Headshot of Professor Dame Jessica Corner outside Trent Building

May 13, 2022, by Rob Ounsworth

REF2021 results: congratulations and thank you

Update from Professor Dame Jessica Corner

Results from REF2021 yesterday reaffirmed the University of Nottingham’s reputation as one the UK’s leading research universities.

I am grateful to colleagues from across our university who made our submission possible and helped deliver our very good set of results.

This include academics, research support teams, postgraduate research students, technicians, REF coordinators, impact officers, library and HR colleagues, digital and technical colleagues, PPSE and finance colleagues, external relations and marketing colleagues and of course, colleagues from Research and Innovation.

I would also like to recognise that our monumental submission was only made possible by a great deal of goodwill, which came in many different ways and far beyond producing the research itself. As examples, anyone who gave time to complete a book or publication, write an impact case study or coordinate a unit submission will have been supported by someone else who may have covered teaching responsibilities or administrative tasks. Everyone has contributed and now shares in our success.

Our hybrid meeting to finalise the REF2021 results messages 

Please look out for acknowledgements of such contributions from individuals and teams towards REF2021 on digital screens around the university, and on social media over the coming weeks.

Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West joined me in thanking many colleagues for your remarkable efforts at the REF2021 celebration event following yesterday’s publication of results, which also reflected on the enormity of REF2021 with 76,000 staff from 157 institutions participating.

The university is placed 7th in the UK for Research Power, which takes into account a combination of the quality of our research, its international impact, critical mass and sustainability. We are placed 25th in the UK for Grade Point Average (GPA) – an improvement from 26th place in REF2014.  Our own analysis using Times Higher Education methodology places the university 24th in the UK for Research Intensity adjusted GPA, which takes into account the proportion of eligible staff returned – an improvement from 28th place in REF2014.

The number of research outputs assessed by REF2021 as 4* “quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour” has increased by 50% – against a target of 40% in our 2017 research strategy. Our GPA has improved to 3.34 in REF2021 from 3.09 in REF2014, against a national average of 3.23 in REF2021 and 3.01 in REF2014.

An overview of our results can be found on the university’s Research Excellence Framework pages; for full details of the university’s REF2021 assessment, alongside that for other institutions, please visit the REF2021 website.

I have been privileged to work with the whole university community on the monumental work involved in our submission to REF2021:

  • 1,803 colleagues submitted
  • 4204 outputs to demonstrate the quality of our research
  • 135 Impact Case Studies, 675 pages of primary narrative; 10000+ pages of evidence; and an incalculable amount of additional data
  • 29 Environment Statements, one  Institutional Environment Statement a total of 318,000 words equivalent to at least three PhD theses!

This huge undertaking justifies our share of £2bn of public funding for research nationally per annum and allows us to evidence the remarkable impact of our research on the world.

Critically, REF endorses the role the university research plays in contributing to and benefiting society. In the REF2021 assessment period (2014-21), the lives of more than 100 million people have been positively changed by our research. We saved the NHS £2 billion, thanks to research including influencing vaccine policies, evidencing the value of community pharmacies and helping GPs reduce prescription errors. Legislation informed by our discoveries touches the lives of every UK citizen, from improving road safety, to safeguarding children online to protecting consumers.

We submitted 135 impact case studies to REF2021, and more than half of these are featured as profiles and ‘research stories’ on the impact section of our website.

From next week, please look out for and share our campaign – From our world to yours – celebrating the impact of our research. Look out for #WeAreUoNResearch and follow @UoNResearch.

There will be much heralding of rankings and league tables by universities in the coming days and weeks, but there is also important commentary in the research press that too much focus on this is what makes research culture damaging and unhelpful.

It is worth noting that REF2021 is said to have captured a better picture of research than the last REF in 2014, with evidence of a wider regional distribution of research excellence. As Steven Hill, director of research at Research England and chair of the REF steering group, said, this demonstrates “that the UK’s research system is well placed to meet the government’s ambitions for levelling up”.

It is important to focus on the crucial role of universities in driving this, and on the impact of our research.

And while REF2021 demonstrates that we have raised the quality of our research and this improvement is relative to the rest of the sector, it also brings into view the level of competition we face in maintaining and building on our current position. Such assessments are by no means the sole way in which we should value excellence in research and we must continue to deliver research of the very highest quality.

Our new university research strategy affirms our commitment to do just that and supports our drive to transform our research culture. We know we need to do more and do better to improve our research culture and to raise our ambition further while also increase inclusivity and opportunities for all.

Please support this by taking part in  our research culture survey and sign up for one of the research culture workshops taking place between Monday 16 and Thursday 26 May.

These one-hour, open discussions will explore emerging themes and findings from our research culture survey and help us plan interventions that positively influence our working environment and change how we behave.

By sharing your insights and experiences, you will truly make a difference and help build a picture of how research is experienced and supported at Nottingham.

Finally, please do take time to reflect on our REF results. I look forward to building on this success while working with you to focus on areas for further improvement.

Thank you once again for your amazing support and goodwill.

Best wishes

Jessica Corner's signature


Professor Dame Jessica Corner
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange







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