Research is ’world-leading’, major review finds

University of Sussex research is ’world-leading’, major review finds

The University of Sussex carries out world-leading research that has a positive impact on people’s lives, the outcome of a review of research in the UK has revealed today (Thursday 18 December).

The results of the Government-commissioned Research Excellence Framework (REF) show that 98 per cent of research activity at Sussex is categorised as ‘world-leading’ (4*), ‘internationally excellent’ (3*) or ‘internationally recognised’ (2*).

From advancing understanding of the human brain and discovering new drugs, to influencing climate-change policy and rethinking economics, Sussex researchers are at the forefront in tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges. Sussex is also pioneering new approaches across arts and humanities research, such as major developments in digitising history and transforming poetry culture, the review found.

Professor Michael Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University, says:

“This is evidence that Sussex’s research is not only of an international quality but is also making a major impact in the UK and around the world. We are part of a great British success story and the work of our researchers has proven to be of real benefit to communities and businesses both globally and locally.

“Whether it’s our work in neuroscience, health, or across culture and society, it’s particularly rewarding that the University is helping to improve and enrich people’s lives and that we’re able to take the funding which results from this report and put it back into critical research programmes.”

Sussex received outstanding scores for overall research quality in biosciences, English, history, media and film, and psychology – being placed in the UK’s top 15 in each of these areas of research. In particular, Sussex’s history research outputs were rated highest in the UK for quality and English ranked ninth.

Sussex scored particularly highly for the impact on real people’s lives of its research in anthropology, geography, international relations, media and film, and psychology. In psychology, 84 per cent of the research impact was rated as 4* (“outstanding reach and significance”), while geography at Sussex had the most 4*-rated impact of any geography submission across the UK.

This is the first time that research’s impact on the wider world has been assessed in such a comprehensive way.

Visit the University’s REF results web page for a full breakdown.

The REF is the biggest assessment of research excellence in the world. Over the past year, panels of academics, policy makers and industry experts have read and analysed nearly 200,000 research outputs and impact case studies produced by 50,000 UK academics.

The results are used to distribute around £2 billion of research funding every year to UK universities.

The University will now undertake a detailed analysis to identify areas of research that would benefit from further investment.

A number of impact case studies and videos have been produced that celebrate the benefits that Sussex research is having both nationally and internationally.

University of Sussex press office: James Hakner and Jacqui Bealing, 01273 678888 or email press [a] (p) uk.

Sussex is a progressive university delivering innovative thought and action, with a worldwide reputation for excellence in learning, research and discovery. Its distinctive approach leads to the development of high quality new research which crosses traditional boundaries, benefits and enriches society, and influences policy at international, regional and national levels.


The four UK higher education funding bodies allocate about £2 billion per year of research funding to UK universities, based on the quality and volume of each university’s research. They aim to support a dynamic and internationally competitive UK research sector that makes a major contribution to economic prosperity, national wellbeing and the expansion and dissemination of knowledge.


To distribute funds selectively on the basis of quality, the funding bodies assess universities’ research through a periodic exercise. This was previously known as the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), and was last conducted in 2008.
The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) replaced the RAE. It assessed the quality and impact of research submitted by UK universities across all disciplines. The results will be used by the funding bodies to allocate block-grant research funding to universities from 2015-16.

As well as informing funding allocations, the REF provides accountability for public investment in research, demonstrates its benefits, and provides important reputational yardsticks and benchmarking information about the research performance of UK universities.

REF2014 key facts

  • 154 UK universities took part. They made 1,911 submissions for:
    • 52,077 academic staff
    • 191,232 research outputs
    • 6,975 impact case studies.
  • 36 expert sub-panels reviewed the submissions, overseen by four main panels
  • around £2 billion per year of research funding will be allocated on the basis of the results.

By: James Hakner
Last updated: Thursday, 18 December 2014