% 3* or 4*), research publications and other outputs (90% were 3* or 4*).

We ranked in 10th place in terms of grade point average, an improvement from 19th in the previous exercise, REF 2014. The Times Higher Education places us even higher at eighth on GPA (up from 17th place), as their analysis excludes specialist HE institutions. This result was built upon a significant increase in research assessed as ‘world leading’ (4*) between REF 2014 and REF 2021.

The University came in the top three for the following subjects (Unit of Assessment by grade point average or research power):

  • Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy
  • Business and Management Studies
  • Chemistry
  • Classics
  • Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies
  • Development Studies
  • Engineering
  • Physics
  • Sociology

The University had 19 subjects in the top ten overall by grade point average and 15 when measured by research power.

Research impact

Social responsibility underpins research activity at Manchester, and we combine expertise across disciplines to deliver pioneering solutions to the world’s most urgent problems.

We’re ranked as one of the top ten universities in the world for delivering against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (Times Higher Education Impact Rankings) and our research impact showcase includes examples of the positive impact we’ve made across culture and creativity, economic development and inequalities, health and wellbeing, innovation and commercialisation, and sustainability and climate change.

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester, said: "These comprehensive and independent results confirm Manchester's place as a global powerhouse of research.

“We create an environment where researchers can thrive and exchange ideas. Most importantly the quality and impact of our research is down to the incredible dedication and creativity of our colleagues who work every day to solve significant world problems, enrich our society and train the next generation of researchers.

“The fact that our REF results are accompanied by examples of the real difference we’ve made in the world, all driven from this city makes me very proud.”

Research environment

The REF exercise also evaluated the University’s work to provide a creative, ambitious and supportive research environment, in which researchers at every career stage can develop and thrive as leaders in their chosen field.

In this category, the University achieved a result of 99% ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world-leading’, making it one of the best places in the country to build a research career.

1Research power is calculated by grade point average, multiplied by the number of FTE staff submitted (FTE – full-time equivalent head count) and gives a measure of scale and quality. Grade point average (GPA) measures the overall or average quality of research, which takes no account of the FTE submitted.

2Grade point average is a measure of the overall or average quality of research calculated by multiplying the percentage of research in each grade by its rating, adding them all together and dividing by 100.

REF 2021 Results: View the University's full set of results by unit of assessment

REF 2021 Submissions: View the University's full list of 160 submissions

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