UEA’s research confirmed as ‘world-leading’ by national assessment

Published by  Communications

On 12th May 2022

World of lights with a really bright light shining from Norwich

The global significance and real-world impact of the University of East Anglia’s (UEA’s) research has been confirmed by a major nationwide analysis released today (Thursday 12 May).

The Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF2021) has classified 91 per cent of the University’s research as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.

The result also puts UEA in the top 20 of Times Higher Education's (THE's) overall ranking table for REF2021, moving up from 23rd in the previous REF in 2014, to 20th. 

UEA’s world-leading research covers science, health and medicine, social sciences and the humanities, and influences some of the biggest societal and human issues facing us today, from transforming the lives of children in state care to providing the global temperature records which inform international climate change.

REF is a major assessment of research quality in UK universities, organised by Research England, to assess the quality and impact of research at UK universities. A total of 157 UK universities submitted research projects to the REF, with individual submissions given a star rating, up to 4*.

Ninety-one per cent of UEA’s submissions were judged to be either 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’), a rise from 82 per cent in the previous REF in 2014 and significantly higher than the national average of 84 per cent. Of the 91 per cent of world-leading and internationally excellent submissions, 47 per cent was rated as 4*, ahead of the national benchmark of 41 per cent.

UEA Vice-Chancellor Prof David Richardson said: “As the sixth-most highly cited University in the UK according to Times Higher Education, UEA has always had a strong reputation as a research-intensive institution. But more than that – our research matters because it has real-world impact, drives change and improves lives.

“These REF results are confirmation of that, and I am exceptionally proud to be able to say that UEA’s research is actively making a positive difference, demonstrating a huge return on public investment in research and helping to give Norwich and East Anglia a place on the world stage.”

Prof Fiona Lettice, UEA Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: “REF2021 has been an enormous collaborative effort across the University, and is the outcome of years of hard work from hundreds of academics and support staff members, and I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this successful result.

“The outcomes today highlight the diverse and rich ways that UEA research is benefitting society and confirm our position as a globally significant centre of research with a track record in creativity and innovation.”

UEA’s submission to REF2021 included 1,836 outputs from 793 researchers from all of the University’s 20 Schools of study, as well as partners at Norwich Research Park, along with 73 impact case studies and 23 environment statements.

As well as an overall ranking table, THE also produces individual institutional tables for each of REF's 34 subject-based Units of Assessment. UEA entered 23 of these and were top in the UK for Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Sciences, and in the top five in five others:


1st: Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Sciences 

2nd: Anthropology and Development Studies (and 1st for Development Studies only)

3rd: History (up 23 places from 2014) 

4th: Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences 

4th: Social Work and Social Policy 

5th: Area Studies 


The results of REF2021 will be used to allocate around £2 billion of research funding to UK universities each year, with provisions for individual institutions being made later in the year.

Find out about UEA’s REF2021 submission and explore the University’s life-changing research, at www.uea.ac.uk/research.

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