Research Excellence Framework 2021

Find information about the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and the Department's results in 2021.

It is very pleasing to receive recognition of the excellence of our research, and of our thriving intellectual environment. The LSE Department of Economics continues to be at the forefront of efforts to investigate the most pressing economic challenges of our time.

Francesco Caselli, Head of Department

Our Department has been ranked 1st overall in the Economics and Econometrics Unit of Assessment in REF2021. We continue to fulfil our mission to be leaders in research, economics education, and public engagement, both at the national and international level. We achieved this by producing original ideas that advance our understanding of economic interactions and shed light on major international policy debates. This allows us to rank among the top economics departments worldwide by academic publications and research impact.

REF 2021 Results Summary

Department of Economics highlights:

The results for the 2021 Research Excellence Framework reflect the Department's outstanding contribution to Economics, ranking us 1st overall, amongst all other UK HEIs submitted to the Economics and Econometrics Unit of Assessment. This means that when our scores for research output, research impact, and research environment are combined we have the highest average in the UK.

We were ranked 1st overall for our Research Environment, which reflects the total number of research degrees awarded since the last REF in 2014, the research income received in that period and how the Department has supported research and impact over that period. 

The results show that 70 per cent of the Department's research output was graded at 4 star, or world leading (the highest category). In addition 70 per cent of the submitted impact case studies were classed as 4 star with 30 per cent as 3 star.

LSE highlights:

LSE’s outstanding contribution to social science research has once again been recognised by the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF). LSE is shown as the top university (of multiple submissions) in the UK based on the proportion of ‘world-leading’ (4*) research produced. LSE is also the joint second ranking university in the UK overall, when considering research outputs, research impact and research environment.

58 per cent of LSE’s research was judged to be world-leading (4*) and 35 per cent was deemed to be internationally excellent (3*).

Research Excellence Framework 2021

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system by which the UK’s higher education funding bodies assess the quality of research in publicly funded UK higher education institutions (HEIs). REF 2021 comprised three elements:

  • academic outputs, comprising a portfolio based on the FTE of REF-eligible staff submitted; 

  • research impact, submitted as a number of impact case studies (ICSs) in proportion to the total FTE of REF-eligible staff submitted;  

  • research environment, comprising the total number of research degrees awarded between 2014 and 2020, total research income received over the same time period, and an environment statement detailing how the submitting unit(s) supported research and impact over the period.

Outputs, impact and environment were weighted 60:25:15 respectively.  All three elements were graded on a scale from 0 (unclassified) to 4* (world leading) and the results were published as quality profiles showing the percentage of outputs, impact and environment considered to meet each of the starred levels.  Submissions were invited to 34 Units of Assessment (UoAs); LSE made 15 submissions to 13 UoAs across the SHAPE subjects.  

For REF2021, HEIs were required to submit research outputs by all eligible members of staff.  Each submitted member of staff could submit between one and five outputs, with the total number of outputs per UoA calculated as total FTE of staff multiplied by 2.5.   

Staff were eligible for REF2021 where they were on a teaching-and-research or research-only contract of at least 0.2 FTE on 31 July 2020 and had a substantive connection to the submitting HEI. Research-only staff also had to be classified as independent researchers.  HEIs were also required to identify which eligible staff had significant responsibility for research.  LSE submitted 100% of its staff meeting these definitions, but other HEIs had eligible staff who did not have significant responsibility for research and hence had a submission rate of less than 100%. 

See here for a full glossary of REF terminology.