The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a UK-wide assessment of the quality of research in universities undertaken by expert review panels. 

How did we do in the latest REF exercise?

  • We move into the top 10 (joint 10th) of UK universities for research quality, up from 14th position in REF 2014. 
  • All of our subject areas are now ranked in the top 30 in the UK, with four of our Departments positioned in the top five: Language and Linguistics (1st), Philosophy (2nd), Sociology (4th), Education (5th). A further eight Departments are in the top 10: Archaeology, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, English and Related Literature, Health Sciences (including CHE, CRD and HYMS), History of Art and Psychology.
  • Particular recognition was given to the way research is supported at York, through facilities, mentoring and career development, and we rose from 19th to 11th place in this category.

Read our statement on our REF 2021 results to find out more about why REF is so significant.

Departmental results

DepartmentREF comment
Archaeology We’re ranked 6th overall for our research according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021). And 100% of our research environment, the support we give to our researchers, is rated 4* - REF’s highest rating. We’re also rated 5th for the quality of our research outputs. 
Biology Biological Sciences is ranked in the top 10 overall in the UK according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results. Over 55% of our research outputs and 75% of our research environment - the support we give to our researchers - is classed as “world-leading” with 4* - the REF's highest rating.

Chemistry

We’re a top ten department - according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021) -  with the majority of our research and impact rated as a world leading 4* - REF’s highest rating. 
Computer Science We’re a UK top ten research department - according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021) - and 100% of our research impact and our research environment were rated 3* or higher. 
Economics We’re 14th in the UK for research  - according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021). And 92% of our research outputs, 100% of our research impact and 100% of our environment - the support we give to our researchers -  are rated are 3* or 4*.
Education We’re ranked 5th in the UK for research according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021) - and 100% of our research impact is rated at 4* - REF’s highest rating. 
Electronic Engineering We’re a UK top 30 research department according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021). 97% of our research is rated as 3* or higher - in the latest REF results (2021).
English We’re a top ten research department according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021), and 98% of our research was rated 3* and higher. 
Environment and Geography We’ve improved our ranking to become a top 15 research department, and our research is ranked joint second in the UK for impact, according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021). 
Health Sciences
(CHE, CRD, HYMS)
Our research is ranked 6th in the UK for research power in the Times Higher Education ranking of the latest REF results with over 92% of our research rated as world-leading (4*) for impact.
History Our department’s research was ranked 11th in the UK and third nationally for the impact of its research in the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021) . Also, 87.5 per cent of our research impacts were rated at 4* - REFs highest rating. 
History of Art We’re a top ten UK research department. Our research is ranked first in the UK for its impact and environment - the support we give to researchers - according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021).
Hull York Medical School (HYMS) HYMS staff were part of the University of York's top-10 rated REF (2021) submissions in Health Sciences, Biology, Psychology, Education, and Archaeology.
Law We're ranked a top 25 law school in the UK according to the Times Higher Education's ranking of the latest REF results (2021). More than 85% of our outputs are of 3* or 4* quality, REF's highest ratings.
Language and Linguistic Science We’re ranked 1st in the UK for the quality of our research - according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021). Also, 100% of our research impact was rated 4* - REF’s highest rating.
Management A UK top 30 research department according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021). We've moved into the top 25% of submissions, and 100% of our research environment - the support we give to researchers - is rated 3* or higher.
Maths We’re a UK top 20 research department according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021). Also 100% of our research is rated as 4* or 3* in the latest REF results (2021). 
Music We're a UK top 30 research department according to the Times Higher Education's ranking of the latest RED results (2021).
Philosophy 100% of our research’s impact is rated as 4* -  the Research Excellence Framework’s highest rating. And we’re ranked 2nd in the UK in the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021) 
Physics Our research is ranked 13th in the UK according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021). And our research environment - the support we give to our researchers - is ranked 5th. 
Politics We’re ranked in the UK top ten for the quality of our research outputs and our research environment - the support we give to our researchers - according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021) 
Psychology We're ranked 8th in the UK for research and 2nd for research output quality in the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021). Our research environment - the support we give to our researchers - is rated as 4*,  the Research Excellence Framework’s highest rating.
Social Policy and Social Work We’re ranked 11th in the UK for the quality of our research - according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021).  
Sociology We’re ranked 1st for research impact and 4th in the UK for research overall according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021). Also, 100% of our research impact is rated at 4* - REF’s highest rating. 
Theatre Film and Television We’re one of the UK’s top 25 research institutions in the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest Research Excellence Framework results. And 83.3% of our research impact is rated 4* - REF’s highest rating. 

* The REF exercise is a measure of research quality. The rankings within this listing are based on Grade Point Average (GPA) unless otherwise identified. Some rankings are listed excluding single or specialist institutions who returned in fewer than three Units of Assessment. 

Units of assessment

A full breakdown of the results according to the REF units of assessment is shown in the table below.1

Unit of AssessmentYork DepartmentOverall quality profile 
(percentage of research activity at each level)
 4*3*2*1*U/C
2 Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care Health Sciences, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, Centre for Health Economics and Hull York Medical School (HYMS) 55 40 
4 Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience Psychology, HYMS 62  29 
5 Biological Sciences Biology, HYMS 57  36 
7 Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences Environment & Geography 56   38 
8 Chemistry Chemistry 62  36 2
9 Physics Physics 51  47 
10 Mathematical Sciences Mathematics 40  60 
11 Computer Science and Informatics Computer Science 64  34 
12 Engineering Electronic Engineering 34  63 
15 Archaeology Archaeology, HYMS 55  32 13
16 Economics and Econometrics Economics & Related Studies 33  63  4 0
17 Law Law 38  45 16 0
18 Business and Management Studies Management 39  46 15 0 0
19 Politics and International Studies Politics 46  46 7 1 0
20 Social Work and Social Policy Social Policy & Social Work 47  44 8 1 0
21 Sociology Sociology 62  26 9 3 0
23 Education Education, HYMS 63  31 3 2 1
26 Modern Languages and Linguistics Language and Linguistics 67  31 2 0 0
27 English Language and Literature English & Related Literature 61  37 2 0 0
28 History History 58  27 14 1 0
30 Philosophy Philosophy 58  33 9 0 0
32 Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory History of Art  73  16 8 3 0
33a Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies Music  45  39 16 0 0
33b Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies Theatre, Film, Television & Interactive Media  49  37 14 0  0

¹ REF is a subject based exercise, and Units of Assessment do not directly map to departments. Figures here are therefore allocated based on the majority contributing department.

Key

  • Four star (4*): World-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • Three star (3*): Internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
  • Two star (2*): Recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • One star (1*) Recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • Unclassified (U/C): Falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or work which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of this assessment.