The University of Birmingham’s arts and humanities researchers have been ranked among the best in the world in a UK-wide research quality survey released today.

The results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 place Birmingham in the upper echelons of the UK for the quality and impact of its research across a host of arts and humanities disciplines.

Birmingham’s Department of History is ranked the best in the country, with 87% of its research rated as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*) in terms of its quality. Research in the department spans the medieval to the modern, including topics such as China’s Middle Period, the material culture of the early modern household, and non-governmental organisations in modern Britain.

Professor Nicholas Crowson, Head of the Department of History at the University of Birmingham, said: ‘We are delighted that the quality and scope of our research has been recognised in REF 2014.

‘We are particularly pleased that we have achieved this following some significant staff recruitment over the past few years. What makes Birmingham’s result so special is that it has been driven by a large number of dynamic, highly skilled academics at the top of their fields, yet who are in the early stages or first half of their careers. They make the Department of History a really exciting place to work, and their best is yet to come.’

Professor Corey Ross, Head of the School of History and Cultures at the University of Birmingham, added: ‘We are delighted to find that our history research has been regarded so highly by our peers. Over the past several years we have built up an unusually broad geographic and chronological range of expertise in the department, and this result demonstrates real excellence across the board.’

Philosophy research at Birmingham is ranked second overall in the UK, with 80% having a global impact and 83% rated at 4* or 3* level for quality. The Department of Theology and Religion and the Department of African Studies and Anthropology – assessed in the REF as area studies – are also placed second. Ninety-three per cent of Birmingham’s area studies research is rated as 4* or 3*, while the figure is 79% for theology and religious studies.

Dr Nikk Effingham, Head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham, said: ‘We are overjoyed with our performance in the REF. To have secured second place in the country is an absolutely superb result for us and one that the entire department has worked hard to achieve. We are particularly proud of our score for impact – the joint highest in the UK – because striving to ensure our research has a strong, positive effect on the world is an important part of our ethos.

‘The department has recently expanded, adding a host of senior and junior staff, as well as crafting a world-leading research culture. We are very pleased that our work, such as Professor Heather Widdows’ ethics work with UK Biobank, has been recognised in this way.’

Also ranked among the country’s best is Birmingham’s research in Classics, with 81% rated as 4* or 3* and almost half having a global impact.

Overall, more than 81% of all research carried out at the University of Birmingham is rated as world-leading or internationally excellent in REF 2014. Additionally, 87% of Birmingham’s research activity has demonstrated global impact.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, Professor Sir David Eastwood, said: ‘At Birmingham, pioneering innovative solutions that address big issues, unlock value and benefit society is at the heart of our research agenda. Today’s results put us among a handful of institutions that can demonstrate world-leading or internationally renowned research across such a broad range of subjects.’


For further information, please contact Stuart Gillespie in the University of Birmingham press office on +44 (0)121 414 9041. Out of hours, please call 07789921165.

University of Birmingham

  • The University of Birmingham was named The Times and The Sunday Times University of the Year 2013/14.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked among the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 4,000 international students from nearly 150 countries.
  • The University collaborates with partners across the world to produce ground-breaking research, deliver innovative teaching, and to create opportunities for students and staff to gain international experience.

Research Excellence Framework 2014
The four UK higher education funding bodies allocate about £2 billion per year of research funding to UK universities, based on the quality and volume of each university’s research. They aim to support a dynamic and internationally competitive UK research sector that makes a major contribution to economic prosperity, national wellbeing and the expansion and dissemination of knowledge.
The four UK funding bodies are: the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Scottish Funding Council, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and Department for Education, Northern Ireland.

Aims of the Research Excellence Framework
To distribute funds selectively on the basis of quality, the funding bodies assess universities’ research through a periodic exercise. This was previously known as the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), and was last conducted in 2008.
The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) replaced the RAE. It assessed the quality and impact of research submitted by UK universities across all disciplines. The results will be published in December 2014 and will be used by the funding bodies to allocate block-grant research funding to universities from 2015-16.
As well as informing funding allocations, the REF provides accountability for public investment in research, demonstrates its benefits, and provides important reputational yardsticks and benchmarking information about the research performance of UK universities.

REF 2014 key facts

  • 154 UK universities took part. They made 1,911 submissions for:

                – 52,077 academic staff
                – 191,232 research outputs
                – 6,975 impact case studies

  • 36 expert sub-panels reviewed the submissions, overseen by four main panels
  • around £2bn per year of research funding will be allocated on the basis of results