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The international standing of research at Durham has been confirmed in an exercise looking at the quality of research at the UK’s universities and its impact on society. 

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 assessed subjects across our four faculties of Arts and Humanities, Business, Science and Social Sciences and Health. 

Internationally excellent 

Over ninety-nine per cent of our research was rated as being of international quality, while 90 per cent was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent*. 

Six Durham subject areas were in the UK top ten for the overall quality of their research including Geography (1st), Archaeology (2nd), Education (2nd), Classics and Ancient History (4th), Theology and Religion (8th) and Sport and Exercise Sciences (10th). 

The depth and breadth of the University’s research was demonstrated by more than 1,000 research staff who submitted research in 24 different subject areas - an increase of 44 per cent in staff numbers since the last REF, in 2014. 

Benefitting society 

In total, nearly 100 case studies were put forward for assessment in REF 2021 (which was delayed until this year due to Covid-19), demonstrating how our research benefits areas such as society, culture, health, the economy, policy and the environment.    

Examples of impactful research at Durham include: 

Positive impact  

Professor Colin Bain, our Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), said: “Our research brings together the leading minds in their field to work collaboratively across departments and with our partners to develop new ways of thinking that have a positive impact on societal and global challenges. 

“The Research Excellence Framework recognises the benefit of this cross-disciplinary working, which is producing ground-breaking research and is central to enhancing global knowledge and developing global citizenship. 

“We seek out regional, national and international partners to share our academic expertise and student talent, supporting their ambitions and ensuring our research makes a difference. 

"We are continuing to grow our academic staff numbers and we have invested heavily in staff in subjects such as Computer Science, Psychology, History, Sport and Exercise Sciences, Law and Business, and our new researchers have contributed to our strong performance in all these fields. 

“I am extremely proud of all of our outstanding researchers and support staff whose hard work is affirmed in the REF results published today and I congratulate them for it.” 

*‘World-leading’ constitutes a 4* rating; ‘internationally excellent’ a 3* rating; and ‘international quality’ a 2* rating. 1*-rated research is described as ‘national quality’. ‘Unclassified’ falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. 

Find out more 

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