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REF 2021

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions – including publications, performances and exhibitions – and their impact on the economy, public policy, civil society or culture, along with the environment that supports research. 

The outcome of the REF informs the allocation of quality-research (QR) related funding. It contributes to the accountability for public funding and demonstrates the benefits of public investment in research and impact.

REF 2021 results 

Results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, which were published on Thursday 12 May 2022, identified that more than 90% of University of Leeds research has an overall quality rating of “world leading” or “internationally excellent”. 

These results further affirm the impact of the research taking place at Leeds and how it aligns with the University’s strategic objectives to drive down inequalities and build a Fairer future for all.

REF 2021 positions Leeds as one of the UK’s top universities for research and impact power. The results show that the quality of our research is above the higher education sector average.

University of Leeds REF 2021 results are available on our REF 2021 website.

Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor, said: “The University is a values-driven organisation that works with academic, governmental, industrial and third sector partners to deliver world-changing research and create a Fairer future for all. 

“That is why it is so encouraging that the REF 2021 results show we continue to provide research that is shaping the world around us for the better. 

“The results are a testament to the hard work of our researchers, professional services staff and Unit of Assessment leads. I thank everyone who was involved in this monumental effort.”

The University submitted research to REF 2021 spanning the arts and humanities, social sciences, physical sciences, business, biological and environmental sciences, engineering, medicine and health.

Research submitted to REF was broken down into 34 disciplinary units, known as Units of Assessment, and assessed by expert panels. Leeds submitted more than 120 unique case studies as part of 28 returns to 27 of the Units of Assessment. 

The REF 2021 results show that the University’s overall profile for 16 of the Units of Assessment was more than 90% “world leading” or “internationally excellent”.

Read more

In a new Inside Track feature, Professors Simone Buitendijk and Nick Plant pause to reflect on the real successes of our REF results – the positive and inclusive research culture that we’re focused on building at Leeds and how well this supports our strategic objectives to drive down inequalities and build a Fairer future for all.

Further information 

Due to COVID-19, the results announcement was delayed, which is why the exercise is badged as REF 2021. 

A major review of REF took place in 2015, resulting in a number of changes to the methodology for submitting and assessing

REF 2021. Because of this, it is difficult to draw comparisons to the REF 2014 results. 

The sector results and additional information about REF can be found on the REF website.


REF 2021 results – a thank you

A thank you from the University Vice-Chancellor

Inside Track | Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 results

Finding time to pause and celebrate achievement is crucial. Stepping back, we can see the bigger picture, look afresh at the fruits of our hard work and recognise how far we have come.

University of Leeds research delivers real world impact 

Results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 identified that more than 90% of University of Leeds research has an overall quality rating of “world leading” or “internationally excellent”.

Register to attend REF2021 open meetings

Colleagues are invited to attend an open meeting to hear about the latest preparations for REF2021.

Register to attend REF 2021 meetings

Open meetings are being held to update colleagues about preparations for REF 2021.

Browse REF 2021 by date