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Campus - Aston Webb

The latest Research Excellence Framework (REF), a major exercise which evaluates the quality and the broader impact of research in all universities in the UK, has concluded that the University of Birmingham is one of the best universities in the country.

The very best work is scored at 4* by review panels and, on this basis, the University is ranked equal 10th amongst Russell Group universities and equal 13th in the whole UK according to the Times Higher Education.

Highlights include:

  • Ranked 10th in Russell Group and 13th in UK for Grade Point Average (up from 39th in 2014)
  • Ranked equal 10th in the Russell Group and equal 13th in the UK for 4* research (THE)
  • Ranked 12th overall in the UK for Research Power (up from 14th in 2014)
  • More than 50% of research recognised as 4*
  • Largest rise in the Russell Group on percentage 4* and GPA
  • Nine subjects ranked in the UK Top 5 for 4* (individual subject rank displayed in brackets): Physics (1), Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences (2), Computer Science and informatics (3), Philosophy (3), Theology and Religious Studies (3), Area Studies (3), Education (4), Sport and exercise sciences, leisure and tourism (5), Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care (5)
  • 15 subjects ranked in the top 10 for 4*: Those above plus Anthropology and Development Studies (7) Classics (8), Art and design: history, practice and theory (9), Social Work and Social Policy (9), Law (9), Engineering (10).

This is a tremendous result for Birmingham and an unprecedented rise within the Russell Group of leading universities.

Professor Adam Tickell, Vice-Chancellor, University of Birmingham

Commenting on the results, Professor Adam Tickell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, said: “This is a tremendous result for Birmingham and an unprecedented rise within the Russell Group of leading universities. It reflects many years of hard work by outstanding researchers working at the forefront of their disciplines across the University and our clear focus on producing highly impactful research. Today’s results also reflect the strong partnerships we have with industry, health and cultural sectors, working together to deliver solutions for people's lives, society and our planet.

“I would like congratulate and thank all of our community who have been involved – our academics, those who have supported their work, and our partners who continue to invest in and work with us. We have an enormous amount to be proud of and a fabulous base from which to continue to build as we strive towards our ambition of becoming a global top 50 University.”

Professor Heather Widdows, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research added: “I am exceptionally proud and delighted that the breadth and dynamism of our research and its impact has been recognised by the assessment panels. Universities have a vital role to play in bringing diverse people and organisations together to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing individuals, society and the planet, and today is a day to celebrate the quality and impact of research in universities across the UK.”

The University has 15 areas ranked in the top 10 in the UK for 4*, including Physics which was ranked in first place, Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, Computer Science, Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, Sport and Exercise Sciences, Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care Social Work and Social Policy, Engineering, and Law.

The results also recognise the game-changing impact that the University’s research has on global health challenges, tackling inequalities, driving innovation with industry and manufacturing, and addressing climate change. Some of the ways in which the excellent research units at the University are having a direct impact are below:

Transforming health across the globe through new discoveries, treatments and patient care

Researchers at the University continue to work on addressing the impacts arising from COVID-19. From establishing the first of three flagship testing facilities, processing thousands of COVID-19 tests daily, to playing a pivotal role in delivering large scale, rapid genetic sequencing to inform public health response, the University is now leading a major study to better understand how the immune system interacts with SARS-CoV-2 to help develop better diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.

Read more about our research impact on addressing global health challenges

Driving innovation with industry, growing economies and improving livelihoods

The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research in our School of Engineering is Europe’s largest academic-based group that provides world-class research, education, and innovation to the global rail industry, specialising in digital systems and rail decarbonisation. The University is also the lead partner in the £92m UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN), a collaboration between academic centres of excellence and the rail industry, aiming to provide a step-change in innovation in the sector and accelerate new technologies and products from research into market applications globally.

The University’s relationship with the global power systems company Rolls-Royce spans almost two generations. Our collaborative research across science and engineering has helped the company to develop new technologies and skill its workforce. Our £60 million High Temperature Research Centre for research into advanced manufacturing, delivers world-class fundamental and applied research programmes in key areas of investment casting, design for manufacture and systems simulation.

Read more about our research impact on driving innovation

Tackling inequalities, striving to bring about fulfilling lives and a fairer world

Birmingham’s leading School of Education is striving to eliminate inequalities across access to Education, for example understanding the social and educational inclusion of people with vision impairment in order to increase access and improve curriculum and teaching methods in the UK and around the world. In our College of Arts and Law researchers have transformed the public understanding of those who experience homelessness, informing the practice of national homelessness NGOs and helping to secure government commitment to repealing the 1824 Vagrancy Act.

Read more about our research impact on tackling inequalities

Improving understanding of climate change and developing technologies to decarbonise energy and transport

Located in East Birmingham, the University’s Birmingham Energy Institute is supporting Tyseley Energy Park’s mission to transform clean energy innovation in Birmingham and the West Midlands by stimulating and demonstrating new technologies and turning them into commercially viable energy systems that will contribute to the city’s commitments to reduce CO2 emissions by 2030. The BIFoR FACE experiment in Staffordshire has placed University of Birmingham researchers, in a globally unique position to investigate the impact of climate change on trees. Recent discoveries reveal that mature oak trees will increase their rate of photosynthesis by up to a third in response to the raised CO2 levels expected to be the world average by about 2050.

Read more about our research impact on climate change

  • For media enquiries please contact Beck Lockwood, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0)781 3343348.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries. Find out more about the University’s research.