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Research Excellence Framework 2021

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

The REF aims to provide accountability for public investment in research and produce evidence of the benefits of this investment, provide benchmarking information and informing the allocation of funding to support research. We submitted 24 subject-based Units of Assessment (UOA) to REF.
Our Units of Assessment
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Research making an impact

Our research brings together the leading minds in their fields who work collaboratively across departments and with our partners to develop new ways of thinking that have a positive impact on societal and global challenges. 

Read our impact case studies



90% world-leading or internationally excellent research.
88% world-leading or internationally excellent outputs.
90% world-leading or internationally excellent research impact.
97% world-leading or internationally excellent research environment.



90 per cent of our research rated '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), and Classics (4th), Theology and Religious Studies (8th) and Sport (10th).

The depth and breadth of our research was demonstrated by more than 1,000 research staff whose research was submitted in 24 different subject areas - an increase of 44 per cent in staff numbers since REF 2014. Full results can be found on the REF 2021 website.
REF 2021 website (external link)
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Impact case studies

From improving people's health and influencing changes in the law, to supporting business and bringing long lost music to new audiences, our research is having an impact around the world.

Visit our Case Study page to read some of the stories behind this amazing work.


Helping species adapt to climate change

Our bioscientists are playing a key role in identifying the impact of climate change on plant and animal life.
Climate change

Supporting voice-hearers and changing perceptions

Our Hearing the Voice project – drawn from research from across the University - is providing resources to help voice-hearers and their families.
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Pioneering research into infant sleep safety

Our Anthropologists have revolutionised research into infant sleep safety and helped reduce rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
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Consumer behavioural profiling results in significant financial gains

Research into consumer behavioural profiling and impulse buying has enabled marketing agencies and companies to build new marketing toolkits.
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93% of our Science research outputs are world-leading or internationally excellent.
198% increase in research power in our Business School.
4 out of 8 departments in Social Sciences and Health are in the top ten for research quality.
5 out of 7 departments in Arts and Humanities are in the top ten for research power.
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Code of Practice

Our Code of Practice sets out the processes we used to prepare our submission. It aims to put in place processes that are fair, transparent and robust, and which support the institution’s legal and regulatory obligations.

Code of Practice (PDF)

Environment Statement

Find out more about our environment for supporting research and impact. 
Our Environment Statement