Research Excellence Framework 2021

The University of Birmingham has received an outstanding vote of confidence in the quality of its research and contribution to society in the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

Campus - Aston Webb

The latest REF has concluded that the University of Birmingham is one of the best universities in the country with 15 areas ranked in the top 10 in the UK for 4* research. These include 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 Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a national process of expert review, carried out by panels made up of senior academics, international members and research users for each of the 34 subject-based Units of Assessment (UoAs).

Global Health Challenges

Within the College of Medical and Dental Sciences we are improving the health of people across the world through new discoveries, treatments and patient pathways and working in partnership to build a transformative health ecosystem in our region.

Our submission involved research carried out by 315 staff, submitted to three UoAs, and comprising over 750 outputs. Our average percentage of eligible staff submitted across the UoAs was 92%.

REF 2021 confirmed our position among the UK’s top research universities:

  • Our Clinical Medicine (UoA 1) research has seen significant growth, as demonstrated by our rise from 25th in REF 2014 to joint 11th (GPA) with a research power ranking of 6th
  • Our Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care (UoA 2) research is now in the UK’s top 5 (GPA) with a research power ranking of 12th
  • 100% of our impact case studies in UoA 2 were deemed to be 4* – outstanding in terms of reach and significance
  • We are ranked in the UK’s top 20 (GPA) institutions for Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy (UoA 3)

Some of the ways in which our research is having a direct impact include:

  • We established the Mirena coil as the first-line treatment option for women with heavy menstrual bleeding. This research has improved quality of life and changed national clinical guidelines.
  • Over 400,000 people in the UK have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with major consequences for individuals, health services and society. Our Rheumatology Research Group has improved outcomes for people with RA by facilitating and optimising early treatment regimens.
  • Research led by the Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research has delivered transformative care for Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension. Her discovery science identified two novel therapeutic targets to treat IHH and is now going extra-terrestrial in research funded by the UK Space Agency.
  • Our School of Pharmacy led the development of SCRIPT with Health Education England and OCB Media, an eLearning programme to improve safety and competency among healthcare professionals around prescribing, therapeutics and medicines management. 

Building a transformative health ecosystem

We are a founding member of Birmingham Health Partners, a strategic alliance of NHS, academic and industry organisations, representing a critical cluster of health excellence, rapidly applying scientific and clinical insights into patient benefit.

The Precision Health Technologies Accelerator (PHTA) is a business innovation facility that will soon occupy the top three floors of No.1 BHIC – the flagship building of the ambitious new Birmingham Health Innovation Campus that is being delivered in partnership with Bruntwood SciTech.

Providing approximately 70,000 square feet of state-of-the-art incubation and collaboration space, PHTA is a catalyst for health and life science businesses to succeed. 

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