You are here

  1. Home
  2. REF 2021 recognises 82% of OU research impact as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’

REF 2021 recognises 82% of OU research impact as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’

REF 2021 logo

The Open University (OU)’s commitment to research and societal impact is recognised today (Thursday 12 May), with 82% of its research impact assessed to be ‘world-leading’ (4*) or ‘internationally excellent’ (3*) by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. These results are a welcome acknowledgement of the impact of OU researchers’ work in transforming lives, shaping policy and tackling critical challenges across the UK's four nations and worldwide. The UK funding councils-run exercise, the only formal evaluation of research quality in Higher Education Institutions in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, runs every six to seven years.

The OU increased the size of its submission to REF 2021, entering 649 staff with significant responsibility for research versus 396 in the 2014 exercise. The University also submitted to 21 Units of Assessment (UoAs), three more than REF 2014 and entered 10 more case studies of impactful research (68 in total).

Watch how OU research is changing peoples' lives and the world around us:

It’s protecting the planet we live on by finding ways to make our food more sustainable and capture carbon from the atmosphere.

It’s helping us live well from birth to marriage through to death.

It’s tackling social injustices across the world by giving migrants a voice, changing the lives of women and girls through education from India to Sierra Leone and supporting people across Kenya to gain vital skills through distance learning.

Join us on our mission to tackle the world’s societal challenges.

Read more about the impact of OU research

Professor Kevin Shakesheff, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Research, Enterprise and Scholarship at the OU, said:

"These are good results against a submission that is our most inclusive to date, in the true spirit of our enduring mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas. It recognises the quality of OU researchers' work and their dedication to making a difference in people's lives."

The REF assesses three broad areas - research outputs (60% weighting to the REF score), research impact (25%) and the research environment (15%).

Other results include:

  • 76% of OU research submitted to REF was rated 4* or 3* in terms of its overall academic quality and rigour, increasing from 72% in the last exercise.
  • 83% of the University’s research environment – how well it supports research activity – achieved a 4* or 3* rating.
  • Eight subject areas, known as Units of Assessment (UoAs), gained 100% 4* or 3* ratings for their impact.
  • Eight UoAs scored 4* or 3* for 100% of their research environment.

See the full tables on the Times Higher Education website

The Open University recognises the REF updated its assessment methodology for the 2021 exercise. However, it makes these comparisons in the knowledge that the fundamental nature of the exercise remains the same.

Quarterly Review of Research

Read our Quarterly Review of Research to learn about our latest quality academic output.

View the latest review

Contact our news team

For all out of hours enquiries, please telephone +44 (0)7901 515891

Contact details

News & articles

A young, black girl, with long dark hair and wearing a brown jacket, standing on a train and holding on to a rail

Literature review published on the wellbeing and mobility of female doctorate holders

An Open University led research review has identified inequity during the early career period for female doctoral graduates inside and outside academia.

23rd May 2024
See all