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Birkbeck reconfirmed as one of the UK's leading research-intensive universities

The majority of Birkbeck’s research (83%) has been confirmed as world-leading and internationally excellent in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF), the UK’s official assessment of the quality and impact of research in universities, published today.

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Birkbeck welcomes the results of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF), proof of the strength of research undertaken at the university as well as its real-world benefits.

What do the results show?

The 2021 REF assesses the quality of research carried out at 157 UK universities in all disciplines.

The research was assessed by 34 panels of experts, each of which reviewed a different area of research.

For every member of staff with significant research responsibility, Birkbeck, along with other universities across the UK, was required to provide evidence of:

  • their research outputs, such as books, papers and chapters published between 2014 and 2020
  • impact case studies highlighting the benefits of the research they carried out over this period
  • the environment in which research was carried out, including the strategy, resources and infrastructure that support research.

The 2021 REF results show that:

  • 41% of our research was rated at the highest 4* rating compared to 27% in the 2014 assessment
  • 83% of all research at Birkbeck is rated ‘world-leading’ (4*) or ‘internationally excellent’ (3*)
  • The quality and impact of Birkbeck research has improved overall since the last assessment in 2014 when 73% of research was rated ‘world-leading’ (4*) or ‘internationally excellent’ (3*)
  • Research was rated in the top 25 nationally in Art and Design (History of Art and Film, Media and Cultural Studies), English Language and Literature, Biological Sciences, Computer Science and Informatics, Earth Systems and Environmental Science, Economics and Econometrics, History (Classics and Archaeology), Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience and Sociology
  • Excellence has been found across the college with more than half (53%) of the Units of Assessment submitted ranking in the top half of all universities in the UK
  • English Language and Literature (Department of English, Theatre and Creative Writing) was ranked 2nd nationally, with 72% of the return assessed as being world-leading
  • Art and Design (History of Art and FMACs) was ranked 4th nationally with 65.4% of the submission assessed as being world-leading
  • Birkbeck confirmed its status as consistently one of the best Psychological Science departments in the UK with the 64% being rated as world-leading and a national ranking of 9th, the third consecutive assessment where the Department has ranked within the UKs top 10
  • History (Classics and Archaeology) was ranked 8th nationally, also with 63% of the return ranked as world-leading

Professor David Latchman, Vice-Chancellor, Birkbeck said: “I am delighted that Birkbeck has been recognised for the quality and breadth of its research and its impact on the world in the 2021 REF.

“We have a long history of supporting socially engaged research of the highest standard across a broad range of disciplines. We are also committed to embedding research in our teaching, so that our students benefit from being taught about society’s most topical and pressing issues by some of the country’s leading academics.

“Birkbeck has shown once again that the quality of its research and its unique research environment outperforms many far larger multi-faculty research institutions.”

Professor Julian Swann, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, adds: “These results are testament to the hard work of academic and research staff at Birkbeck, as well as all those professional services colleagues involved in putting together Birkbeck’s submission to the REF, which was made during a particularly difficult period caused by the pandemic.

“They provide evidence, not only of the quality of research undertaken at Birkbeck, but also of our exceptional research environment. As a research-intensive university, we have a deep commitment to, and focus on, supporting academics to pursue their research interests and carry out research of the highest quality.

“Research is central to our work and the REF signals to our research funders that Birkbeck enjoys a high standing in both the UK and across the world.”

Birkbeck entered submissions in 15 areas (units of assessment). These were: Art and Design; Biological Sciences (joint submission with UCL); Business and Management; Computer Science and Informatics; Earth Systems and Environmental Science (joint submission with UCL); Economics and Econometrics; English Language and Literature; Geography; History, Classics and Archaeology; Law; Modern Languages and Linguistics; Philosophy; Politics and International studies; Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience; Sociology.

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