Research and Knowledge Exchange

Research Excellence Framework

We are delighted to share the results of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), which confirm the outstanding quality and impact of our research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions, and evaluates the quality of our research publications and outputs, our research environment, and the societal and economic impact of our research.

Overall, the University came 4th in the UK for the breadth and quality of our research (based on the Research Professional ranking). Within the submission, our College returned 1,130 staff across 20 Units of Assessment. 86% of our submission was assessed as being world-leading or internationally excellent. Of the 19 Units we led or joint led, two came first in the UK for breadth and quality (Sociology, and Anthropology & Development Studies). Thirteen were ranked in the top 5.

Collegial research environment

We are incredibly proud of our research environment score, which achieved a remarkable 100% in the two top categories of world-leading and internationally excellent. This part of the assessment measures the ‘vitality and sustainability’ of the schools and research centres in which research and impact is supported.

This is a wonderful recognition of collegial, supportive and inclusive research culture. Within CAHSS we celebrate the contribution all of our staff made to the REF – not just our researchers, but our technical and professional services, our postgraduate and early career researchers, and our students, all of whom contribute to our flourishing environment.

Wider impact

Our impact case studies span an extraordinary spectrum of the benefits our research makes to society in Scotland and internationally – helping tackle pressing challenges such as climate change and healthy ageing as well as enriching and preserving cultural heritage.

By working with partners and contributing expertise to public, private and third sector organisations, we have helped improve policy and practice in key areas such as criminal justice, education, and health; developed leadership, skills and capability in a range of businesses including in the creative industries; as well as fostered critical reflection and informed debate on our history, politics and identity. You can read more about the impact of our research on the Edinburgh Impact site.

Edinburgh Impact