REF 2021 | Research Excellence Framework


LSE’s leading role in Politics and International studies research has been confirmed in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021).

We are one of the largest, most research-intensive units in the country, and our research was rated in the top three of all UK institutions, with 57.7 per cent of submitted publications being graded ‘world-leading’. Across all areas of assessment, 95 per cent of our work was graded ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.

Our outstanding Research Environment was also recognised by the REF 2021 panel, which ranks us 5th in the UK for:

  • Ensuring the future health, diversity, wellbeing and wider contribution to the discipline, including investment in people and infrastructure
  • Generating external research income
  • Number of doctoral degrees awarded
  • Effectively sharing and managing research data
  • Enabling impact from our research, and its contribution to the vitality and sustainability of the wider discipline, research base, economy and society

Our research was submitted with the Department of International Relations to the UoA19 – Politics and International Studies panel, with additional contributions from the Departments of Methodology and Gender Studies.

About The REF

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