18 December 2008

Sheffield among Top 10 for research power

The University of Sheffield is among the top ten in the Russell Group, the association of leading UK research-intensive universities, according to today´s (18 December 2008) results of the independent 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The results confirm the University's position as a world-leading university with an international reputation for research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Sheffield's quality, breadth and volume of research activity is further demonstrated by the fact that research carried out by 93% of the University's academic staff submitted is internationally recognised and in many cases world-leading. The University is also among one of only ten universities in the country that submitted more than 40 units of assessment, with over 90% of our eligible staff included in the RAE.

41 out of the University's 49 submissions had 50% or more of their work assessed as 4* and 3* in the rigorous 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). These grades are only awarded to departments who are recognised as world leading or internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour.

Each of the University's Faculties has world-leading research. The subjects of Politics and Town and Regional Planning came first amongst other UK Higher Education Institutions for the quality of their research. A further nine subjects were ranked in the top five. These include: Architecture, Automatic and Control Systems Engineering, Biological Sciences, Clinical Dentistry, French, Human Communications Sciences, Information Studies, Mechanical Engineering, Philosophy and Russian and Slavonic Studies.

All of the University's subjects in the Faculty of Engineering, 8 out of 9 subjects in the Faculty of Science, 9 out of the 10 subjects in the University's Faculty of Arts and Humanities and 11 out of 13 subjects in the Faculty of Social Sciences had 50% or more of their work assessed as a 4* and 3* rating, confirming Sheffield´s international reputation in these fields.

The results of the RAE, in which the quality of research carried out by staff in every university department is independently assessed, have been published today (18 December 2008) by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

The RAE measures the quality of research conducted in universities and other Higher Education Institutions in the UK against international standards of excellence. The RAE results are of importance to universities because they determine the level of research funding that is awarded by the Funding Council. They also help to guide investment decisions by industry, charities and other organisations that sponsor research, and give potential students and staff an insight into the quality of UK universities research.

Sheffield's success in the 2008 RAE will enable it to continue to recruit the best research staff and students, carry on building strong links with industrial and research partners, and sustain investment in its facilities.

The 2008 RAE results contribute to a successful year for the University. The University was recently awarded five prestigious EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training. Sheffield will lead two of the Centres and will partner with other UK universities in three. The Centres represent a bold new approach to training PhD students, creating communities of researchers working on current and future challenges. In securing five of the 44 Centres, the University of Sheffield has confirmed its reputation for research excellence in the fields of energy research, metallurgy, nuclear energy and advanced engineering for the water sector.

The University also received royal recognition when it was awarded its fourth Queen's Anniversary Prize for the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing. These awards publicly recognise the University´s significant contribution to our intellectual, economic, cultural and social life of the nation.

Sheffield's success in the RAE complements the University´s existing strengths in teaching. The most recent National Student Survey (NSS) ranked Sheffield third against the Russell Group, the twenty top research-intensive universities in the UK, for its excellent learning experience for its students. Many of our highest performing research departments also topped the NSS subject tables, demonstrating the University's strength in providing a stimulating teaching environment at the cutting-edge of knowledge.

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) institutional audit also commended the University for its good practice in monitoring the teaching and learning experience, its student support systems and relationship with the Union of Students, and the high standard of the information it produces for the guidance of students.

Commenting on the outcome of the RAE, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Keith Burnett said: "Sheffield's RAE results reflect the University´s international standing in the research community and will further strengthen our reputation for leading-edge research that brings benefit to society at large.

He added: "I am really pleased with the large number of our academic staff who submitted their excellent research to the RAE. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to all staff who have been involved in the RAE process and congratulate them on their success. At Sheffield we carry out world-leading research and the RAE is a rigorous benchmark which reaffirms the University´s significant research profile."

Director General of the Russell Group, Dr Wendy Piatt, said: "Russell Group institutions continue to be the UK's leading research universities, driving the UK's reputation for high-quality research and bringing considerable economic and social benefits to the UK. 'Gold medal' rankings show that 18 of the 20 universities which were top of the class on the quantity of world leading research were from the Russell Group.

"This success is good news for the UK, as major research-intensive universities are vital to promoting economic prosperity and improving quality of life in this country."