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The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has published the results of its Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 today, 18 December 2014. The REF is the method for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

The REF results, published on 18 December 2014, show the University of Oxford accounting for more world-leading (4*) research in the social sciences (Main Panel C) than any other institution, across the nine (out of eleven) units of assessment to which it submitted.

Almost half of Oxford’s submission in the social sciences was judged to be “world-leading” (4*), increasing from almost a third in RAE2008.  Almost 85% of Oxford’s submission was evaluated as being 4* or 3* (“world-leading” or “internationally-excellent”).

Across the eight social sciences units of assessment to which it made submissions,  Oxford  made the largest submission in terms of staff FTE (20% greater than the second largest), making the proportion of 4* and 3* ratings even more impressive. In the social sciences category (Main Panel C), Oxford submitted over 84% of eligible staff.

A Research Power index (the grade point average of Oxford’s quality profile multiplied by the full-time equivalent of staff submitted for evaluation), which reflects the scale of high quality research and researchers at the institution, has increased by 25% for Oxford’s social sciences compared to RAE2008, relative to a 13% sector-wide increase.

Oxford’s investment in researchers at all career stages has produced exceptional “research environment” results. Across all the social sciences’ units of assessment to which Oxford submitted, the research environment was evaluated as 4* or 3* (i.e. as “world-leading” or “internationally-excellent”).

Oxford has also demonstrated the reach and significance of the impact of its research in the social sciences on wider society, well-being, social change, business and the economy and through engagement with policy, culture and social debate. Almost 95% of research impact was evaluated as 4* and 3* (“outstanding” or “very considerable”).

Some of the highlights results from the units of assessment to which we submitted include: Social Policy, Development Studies and Education were all top for grade point average; Economics, Law, Politics and Anthropology were all top for power; Geography was 2nd for power and was one of the five units within the Division which ranked 100% 4* for environment (Geography, Economics, Social Policy, Politics and Education) – for panel 17, Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment was the only geography department to achieve this 100% 4* for environment; Archaeology was the top Archaeology-only submission for grade point average; Business was 4th for quality (out of 101 submissions); Sociology was 5th for quality and 4th for power.

Social scientists at Oxford were also included in the submission to the Area Studies (Main Panel D) unit of assessment, in which Oxford was ranked 1st for power. The Oxford Internet Institute submitted to nine units of assessment (Sociology, Politics, Economics, Geography, Law, Education, Computer Science, Philosophy, Psychology) across all four academic divisions of the University, a story of multi-disciplinary excellence.

Professor Roger Goodman, Head of the Social Sciences Division, said: “The outstanding results from the REF confirm Oxford as a powerhouse of world-leading research in the social sciences, as judged through expert review by external peers and users of the research undertaken at Oxford.”

“Oxford has a truly extraordinary depth and breadth of world-leading research and researchers in the social sciences and their work is helping to shape the approach to tackling some of the greatest challenges facing society today.”

Professor Goodman added, “The results demonstrate that, far from standing still since RAE 2008, Oxford has further advanced its position at the forefront of world-leading research in the social sciences.”


Oxford submitted to the following units of assessment in Main Panel C:

17 Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology; 18 Economics and Econometrics; 19 Business and Management Studies; 20 Law, 21 Politics and International Studies; 22 Social Work and Social Policy; 23 Sociology; 24 Anthropology and Development Studies; 25 Education.

Oxford did not submit to 16 Architecture, Built Environment and Planning; and 26 Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism.

Institutional information

For more information, please consult the University's main REF pages:

Media Enquiries

All media enquiries should be directed to the University's News and Information Office:

Media Relations Manager (Social Sciences), Maria Coyle