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Celebrating Southampton's REF 2021 Results

Published: 11 May 2022
REF 2021

The University of Southampton’s outstanding research and impact has been recognised in the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) results, announced today.

Research by 1,412 Southampton academics – comprising 3,227 research outputs published over seven years – was submitted to the assessment exercise, along with 104 impact case studies, 25 environment statements, and an institutional statement.

Ninety-two per cent of the University’s research has been classed as ‘world leading’ (4*) or ‘internationally excellent’ (3*), placing Southampton in the top 10 per cent of submitting institutions. Impressively, our impact is ranked seventh among universities that submitted to more than one Unit of Assessment (‘non-specialist’ universities) across the sector.

The REF is conducted every six to seven years to assess the quality of research across UK universities; to show the quality and output of research on a national and international stage; and to show the impact research has on the academic environment and our society, highlighting its ‘real world’ benefits.

World-leading research

Our staff continue to produce research of the highest quality. Eighty-nine per cent of the University’s 3,227 submitted research outputs have been classed as 4* or 3*, placing us in the top 15 non-specialist universities.

Chemistry and Mathematical Sciences scored particularly highly, with respectively 100 per cent and 99 per cent of their outputs classed as 4* or 3*.

Outstanding impact

Southampton has performed exceptionally well in impact, ranking seventh among non-specialist institutions. This demonstrates the University’s commitment to delivering remarkable real-world benefit from our excellent research.

Impact in three submissions achieved the maximum score of 100 per cent 4*: Computer Science and Informatics; Philosophy; and Psychology, Psychiatry and Neurosciences.

A strong research environment

The University’s strategy, resources and infrastructure have combined to provide an environment which has enabled researchers to produce excellent research and impact. Ninety-seven per cent of our environment statements have been classed as 4* or 3*, placing us in the top 25 per cent of the sector.

Environment statements in two submissions achieved the maximum score of 100 per cent 4* for their environment statements: Computer Science and Informatics; and Allied Health Professions and Nursing.

Congratulations to everyone involved

Professor Mark Spearing, Vice-President (Research and Enterprise), said: “Today is a day for celebration – these excellent REF results are the culmination of years of brilliant work and collaboration across our institution and we can all be hugely proud of our achievements.

“Since the previous REF exercise in 2014, the University has continued to demonstrate exceptionally high quality research and global connectivity across a wide range of subjects. It’s been a strong collective effort, and we can see this in the level of success we have achieved across the University.

“I would like to thank each and every one of you who was involved – 1,412 researchers were included in our March 2021 submission, and this work has been supported superbly by many others, including the RIS Research Performance team and Faculty REF Officers.”

Professor Mark E. Smith, President and Vice-Chancellor, added: “This is a fantastic set of results that we should take great pride in. These results recognise our outstanding people and the quality of our research, and put us in an excellent position from which to deliver the vision for research set out in our new University Strategy. At university-level all aspects of the submission showed real strength, but I was particularly pleased to see just how outstandingly the impact of our research has been rated. My congratulations to everybody involved.”

Research England conducts the REF, along with the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland. The results of the REF are used to inform the allocation of about £2 billion of research funding per year.

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