Imperial College London

Imperial has UK's greatest research impact, finds REF 2014


Imperial College London

Imperial has the greatest concentration of high impact research of any major UK university, according to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.

In the College’s best ever performance in a research assessment exercise, Imperial was judged to have improved in every Unit of Assessment.

Highlights of the REF 2014 include:

  • The REF’s new impact measure ranks Imperial’s research the highest of any major university. Moreover, eight of Imperial’s 14 REF-assessed research areas are top or joint-top for “outstanding” or “very considerable” impact. 
  • Overall, Imperial comes fourth out of major UK universities for 4* or “world-leading” research, behind the London School of Economics, Oxford and Cambridge, and just ahead of UCL.
  • 91% of Imperial research is classed as “world-leading” (46% achieved the highest possible 4* score) or “internationally excellent” (44% achieved 3*) – the highest proportion of any major university.
  • Nine of Imperial’s 14 research areas were in the top three overall, with two taking the top spot: Public Health, Health Services & Primary Care and Civil & Construction Engineering.
  • Imperial was ranked top or joint-top for providing an environment conducive to producing “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” research in all of the Units of Assessment to which it made submissions. 
  • Imperial research quality has improved significantly since the Research Assessment Exercise 2008, with the proportion of 4* or 3* classified research moving from 73% to 91%, and 4* graded research increasing from 26% to 46%.
  • 92% of Imperial’s eligible staff, a total of 1,257 FTE, took part in the REF, one of the highest proportions in the sector.

Team effort

Professor James Stirling CBE FRS, Provost of Imperial College London, said: “These REF results confirm Imperial’s status as one of the world’s great research universities. It is gratifying to see the outstanding work of so many colleagues acknowledged in this way.

London is home to some of the best and most exciting research institutions in the world

– Boris Johnson

Mayor of London

“I am especially proud to see that Imperial has improved in each of its Units of Assessment since the 2008 exercise – demonstrating excellence in science, engineering, medicine and business right across the College.

“It is a pleasure to work at a university that has such a profound impact on our society and economy – and for that to be recognised by the REF. From metamaterials to medical engineering, Imperial people are making the world a better place.

“This has been a true team effort. Our exceptional research environment is enriched by our outstanding early career researchers, including PhD students and postdocs, and by the vital contributions of our dedicated support staff. Imperial’s appetite for collaboration across disciplines and beyond academia has also contributed to today’s success.

anatomage“These results underline the importance of investing scarce research resources where they will have the most impact: in universities with the academic expertise and critical mass to compete on a global stage. Quality Research (QR) funding has played a crucial role in our success, not least because we can direct it towards the development of emergent research areas.

"Government support has enabled UK universities like Imperial to compete with the best in the world. To keep this position and to harness the impact of universities in building a dynamic and innovative economy, targeted and sustainable investment is essential."

Vibrant cluster

Imperial researchersThe Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “These results prove that London is home to some of the best and most exciting research institutions in the world - creative powerhouses that are tackling major global challenges at home and abroad. London already has a vibrant life sciences cluster and through my MedCity initiative we want to use our incredible academic prowess to spur the discovery of new treatments and propel the sector so it becomes a key contributor to the capital’s growth and health.”

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group of leading universities, said: “Whichever way you cut the data, Russell Group universities produce the vast majority of the UK’s world-leading research. Despite making up just 15% of higher education institutions in the UK, the 24 Russell Group universities produce 68% of the country’s world-leading research, as well as 68% of the research with outstanding impact, across the whole range of disciplines.”


Andrew Scheuber

Andrew Scheuber
Communications Division

Click to expand or contract

Contact details

Show all stories by this author


See more tags


Comments are loading...

Leave a comment

Your comment may be published, displaying your name as you provide it, unless you request otherwise. Your contact details will never be published.