REF 2014 confirms Sheffield as a world-leading university

The University of Sheffield has confirmed its place as a world-leading university with an international reputation for research excellence across a wide range of disciplines following the results of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), published today.

Firth Court mainThe results demonstrate excellence across research, putting Sheffield in the top 10 per cent of all UK universities. The quality, breadth and volume of the University’s research activity are demonstrated by the fact that 86 per cent of the research submitted by the academic staff has been rigorously judged as world leading or internationally excellent.

The University was one of only three in the country to make 35 or more submissions in different subject areas. Of the 35 submissions, 23 were judged to be in the top ten in the Russell Group for the quality of their research outputs.

The submission for biomedical sciences, including staff from the faculties of both Science and Medicine, achieved particularly outstanding results, coming top in the UK in its Unit of Assessment for subjects allied to healthcare. History, Politics, and Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, were each ranked third best in the country. A further six departments were judged to be in the top five: Biological Sciences, Computer Science, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering (with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre), Education and Architecture, Landscape and Town and Regional Planning. Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Law and Music were ranked in the top ten amongst other UK higher education institutions.

Commenting on the outcome of the REF, the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University, Professor Richard Jones, said: “The Research Excellence Framework is a rigorous assessment process that has demonstrated just how powerful the UK’s university research base is, and the University of Sheffield is proud to have been judged to be a very strong player in that system.

“The results really confirm the quality of what we are doing in the University, right across all faculties and disciplines. They are very strong results, and it is particularly gratifying to see that in every discipline there is a high fraction of work judged to be of the highest international quality.

“The new feature this year was measuring impact: assessing just what difference the work that we do in the University makes in the outside world. Across the University there are many powerful examples of this; how our work helps patients by finding new medicines and assessing the best ways of treating them, how it boosts jobs and growth by creating spin-out companies and helping existing companies develop new products and processes, and how our work impacts policy and enriches the cultural life of the city and nation.

“We are particularly pleased to see that today’s REF results confirm that we are one of the strongest universities in the North of England; we are ready, with our partner universities, to work together to help build strong foundations for a Northern Powerhouse.

“This has been a huge amount of work - for all the academics who have put submissions together and for all the Professional Services staff who have supported them. It’s taken a lot of energy and a lot of effort from many people, but it has been worth it to get this independent and thorough assessment of how good our research is and what a difference we are making to the world outside. I think we can all be very proud of these results.”

Other excellent results for research impact were achieved by the School of Health and Related Research, Biomedical Science, Politics, Human Communication Sciences and Architecture, Landscape and Town and Regional Planning. The University’s strengths across the board mean that Sheffield students are taught by some of the very best researchers in their fields.

The 2014 REF results cap a successful year for the University. In May, the University was named number one for student experience in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey and a few months later the Students’ Union was voted the best in the UK for the third year running in the National Student Survey (NSS) 2014.

Additional information

The REF is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. It replaced the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), last conducted in 2008.
The 2014 REF was conducted jointly by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland (DEL). The REF was managed by the REF team, based at HEFCE, on behalf of the four UK higher education funding bodies, and was overseen by the REF Steering Group, consisting of representatives of the four funding bodies.
Each submission was assessed by a team of academics and industry experts and awarded up to four stars. For the first time 20 per cent of the overall score was judged on the impact the research has had outside academia. Alongside impact, research was also evaluated in terms of the quality of research output (65 per cent) and the research environment (15 per cent), which includes factors such as the number of graduates.
The primary purpose of REF 2014 was to assess the quality of research and produce outcomes for each submission made by institutions. REF results are important to universities because as well as the funding bodies using the results to inform the selective allocation of their research funding to higher education institutes, the assessment also provides accountability for public investment in research and produces evidence of the benefits of this investment and gives potential students and staff an insight into the quality of UK universities research.
The assessment outcomes provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks, for use within the higher education (HE) sector and for public information.
Previous Research Assessment Exercises were carried out in 1986, 1989, 1992 and 1996 and 2001 and 2008.

In the 2014 REF ratings of research quality are expressed on a five-point scale:
4* Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
3* Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which nonetheless falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
2* Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
1* Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
u/c Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 26,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.
A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.
Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.
In 2011 it was named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards and in the last decade has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.
Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.
Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline and Siemens, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.
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