News Release

Leicester research now ranked Top 30 in the UK

The University of Leicester has made one of the biggest climbs of any UK university in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, published on Thursday.

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University of Leicester

University of Leicester

image: The University of Leicester has made one of the biggest climbs of any UK university in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, published on Thursday. view more 

Credit: University of Leicester

The University of Leicester has made one of the biggest climbs of any UK university in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, published on Thursday.

With a ranking of 30th, up 23 places from the previous REF in 2014, the University’s result represents its best-ever performance in a national research assessment exercise and recognises the world-changing impact and quality of the research which takes place at Leicester.

Highlights of the REF 2021 include:

  • 89% of Leicester research is classed as ‘world-leading’ (4*) or ‘internationally excellent’ (3*)
  • Leicester work in Clinical Medicine (2nd), History (2nd), Sports and Exercise Science (2nd), Museum Studies (3rd), Archaeology (5th) and Media (5th) all ranked in the top five for world-leading research by overall score
  • More than half (52%) of Leicester research rated as ‘world-leading’ (4*) for the impact it has on real-world challenges
  • Proportion of Leicester’s research environment, outputs, and overall research quality assessed as ‘world-leading’ (4*) have all more than doubled since 2014
  • Leicester’s Archaeology research ranked top in the UK for impact, with Clinical Medicine, Sports Science and Sociology all top for research outputs
  • 100% of research in Chemistry and in Sports and Exercise Science research was classed as ‘world-leading’ (4*) or ‘internationally excellent’ (3*)
  • The University of Leicester made one of the biggest jumps of any research-intensive UK university, now ranked at joint 30th by Times Higher Education (THE) for REF 2021, up from 53rd in 2014

REF rankings are compiled by the Times Higher Education (THE) following analysis of data from Research England. 751 individual Leicester research staff took part in the REF submission, across 22 assessment areas.

The REF 2021 covers the period 2013 to 2020 and, for the first time, included an assessment of all research output from each UK institution. More than a quarter of Leicester’s 22 units of assessment are among the UK’s top five by overall score.

A total of 157 UK universities were assessed on quality of their research outputs, impact case studies detailing the real-world benefits which their research delivered, and evidence of how the research environment has supported researchers and their research application or impact.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, said:

“This inspiring performance is testament to the hard work and dedication of each and every member of Leicester’s research environment. I would like to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate them for their role in this great achievement.

“Our REF results are validation of Leicester’s strong heritage in transformative, world-leading research and affirm our place as one of the UK’s top research-intensive universities.

“Now, as we embark on our second Century, I hope to see Leicester researchers continue to serve at the forefront of answering some of our world’s most pressing questions.”

Professor Philip Baker, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Leicester, said:

“Leicester’s performance in REF 2021 is another valuable endorsement of the research environment we continue to build here.

“We are enormously proud of our £300m research portfolio, reflecting support from more than 250 major funders, and the diverse range of work across our themes of human health; heritage and culture; social justice; Earth and environment; space; and investigations of physical and biological materials.

“We seek to expand and enhance this work through our five new Research Institutes, to be launched later this year, and have been overwhelmed with the response to our call for the next generation of PhD researchers in celebration of the University’s Centenary.”

The REF 2021 assessment found that Leicester’s overall research quality was 42% ‘world-leading’ (4*) and 47% ‘internationally excellent’ (3*) across all submitted areas of research activity. The assessment included the submission of all staff with significant responsibility for research, meaning the results provide a unique insight into the quality of research conducted across the breadth of universities’ activity.

Beyond this latest recognition in the REF 2021, Leicester’s research environment also supports:

  • Top 3% performance in the Times Higher Education (THE) World Impact Rankings 2020 and first for our work on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of ‘Life on Land’.
  • With over £40m secured annually, Leicester is a world-leading centre in the study of cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and diabetes.
  • Since 1961 Leicester research has been launched into space, with 90 instruments launched into our atmosphere and six live space missions.

Discover more of the transformative power of Leicester research at

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