University of Sussex research answers global challenges, as review identifies its ‘world-leading’ quality
By: Alice Ingall
Last updated: Friday, 20 January 2023
A major review has identified the ‘world-leading’ quality of research at the University of Sussex, which tackles the grand challenges of our time. The national independent Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF 2021) found that the University of Sussex’s research is even more impactful than at the time of the last review in 2014.
The Times Higher Education has ranked the University of Sussex 27th of all UK institutions for both ‘Research Power' and 'Market Share' - up from 34th in 2014, based on its analysis of the REF 2021 results.
Additionally, the University of Sussex has placed 32nd in the UK for research impact in the THE rankings – up twenty places from 52nd in 2014. Overall, the University was placed 30th of all multi-disciplinary institutions in the UK (submitting to more than three subject areas) by grade point average (GPA), in the THE ranking of the REF 2021 results. That’s up from 36th in 2014.
The REF 2021 found that 89 per cent of research activity at Sussex submitted is categorised as either ‘world-leading’ (40.6 per cent) or ‘internationally excellent’ (48.4 per cent). What’s more, the proportion of research impact assessed to be ‘outstanding’ or ‘very considerable’ has increased to 93.0 per cent from 80.7 per cent in 2014. These results confirm Sussex’s place as a major research-intensive university in terms of both overall quality of its research and its real-world impact.
The REF is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. REF 2021 is the latest iteration of the review, jointly conducted by the four UK higher education national funding bodies.
According to the THE over half of University of Sussex submissions are in the top 20 of their REF 2021 Subject Areas by grade point average (GPA) in THE REF 2021 rankings:
- Tied first in the UK for the impact of both our Education and our Sociology research
- Tied third highest score in the UK for the impact of our Geography research
- Tied third highest score in the UK for the quality of our Art History research outputs
- Fourth highest score in the UK for the impact of our History research
- Tied fourth highest score in the UK for the impact of our Philosophy research
- Tied sixth highest score in the UK for the impact of our Economics and Econometrics (including trade) research
- Tied seventh highest score in the UK for the quality of our Physics research environment
- Tied tenth highest score in the UK for the quality of our English research environment
University of Sussex researchers are making a real and positive difference at a global level in high-stakes areas such as education, mental health, climate change, sustainability, trade and economics, online extremism, corruption and health. The University’s REF 2021 results cover research that sheds light on:
- Improving education outcomes and practice for migrants
- Shaping policy on international trade in a post Brexit era
- Informing the humanitarian response to Ebola
- Leading the way on crowd safety through social psychology
- Curbing corruption in public procurement and aid
- Disrupting the online activity of extremist and terrorism networks
- Improving childbirth conditions
- Redesigning climate tech policy and funding models to meet the needs of developing countries
- Influencing a ban on bee-harming insecticides
- Enabling clinical diagnosis and treatment of genetic diseases with immune or neurological dysfunction
- The adoption of public policy on quantum computing and its economic benefits
The significance and diversity of University of Sussex research impact is reflected in the results from this latest exercise, with Sussex scoring particularly highly for benefits it has brought about beyond academia, compared to the previous REF. One hundred per cent of both Education and Sociology were awarded the top grade of 4* - ‘outstanding’ – by the REF 2021 for impact. And at least three quarters (75 per cent or more) of research impacts submitted by Chemistry; History; Art History; Philosophy; and Geography were also assessed as ‘outstanding’.
The quality of University of Sussex research overall was also recognised in the REF 2021 results. In six of Sussex REF 2021 subject area submissions, 50 per cent or more of the overall research was assessed as ‘world-leading’ (4*): Psychology, Psychiatry & Neuroscience; Education; English Language & Literature; History; Art & Design: History, Practice and Theory; and Communication, Cultural & Media Studies. Additionally Sussex submission to these and three further REF 2021 subject areas were in the top 25 per cent (‘upper quartile’) of their UK submissions: Computer Science and Informatics; Business and Management Studies; and Sociology.
Professor David Maguire, Vice-Chancellor at the University, says:
"Research that makes a real difference to humanity is at the core of what makes the University of Sussex such a special institution, and we’re therefore delighted that the world-leading quality of our academics’ research has not only been recognised by the REF 2021, but has significantly surpassed our results from the 2014 review.
“We know that Sussex academics and students work tirelessly to bring about positive change through their research endeavours. It’s research which has been used to inform public policy debate, to influence reforms across the political, legal, education and health sectors, to help in the fight against climate change and extremism, to protect the biodiversity of our wonderful planet, and to improve the lives of our global community.
“As we celebrate 60 years of Sussex, it’s fantastic to see that our researchers remain at the forefront of tackling the world’s biggest challenges.”
A full breakdown of the University’s REF 2021 results can be found on the University REF webpages.