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REF 2021

Northumbria records biggest rise in research power for second time

Results from the Research Excellence Framework (REF2021) show Northumbria University with the biggest rise in research power ranking of any UK university. Its research power ranking rose to 23rd, having previously risen to 50th in 2014 from 80th in 2008, making Northumbria the sector’s largest riser in research power ranking for the second time. 

Sustained progress by Northumbria has given the city of Newcastle a second research-intensive university, bringing a complementary set of research strengths to the city, and creating with Durham a Northern Research Powerhouse with the largest city-area concentration of researchers outside London. 

Northumbria’s success is the result of a profound transformation over the last 15 years, combining research with existing areas of strength in relationships with business, skills, enterprise and innovation. The full-time equivalent number of Northumbria researchers assessed as producing world-leading and internationally excellent research has jumped from 56 in 2008, to 207 in 2014 and 840 today. At the same time, the quality and impact of research at Northumbria have risen significantly. On Quality-related (QR) power it ranks 28th, again with the biggest rise on this measure.

Professor Andrew Wathey CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Northumbria, said: “Alongside a second major leap in research power, the University’s results have improved in quality, in both absolute and relative terms, and its impact ratings have surged ahead. This outcome moves us clearly into territory formerly the preserve of the Russell Group of universities and other research-intensive institutions. Northumbria is the first modern university to cross the clear blue water that separated the old and the new parts of the sector, and others are following.

“Already a global player in education, admitting students from over 137 countries, Northumbria is now well placed to be a global player in research, acting as an ambassador for the North East".

“The city of Newcastle, combined with Durham, is now host to the largest concentration of researchers outside London creating a northern research powerhouse. This is important for the economy of the North East, for inward investment – public and private – for future collaboration between the universities and business, and for the levelling up impacts of research.”

Northumbria’s transformation demonstrates the power of research to effect profound changes in a university’s stature and outlook, and to deliver benefit across the full range of its activities, including the strength of its contributions to the economy and society. It also demonstrates trends found more broadly across the REF2021 exercise: growth outside London and the South East, showing that levelling up is already working; a rise in impact, reflecting Northumbria’s exceptional university-business collaboration, and more broadly showing that Britain is already an innovation nation.

Northumbria has recorded exceptional results, with growing strength across all subjects.  It is ranked in the top 10 for research power in seven of the thirteen areas in which it entered the REF, and in the top 26 in all areas. In Geography Northumbria’s research power is second only to Oxford, while in Sport and Exercise Sciences its research is rated seventh for impact. Allied Health are joint first for research environment, Social Work and Policy third for research power behind only London School of Economics and Edinburgh, and History top 10 for research output quality.

Northumbria has submitted 1095 staff across thirteen Units of Assessment (UoA) to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. This submission reflects our research across four Faculties and nineteen Departments, incorporating traditional disciplines, such as English and Engineering, modern disciplines, such as Business and Design, and professional disciplines, such as Architecture and Nursing. Find out more by clicking on the Units of Assessment below.

What we call 'research power' is the overall quality of our submission (the 'grade point average' [GPA]) multiplied by the full-time equivalent (FTE) number of researchers submitted.


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