Oxford University has been rated number one in the UK for the quality and volume of its research.
The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), a large-scale assessment reviewing the quality and impact of research in different subjects at universities across the UK, found that Oxford has the largest volume of world-leading research in the country.
52,000 academics at 154 institutions across the UK were included in the two year long public assessment of university research output.
2,409 members of Oxford University’s academic staff were submitted for assessment in the REF, researching in 31 academically diverse areas. The analysis, produced by Research Fortnight, graded the research using a four star system, where four stars was the best (world-leading), and one star represented research that was recognised nationally. 48.1 per cent of the University’s research was categorised as four stars, while a further 39 per cent was rated 3 stars.
The University also ranked first in 12 individual academic subjects for volume of world-leading research. These covered all the University’s main academic divisions: the medical sciences, humanities, the social sciences and maths, physics, and the life sciences.
Furthermore, the University performed strongly in the new impact category of the REF. Examples of the impact of Oxford University research ranged from a new malaria treatment which has helped save more than a million lives globally to a major database of ancient pottery and gems, used by museums and the antiquities trade around the world.
Professor Andrew Hamilton, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, said, “I welcome our superb REF results, which clearly reflect our outstanding world-leading research. It is pleasing to be ranked in first place, but even more pleasing to see recognition of the fantastic contribution Oxford researchers make to knowledge across a huge range of subjects and of the real impact they have on health, prosperity, policy formation and culture around the world.”
“It is vital — if the full economic, social and cultural benefits of this research excellence at Oxford, and elsewhere in the higher education sector are to be realised — that strong and sustained public investment in leading university research is maintained and indeed increased.”
On Twitter, the University of Oxford declared itself to be “very proud”.
— Oxford University (@UniofOxford) December 18, 2014
The results of the REF are to be used by the four UK higher education funding bodies to allocate £2billion of block-grant research funding to UK universities from 2015–2016. As Oxford ranked first, it is set to accept the largest share of the funding.
The periodic assessment of the quality and impact of university research in the UK ensures funds are distributed selectively on the basis of quality and volume of research carried out at each university. This was previously known as the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), and was last conducted in 2008, where Oxford also placed first.
However, despite Oxford remaining in the top position, London universities are dividing Oxbridge. University College London, which in 2008 ranked 3rd, is now placed 2nd, between Oxford and Cambridge, thus breaking up the historic dominance of these universities.
The London School of Economics was found to have the highest proportion of world-leading research, with 49.9 per cent of its research given four stars (compared to Oxford’s marginally inferior 48.1 per cent, and Cambridge’s 46.8 per cent). Oxford was ranked higher in the REF due to a greater of research, and for a higher score in the impact category.
Students have reacted positively to Oxford receiving the highest funding for research of any UK university. Second year Chemistry undergraduate, Harry Bush, commented: “as an undergraduate it’s evident I had no contribution towards this, but it really excites me for the prospects of being part of some world class and novel research in my 4th year and perhaps beyond”.
Meanwhile, James Blythe, OUSU VP for Access & Academic Affairs, and Louis Trup, OUSU President, were also pleased with Oxford’s performance.
— James Blythe (@OUSU_AcAff) December 18, 2014
— Louis ‘OUSU’ Trup (@OUSU_Pres) December 18, 2014
HEFCE release the exact funding respective universities receive in Spring, so, as the University commented to Cherwell, “While we are clearly in a strong position, we will not know exactly how HEFCE works out the formula until it is announced in March.”