Research quality is at the heart of the University, as we believe that excellent research enhances teaching quality and is an essential attribute on the global academic stage. Our commitment to excellence is evidenced in our consistently strong RAE performance over the years.
However, we are not complacent and will be seeking to further increase the proportion of our research activity that is regarded as world leading (the highest accolade) or internationally significant in the Reasearch Excellence Framework (REF) in 2014.
Research Assessment Exercise 2008
The RAE of 2008 confirmed Birmingham's position as the West Midlands' top university.
90% of the University’s research has global reach, meaning it is recognised internationally in terms of its originality, significance and rigour.
Birmingham was ranked in the top five for its research in Primary Care, Cancer Studies, Psychology, Sport and Exercise Sciences, Music, European Studies and Physics.
We are ranked 12th in the UK overall (out of 159 institutions) in the Research Fortnight University Power Ranking, based on the quality and quantity of UK university’s research output.
We are delighted that the subjects listed below were regarded as being among the leaders in the UK, and the University is currently investing in facilities to further enhance the quality of work undertaken in these disciplines.
The following research areas featured in the top ten in the Research Fortnight’s Power Ranking based on the 2008 RAE results.
Primary Care (1st in the United Kingdom)
Our Primary Care researchers are ranked top in the UK. Their research impacts on the health services that play a central role in our communities, providing the world's front-line medical staff with the latest knowledge and clinical advancements to assist them in delivering the best care to the individual. With a world class research programme focusing on the impact of major diseases among the population, the researchers also have significant expertise in smoking cessation, clinical decision-making, exercise and how ethnicity affects health.
For more information please visit the Primary Care website.
Sport and Exercise Sciences (1st in the United Kingdom)
Joint first in the country for Sport and Exercise Sciences, researchers at the University have been conducting world-leading research into the pursuit of sports excellence and the importance of physical activity in tackling global health problems, such as those associated with ageing and obesity.
For more information please visit the Sport and Exercise Science website.
Music (2nd in the United Kingdom)
Sir Edward Elgar composing and teaching at Birmingham as our first Professor of Music to our multi-million pound investment in a state-of-the-art Bramall Music Building (due for completion in 2012), music is at the heart of University life. In the 2008 RAE, 85% of our research was ranked as either world-leading or internationally excellent. Supporting our long tradition of research in composition, early music and performance practice, and electroacoustic music – Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST) is an international leader in this field.
For more information please visit the Music website.
European Studies (2nd in the United Kingdom)
European Studies was ranked second for its research into European politics, economics, history, law, culture and society. The European Research Institute (ERI) acts as a hub within several national and international research networks, reflecting its commitment to a broad and interdisciplinary approach to European Studies.
For more information please visit the European Research Institute website.
Cancer Studies (2nd in the United Kingdom)
Birmingham houses the leading Cancer Studies centre outside London (second only to the Institute of Cancer Research). Particular strengths include cancer cell signalling, the DNA damage response, gene and immunotherapy and cancer viruses. The University has one of the largest clinical trials capacities in Europe. We are also host to the first Cancer Research UK centre in the country to support and embed our internationally significant research.
Psychology (3rd in the United Kingdom)
Psychology at Birmingham is the leading department for this subject in the region and ranks third in the UK. Psychology research has resulted in greater understanding of the relationship between brain, mind and behaviour, and the application of this understanding to human problems. Demonstrating the impact of the research on society, our research is already helping with alcohol and drug-related issues, and the impact of drugs in other potentially addictive behaviours such as gambling.
For more information please visit the Psychology website.
Physics (5th in the United Kingdom)
The quality of Physics' research activity puts it comfortably within the top five in the UK. Researchers in particle physics have been heavily involved with the world’s biggest physics experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva. Researchers are also part of a worldwide collaboration that is looking for gravitational waves – tiny distortions of space-time that were predicted by Albert Einstein in the early 20th century, but have never been directly detected. This is one of the most fundamental research areas in modern science, as the direct observation of these waves will allow totally new insights into the physics of black holes and may provide a direct view of what happened just after the Big Bang.
For more information please visit the Physics and Astronomy website.
Computer Science (7th in the United Kingdom)
Placed as 7th in the UK in the latest RAE, Computer Science research is world-leading and is one of the few areas that has seamlessly integrated fundamental research (Natural Computation Group), knowledge transfer (CERCIA, the Centre of Excellence for Research in Computational Intelligence and Applications) and teaching (MSc in Natural Computation), with all three components funded externally.
The School of Computer Science also hosts the multi-million pound Doctoral Training Centre in Imaging, and the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory. This research has been expanded to include on interdisciplinary collaboration with the University's new Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robotics (CNCR) centre developing robots to retrain the ageing brain and create the next generation of intelligent robots.
For more information please visit the Computer Science website.
Mechanical Engineering (7th in the United Kingdom)
Mechanical Engineering is ranked seventh in terms of its world-leading and internationally excellent research. This includes vehicle technology, especially investigating the interaction of fuel and engine to explore performance of new fuels and to minimise emissions, as well as developing intelligent systems for predicting component failure during the lifetime of a vehicle. The microengine, invented by mechanical engineers at the University, is a tiny engine only a few millimetres wide that could replace a standard battery. This could be used to power mobile phones and laptop computers in a matter of seconds thereby eliminating the need to recharge them frequently.
For more information please visit the Mechanical engineering website.
Law (7th in the United Kingdom)
Law, another small but high powered research team, is ranked seventh in terms of world-leading or internationally excellent research. The academics provide a focus for research in Judicial Administration, European and Medical Law and this is evidenced through the £750,000 grants secured over the last five years and includes research for the Ministry of Justice for major empirical projects on juries, small claims, civil enforcement, lay magistrates and the satellite tracking of criminal offenders.
For more information please visit the Law website.