More than 70% of published research carried out at the University of Sunderland has been rated as either world-leading or internationally excellent in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework results released today.

Every six years or so, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) assesses the quality of research in the UK’s higher education institutions.

Just over 100 researchers from Sunderland were entered in the REF across a wide range of subject areas.

The University has doubled the proportion of world-leading or internationally excellent research since the REF was last held in 2014.

In addition, Sunderland’s Grade Point Average (GPA) – the aggregated ‘score’ for the overall quality of research – shows a significant improvement since 2014. As a result, the University’s GPA ranking position has improved by 30 places.

Areas of particular strength highlighted in the REF were arts and creative subjects, engineering, health sciences, social work and English.

The results also reflected the impact of the University’s research on individuals, businesses and public and charitable sector organisations across the region and well beyond.

Commenting on the REF 2021 results, University Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Sir David Bell, said: “Today’s results recognise the outstanding effort, wide contribution and continuing success of our research-focused academics.

“Through their work, society is being shaped for the better and our students continue to benefit from being taught by world-leading and internationally excellent experts.

“The REF results across the country as a whole demonstrate the vital role that universities play in ensuring that the United Kingdom continues to be a world leader in research and innovation.

“That brings social, economic and cultural benefits to individuals and communities up and down the land.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Young, responsible for the University’s academic portfolio, including the delivery and quality of research, commented: “Our priority was to improve on our 2014 performance and that we have done by some distance.

“These results reflect the dedicated, imaginative and innovative work undertaken by academics at our University.

“Their research makes a real difference to the individuals, organisations and businesses with whom we collaborate.”

The REF is a peer-review exercise involving expert researchers, as well as the users of research from industry, business, and the public and third sectors.

The assessment rates the research through: the quality of research outputs, such as books, journal articles, conference proceedings and datasets; the strength of the impact of research – the difference research makes beyond the University and the quality of the research environment – policies in place to support staff and doctoral students, facilities and resources and the contribution of academic staff to their discipline.

Research, innovation and knowledge exchange (KE) are central to the University of Sunderland’s work, from research-informed teaching to collaborations that promote the city and region within the UK and internationally.

Research England’s first Knowledge Exchange Framework highlighted Sunderland in the top 10% of universities nationally for contributing to local growth and regeneration, through projects like Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM), which has just been evaluated as contributing a gross £43m to the north-east economy.