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Internationally renowned experts have independently judged Ulster University as being in the top 10% of UK Universities for 4* and 3* research impact, delivering a positive and long-term impact on societies and economies globally. The evaluation comes as part of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) assessment.

REF is an independent assessment by internationally renowned experts of the quality, impact and significance of research carried out by UK funding bodies every seven years. The findings show that Ulster University has world leading expertise across a number of fields that impact across economic sectors and society globally.

Ulster University has increased its level of 4 star rated world-leading research, the highest accolade that can be awarded, with 87% of its research rated as either world leading or internationally excellent.

Headline results for Ulster University include:

  • In the top 10% of UK Universities for 4* and 3* research impact
  • 97 % of Ulster’s research impact having outstanding or very considerable impacts in reach and significance
  • 80.1% of Ulster’s research outputs have been assessed as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’
  • Top in Northern Ireland for research in Psychology, Geography, Business and Management Studies and Architecture and the Built Environment.
  • Joint first in the UK for world-leading research impact in Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts and Screen Studies
  • Joint first in the UK for 100% of world-leading research environment in the Allied Health Professions
  • Joint first in the UK for 100% of world-leading and internationally excellent research impact in Psychology, Computer Science, Engineering, Architecture & the Built Environment, Geography & Environmental Studies, Social Work & Social Policy, Education, Sport & Exercise Science, Modern Languages & Linguistics, Art & Design, Music Drama, Dance, Performing Arts and Screen Studies, Media Studies and Business and Management Studies.

Ulster University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Bartholomew said:

Today we celebrate a REF performance that reflects seven years of research, commitment and partnership within our Ulster University research community.  Congratulations and thanks to all those who have contributed to our REF submission and this well-deserved outcome.  And thanks also to those Ulster academics who brought their expertise and leadership to the REF 2021 assessment as members or chairs of sub-panels.  Our strategy to put our research to work on behalf of society and the economy is reflected in our UK top 10% ranking  for 4* and 3* research impact and our preeminent position in Northern Ireland.

This superb outcome for Ulster University confidently builds on our 2014 outcomes and demonstrates the depth and breadth of our research in diverse disciplines. The emphasis we place on research with impact is fundamental to the purpose of the University, our research community and our many partners in other universities and sectors, so I’m delighted that this has been recognised through this process.

Through our rigorous enquiry, the sharing of findings, the formulation of recommendations and the developing of solutions, our research is central to Northern Ireland’s research and development ecosystem. It also informs our teaching at Ulster, transforms thinking while addressing the challenges of our time, both around our region and around the world.   

The past two years of the pandemic have highlighted just what a force for good academic research can be in our society. Being first in the UK for research environment across the allied health sciences places us among the very best in the UK and delivers the conditions in which our researchers make a tangible difference to health outcomes. The REF outcomes point to the relevance and practical application of our research, which has far-reaching impact and global significance.

From heart disease to mental health, from renewable energy and emerging technologies to clean water, access to justice and societal issues such as violence and conflict - in these areas and many more, Ulster University is driving life-enhancing outcomes for individuals, communities and economies.  With sustainable futures for all a core commitment of the University’s emerging strategy, our commitment to environmental sustainability is shown by the overall enhancements in Geography and Environmental Sciences and with Architecture and Built Environment seeing the largest increase in the size of its submission.

Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research, Professor Liam Maguire said,

At Ulster University we are committed to creating an environment which supports, promotes and enables research excellence. Over 96% of our research environment has been assessed as conducive to producing research of world-leading and internationally excellent quality and empowering outstanding impact. This entirely reflects the quality, commitment and leadership of our research community, our investment in research, our worldwide contribution and the strength of our partnerships and collaborations.

Ulster works hard to create a vibrant and supportive home for our researchers including PhD researchers, sharing knowledge and skills through non-government organisations, and across diverse industries and sectors.  This investment ensures that we create the spaces in which our research will thrive.

In recent years we have brought research disciplines closer to each other and closer to industry and it’s this close collaboration that drives the research and innovation projects that will be part of NI’s City and Growth Deals now and in the years to come.

View the Ulster University’s REF impact case studies on our website.