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University of Hull hits research high – as one of highest risers in UK

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The University of Hull is one of the highest risers in the UK and the highest riser in Yorkshire for research excellence – according to new rankings from Times Higher Education (THE) published today.

The University’s world-leading research has been recognised in the results of the long-awaited Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) – the UK’s system for assessing the excellence of research in Higher Education.

The University of Hull is one of the highest risers nationally. Among Yorkshire’s universities, Hull is the highest riser and now in the top 4 – with the universities of York, Leeds and Sheffield taking the top 3 spots (REF 2021).

The results, as reported by THE, rank the University of Hull as 55 (joint) out 157 institutions – and mark another significant success for the University as it moves up the rankings.

The University is one of the highest climbers – increasing its overall ranking by 17 places from 72 (REF 2014) to 55 (joint). For research impact, the University has climbed 23 places to 42 (from joint 65th in 2014).

Following the recent announcement that the University of Hull was named in the top global 100 for Impact by Times Higher Education (THE), the REF results confirm the calibre of the University’s research in terms of impact and output. 

Research at Hull drives improvements to healthcare

Dr Dave Richards, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Hull, said: “I am delighted that the University of Hull’s excellence in research has been recognised in this way – and that we are confirmed as one of the highest risers in the sector.

“We have improved in all areas and it is very pleasing to see that we have doubled our research graded at 4* – World leading, and the impact of research scoring is highly reflecting our strong partnerships and collaborations: from driving improvements to healthcare in our region and beyond to working towards the eradication of modern day slavery.

“These outstanding results are indicative of our wider improvements as a University across a range of measures, such as the teaching excellence framework and the THE global impact rankings, and reflects the positive direction of travel for the University.

“I would like to pay tribute to all colleagues and teams across the University who have worked incredibly hard for many years on our REF contribution – as well to all our external partners in industry, local government, NHS and essential services, and education whose partnership enables us to make a difference in our communities through our research.”

Break The Chain, the University of Hull’s campaign to raise awareness of modern slavery

Other highlights of the REF results for the University of Hull include:

  • The University’s overall score has improved from 2.7 in the last REF in 2014 to 3.1 – a significant increase.
  • Our research graded as world-leading (4*) has doubled.
  • 82% of our research is recognised as world-leading or internationally excellent (4*+3*).
  • All Units of Assessment have improved.
  • The University has made improvements greater than the sector average improvements in all areas of the REF – Outputs, Impact and Research Environment.

The University’s research is diverse in focus and interest: From social work and social policy to widening participation in music education, and from improving energy efficiency to tackling doping in sport – the research underpins teaching and demonstrates how the University is making a difference to people and communities – regionally, nationally and globally.

Tackling some of the world’s most critical challenges, the University is driving advances in healthcare and sustainability, addressing inequalities in health outcomes and wellbeing, developing solutions to combat climate change, and building understanding that will equip our students to make a difference.

Harnessing research and expertise to address these challenges is fundamental to the University’s 2030 Strategy, driven by its vision to create a fairer, brighter, carbon neutral future,

Rooted in the University’s nearly-100-year history, the strategy reflects our passion and expertise in social justice and environmental sustainability. It reflects our fundamental belief in the power of higher education to drive positive change and provides a roadmap for the University’s contribution to tackling vital issues through the pursuit of our academic endeavours and strengthening collaboration with our local communities and industry partners.

The University demonstrated the breadth of its research with submissions to 15 areas. Initial scores reflect the combined results achieved under each Unit of Assessment. Submissions were from the University’s Energy and Environment Institute, the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation and four faculties: Arts, Culture and Education; Business, Law and Politics; Health Sciences; Science and Engineering. In many cases, academics across the University collaborated to work on Units of Assessments.

Highlights of other rankings success for the University of Hull

* Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, released last month, named the University of Hull in the top global 100 for impact. These global rankings are based on the United Nations’ (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With remarkable successes in a number of impact categories including peace and justice, inequalities, partnerships, life below water, the 2022 ranking shows the University of Hull is taking action taken towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are an urgent call for action for countries to work in partnership, to address global challenges, to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

* The University’s improved performance over the last three years saw the University rise by 53 places in the Guardian University Guide and by 51 places in the Times Good University Guide since 2019.

* The rise of 53 places in the Guardian University Guide is the greatest increase experienced by any university in its rankings during this period.

* Among the universities in the Yorkshire and Humber region, the University of Hull is ranked 4th by both the Times and The Guardian.

The highest ranking subjects in the Guardian are as follows: American Studies ranked 1st out of 9 institutions nationally, with Physics placing 7th out of 44. Earth & Marine Sciences ranked 9th out of a total 36 institutions, as Education also made the top 10, placing 9th out of 83.

Researcher in the University’s HIVE virtual reality simulator

What is REF and why does it matter?

The REF is carried out approximately every 6-7 years and is one of the key ways to: assess the quality of research across UK universities; show the quality and output of the research on a domestic and global stage; highlight its real-world benefits and the impact research has beyond academic environment, on societies and economies.

REF is used to inform the allocation of Quality Related funding from Research England and it also enables universities to benchmark with peer institutions, as well as helping to shape their strategic direction and their understanding of larger sector-wide trends.

A strong research performance as measured by REF helps to attract researchers and postgraduate students to the University, and also feeds into a number of league tables, which in turn play an important part in undergraduate student recruitment.

It allows the University to showcase some of the fantastic research and impact from across the University – not only to external audiences, but also to inspire students, encourage those starting their research journey and to celebrate its success as a community.

A research output is any form of research published, or otherwise made publicly available, within the set period, such as chapters in books, designs, exhibitions, journal articles, authored books and performances.

The research environment looks at the strategy, resources and infrastructure that support research.

Each participating university was required to submit outputs from all staff with significant responsibility for research with 157 UK universities participating in the exercise.

The University of Hull is committed to social justice and building an inclusive society. Driven by its vision to create a fairer, brighter, carbon neutral future, the University is working to provide solutions to global challenges associated with climate change as well as widening social inclusion – shaping a society that is built on equity, integrity and respect, tackling inequalities and ensuring that every member of its community feels, valued, respected and supported.

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