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Vice-Chancellor news

Vice-Chancellor’s December all-staff email

18 December 2014

Dear colleague

Well it’s been a long wait but finally the results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 are in, and it’s great news for Cardiff. Amongst UK universities we rank fifth behind top-ranked Imperial College London, then LSE, Oxford and Cambridge for the quality of our research. We rank second in the UK on the impact measure. This is a truly exceptional achievement: our best ever research assessment result and a rise of 17 places by comparison with the 2008 exercise. In The Way Forward we made a bold statement setting out our ambition to come in the top 10 for quality in the REFon the basis of a selective submission. As it turns out we submitted comparable numbers to Durham, Exeter and Liverpool and still were able to achieve an extremely high standard which allows us to say with confidence, based on independent assessment, that we are a world-leading research university ranking not only in the top 10, but in the top 5 in the UK. This means that we have emphatically achieved one of our most important Way Forward key performance indicators. The two indicators referring to league table position – top 100 in the QS World Rankings and top 20 in the Times – will also benefit from this outstanding performance.

Amongst other highlights it’s great to see that Civil Engineering and Construction emerged as the top Unit of Assessment (UoA) in the UK, whilst 6 of our 27 UoAs came in the top 5 on quality. In addition to UoA 14 Civil and Construction Engineering, these are UoA 04 Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience (2nd in the UK), UoA 36 Communication, Cultural and Media Studies – effectively the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies – (2nd in the UK), UoA 23 Sociology (3rd in the UK), UoA 03 Allied Health (joint 4th in the UK), UoA 25 Education (joint 5th in the UK). In total 15 of our 27 UoAs rank in the top ten for quality. On the impact measure 5 of our UoAs rank first in the UK. These are UoA 16B Architecture, Built Environment and Planning, UoA 14 Civil and Construction Engineering,UoA 36 Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, UoA 15 General Engineering and UoA 28 Modern Languages and Linguistics (including the School of Welsh). These are particular successes but I must emphasize that of course, this great achievement is the result of a team effort right across the University.

In that spirit I would like to express heartfelt thanks to everybody who contributed. Those in the front line are the academic colleagues whose work was submitted, but many more supported the submission through their contribution to impact cases, to PhD supervision and to the research environment. We could not have made the submission without all these inputs and I would like to recognize that here. We also had 22 panel members, including 3 chairs, who put in a huge amount of work and ensure that we at Cardiff did our bit in enabling the whole peer-review exercise to be carried out for the benefit of all the subject communities involved. The newly-formed Business Intelligence team, working more widely with the Planning team and College data analysts, did a fantastic job of analyzing and presenting the data, and indeed will continue to do so for some months and as we move into the next REF period; we would be very stuck without this high-level expertise and we can look forward to their involvement in many other important aspects of University information requirements. The Information Services team did a sterling job of ensuring all the IT needs were met, supporting all the colleagues mentioned above along with the Communications team who are working from Main Building for the week, working until midnight on results day to get the correct data and messages out. As I mentioned over a year ago now when we put in our submission, a huge number of people have been involved in this whole seven-year process and I can’t mention them all by name, but the Research Deans, Rick Delbridge, Justin Lewis, Malcolm Mason and Roger Whitaker have all put a huge amount of effort in and I would like to thank them all.  Thanks also to all members of the REF Subgroup that met monthly for over three years and ensured that Cardiff’s submission was as well informed as it could possibly be. Chris McGuigan expertly shepherded us through until April 2013, and Mark Gumbleton provided a superb piece of software that anybody involved with REF at Cardiff is very familiar with and that gave us a real advantage in shaping the decision-making process. Terry Threadgold and Sue Midha ensured that the equality and diversity requirements were met so that we could be as fair as possible to all colleagues as well as complying with HEFCE requirements. Hywel Thomas took us through to submission as PVC Research and did an outstanding job. None of this could have happened without the superbly calm expertise provided by Jane Boggan, who I believe deserves particular credit for a process that was exceptionally well done. Everybody should be extremely proud and happy of what we’ve achieved: I certainly am.

When I first came here I often heard that we were in the habit of hiding our light under a bushel. I’m quite sure that we have stopped doing that and that REF 2014 will give us a spectacular opportunity to let the world know what a great university we have here at Cardiff. Claire Sanders, our Director of Communications and Marketing, has done a great job of co-ordinating and disseminating the key messages on REF 2014 as well as on other important successes for the University since she arrived in June. With her team Claire has introduced a new showcase for our research called Challenge Cardiff which you can see here. January will see the introduction of an intranet which will make internal communications much easier and more effective too.

Along with our less high profile but no less important success in Institutional Review a few months ago, the REF result has made 2014 a true annus mirabilis for Cardiff University. We’ve had lots of other successes too of course, and a few things that haven’t gone so well. But we can enter the Christmas holidays feeling that it’s been a very good year. I would like to thank all colleagues for their efforts and their commitment, and I’m delighted that we’re seeing the fruits of all this hard work. I’d like to wish everybody a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year, and please do spare a thought for those colleagues keeping the infrastructure going over the vacation.

With best wishes

Colin Riordan