Vice-Chancellor news

REF 2021 – research that matters

Dear all,

I’m writing to offer my heartfelt thanks and congratulations to everybody who contributed to the Research Excellence Framework 2021.

Your collective endeavour has resulted in the University being ranked 14th in the UK on research power and 19th on quality. We rank 11th for the reach and significance of our impact, and 16th for environment and culture. Ten of our 23 submissions rank in the top quartile for overall performance. Thirteen of our 23 submissions are ranked in the top quartile for research impact.

These results are very good news for Cardiff, and the culmination of a strategy whereby in 2014 we maximised grade point average with the intention of maintaining or improving that dimension whilst maximising inclusion this time round. In tune with that, we took a wholly inclusive approach to submission. The result was that we almost doubled the number of individuals submitted to REF while increasing the proportion of 4* research. Cardiff has demonstrated breadth, depth and quality: 90% of our research has been classified as world leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), an almost 5% increase compared with our far more selective 2014 submission.

Our KPI for REF was to achieve 12th position on research power (the combination of quality and volume). This was always a stretch target and we can be very happy with our 14th position on that measure, up from 18th last time.

This success belongs to all the academic staff whose excellent research contributed to the submission, and to the professional colleagues who facilitate their research in such exemplary fashion. A special mention is due to everybody who worked so hard on Cardiff’s submission, at the peak of the pandemic, in circumstances that were not conducive to the detailed and meticulous work required to craft each statement. It is difficult to single out individuals — hundreds were involved across the institution — but it would be remiss of me not to thank Professor Kim Graham and James Vilares for the dedication and commitment they have shown throughout the REF process, as well as the consistent support that they have given to colleagues right across the institution. I know that many others have already expressed their gratitude.

We will take some time to analyse the results in more detail, and there will be many further opportunities for reflection on what lessons we might take from the results. As with any REF, and the Research Assessment Exercises in the past, not everything always goes to plan. I realise there may be pockets of disappointment but these exercises are snapshots of a continuous effort, and there will be plenty more chances in the future. Overall, the picture is very good for Cardiff, and as ever, our strength lies in our community, which is a real example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Today’s results mean that we can turn our minds to the future direction of research at Cardiff with optimism and confidence, knowing that we will continue to work together to create research that really matters.

With best wishes

Colin Riordan

Vice Chancellor