REF 2021

Submission receives highest score

We are delighted that our exceptional contribution to the field of Social Policy has been recognised in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF), with our submission obtaining the top-ranked score.

These results are a testament to the commitment of our academic community not only to producing exceptionally high quality research, but also to fostering the next generation of researchers, and to ensuring that the findings on the real-world issues they engage with are translated into policy and practice

Professor Lucinda Platt, OBE, Head of Department

Our research in the Department of Social Policy was submitted to the Social Work and Social Policy Unit of Assessment alongside that of colleagues in the Departments of Health Policy, Psychological and Behavioural Science, Gender Studies, and Methodology.

  • 99 per cent of research outputs (articles, books, etc.) were graded world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*).
  • 70 per cent - more than any other submission - were deemed world-leading (4*).
  • All our Impact Case Studies were graded world-leading (4*).
  • Our outstanding Research Environment was also given the maximum score of 100% graded world-leading (4*).
  • We obtained the highest overall score of all units in UK higher education that were submitted under the Social Work and Social Policy Unit of Assessment.

The recognition of our outstanding research outputs, impact and environment reflects our strong commitment to our mission to provide world-leading research and to influence policy, practice, legislation, and public understanding on social policy challenges facing countries around the globe.

More than 75 staff were included in this assessment of research excellence. They submitted over 1,350 peer-reviewed articles in leading disciplinary, field and policy journals, over 50 books, more than 240 book chapters, and over 250 research reports (all of which were produced since 2014 when the last REF was conducted). Our research was clustered under eight headings reflecting the range of our research expertise and policy input: Poverty, Inequality, and Wealth; Health and Health Policy; Social Care; Families and Children; Crime and Criminal Justice; Work and Welfare; Race, Ethnicity, and Migration; and Governance and Institutions.

Our high level of engagement with research users outside the university, and our ability to influence policy and practice in tangible ways is reflected in the work of both individual academics and researchers in affiliated research centres.



For example, researchers in the Department and in the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) developed an influential Multidimensional Inequalities Framework for states to monitor 10 life domains including living standards, health, education and security. Showcased in one of our REF2021 Impact Case Studies, this framework has been used by the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission to measure compliance with UN human rights treaties, and has been employed by campaign and advocacy groups such as Oxfam who have applied the framework in Spain, Guatemala, Burkina Faso and Vietnam.



A lifetime of engaging with neighbourhood housing management, to enhance tenant participation and meet housing needs, was recognised in the high rank accorded Anne Power’s Impact Case Study. It demonstrated direct influence on policy development at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, including through the Lessons from Grenfell research programme. Speaking to key public issues of the day, such as fuel poverty,  low energy efficiency, and fire safety, the Housing Plus Academy, has connected social housing tenants, front-line staff, senior decision-makers, government, and third-sector organisations.



Continuing the Department’s long-standing tradition of influencing how official statistics measure household income and income inequality, Stephen Jenkins’ ground-breaking research has improved the measurement of top incomes and changed official practice. His Impact Case Study showed how supplementing household survey data on incomes with information from income tax data about the very richest individuals leads to more accurate estimates of income inequality levels and trends. Part of this research showed that inequality in the UK today is as high as it was just before World War II. Stephen’s work directly informed how the Office for National Statistics constructed its new official data series for income inequality.


Our world leading research generates high levels of political and public interest with hundreds of national and international media interviews and articles since 2014 – from outlets in the UK and the US to China, South Korea, Qatar, and beyond. The extensive programme of public lectures, seminar series, exhibitions, workshops, keynote talks, conferences, and roundtables our staff have contributed to further illustrate our engagement. Similarly, we regularly provide policy advice, including in relation to sudden and emerging crises, such as on the impacts of the COVID pandemic and Brexit.



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%.