The REF is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in the country’s higher education institutions, last carried out in 2014.
Expert panels made up of senior academics, international members, and research users review submissions from universities for each of the 34 subject-based units of assessment. Submissions are assessed on the quality of outputs, such as publications, performances, and exhibitions, their impact beyond academia, and the environment that supports research.
Each of these receives a star rating, with 4* or ‘world-leading’ being the highest.
Highlights of our REF2021 Results
We have proved once again to be an outstanding research department. REF results can always be interpreted in a multitude of ways, depending on whether the metric in play is GPA, intensity, power or market share. Whatever the measure, though, we have appeared in the top ten of every REF league table since the current grading system was introduced in 2001. We are one of only three politics departments able to say this.
At REF2021, we were placed 9th for overall GPA, 7th for the percentage of our submission deemed to be ‘world leading’, 4th for research power (the measure of the overall influence our research has on academic debates), and 1st for the all-important category of research environment. We have worked hard over many years to create an environment in which everyone can flourish as an independent researcher, and we are delighted to have once again been recognised for the success of our efforts to that end.
The REF2021 results confirm the Department’s reputation as one of the UK’s leading research units in politics and international studies. Our research environment, rated as ‘world-leading’ in every dimension, is second to none. We are proud of our vibrant research community that is geared towards offering opportunities to early career scholars to build successful research careers and a working environment that allows all colleagues to flourish whatever their chosen style of research. We are also delighted that the REF panel has rated 88% of our research outputs and 100% of our impact case studies as world leading or internationally excellent. Our research successes feed directly into the classroom to inform how we engage our students at all levels; we are particularly proud to be a department that sustains excellence in both research and teaching. These results are a testament to all the hard work colleagues have undertaken over several years to produce discipline-shaping work both individually and in collaboration with others. The performance of PAIS shows improvement in every research assessment exercise that has been conducted; the quality of our research has never been better.
I congratulate my colleagues and look forward to our continuing to work together to facilitate research that addresses the world’s most important issues.
Pride in our performance
We take great pride in being able to report such strong REF performance. In particular, these are successes that are home-grown. We have had a remarkably small turnover in staff over the past decade, and very unusually for the sector our REF2021 submission comprised overwhelmingly the same people as our REF2014 submission. We think it is a sign of how many things we do right that colleagues are so comfortable committing their long-term future to the Department and how, once at Warwick, they want to stay here. Colleagues have thrived in our supportive and inclusive research environment, and they move quickly through the career stages as a consequence.
We take very seriously our responsibilities to the profession, and we have been particularly active in trying to help people emerge from our PhD programme capable of navigating the always-tricky early stages of their academic careers. It is a source of significant satisfaction when we survey our discipline globally to remind ourselves of the mark that former PAIS doctoral and postdoctoral researchers are leaving on it. During the REF2021 cycle, we helped 90 early career researchers into permanent academic posts, across 33 countries and 18 subject fields. We will continue in future to devote our energies to replenishing the profession by bringing through the next generation of global research leaders in politics and international studies.
It is difficult to be a big department but also a consistently excellent department on all measures of academic success. Yet this is something that we have been able to achieve on a repeated basis. The bigger you become as a department, the harder it is to be able to imprint research excellence across the board at the same time as also having to meet spiralling expectations in a host of other areas. Our very high ranking on the research power measure shows that we have discovered a formula that enables us to hit all of these markers of excellence in a sustained manner. We are now looking to the future hoping to be able to repeat the Department’s recent successes.