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REF reveals world-leading research at Heythrop College

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Heythrop, the specialist college for philosophy and theology of the University of London, is celebrating excellent results in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). A significant proportion of its research profile in every aspect achieved the highest possible rating of 4*, indicating that it is of quality that is world-leading.

The College performed particularly well in the new area of ‘impact’ which assesses the reach and significance of research outside academia, with 40% of Heythrop’s impact scoring 4* (’outstanding’), and the remaining 60% achieving the 3* mark, indicating that it is ‘very considerable’.

45% of its research outputs are world-leading or internationally excellent. In the impact and environment measures, Heythrop has achieved results exceeding many notable Russell Group institutions, placing it, on our calculation, in the top 10 institutions. These results highlight the transformation of the College’s research environment in a short period of time, and a jump of eighteen places, again on our calculation, to 16th in the overall ranking in the Theology and Religious Studies unit of assessment.

Dr Michael Lacewing, Director of Research said: “The achievement of the world-class results in all elements shows our success in establishing a supportive research culture of excellence and rigour at Heythrop.”

Principal, Fr Michael Holman SJ, added:  “I am delighted that the great quality of research produced by staff at our College has been duly recognised. The results are a fine tribute to the expertise and hard work of our staff. To achieve such high scores, in particular for the impact element, reflects our commitment to producing research which meets the needs of the society and supports positive social change”.

In addition, the College’s research environment was judged as having the vitality and sustainability conducive to research that is world leading (40% at 4*) or internationally excellent (50% at 3*), a remarkable achievement for a small specialist College which does not benefit from the research resources and infrastructure available to larger institutions.

Overall, the quality profile of research at the College indicates 22% at 4* (world leading) with a further 40% gaining 3* (internationally excellent). The results reflect the combined work of Philosophy, Theology and related subjects, which at Heythrop enjoy a shared research environment and a close intellectual interaction.

These results indicate a significant improvement on the College’s performance in the previous iteration of the national framework, the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).

Full results are available at:




Notes to Editors

Heythrop College

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Heythrop College is the specialist college for Philosophy and Theology of the University of London. Founded by the Society of Jesus in Louvain in Belgium in 1614, today Heythrop has an international reputation for academic excellence. It is a unique and diverse place to study, welcoming students of all different faiths, backgrounds and nationalities to explore contemporary and historical philosophical and theological issues.

Research Excellence Framework 2014

The REF is the UK-wide framework for assessing research in all higher education institutions (HEIs) in all disciplines and replaces the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).

The four UK higher education funding bodies [Note] allocate about £2 billion per year of research funding to UK universities, based on the quality and volume of each university’s research. They aim to support a dynamic and internationally competitive UK research sector that makes a major contribution to economic prosperity, national wellbeing and the expansion and dissemination of knowledge.

Aims of the Research Excellence Framework

To distribute funds selectively on the basis of quality, the funding bodies assess universities’ research through a periodic exercise. This was previously known as the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), and was last conducted in 2008.

The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) replaced the RAE. It assessed the quality and impact of research submitted by UK universities across all disciplines. The results will be published in December 2014 and will be used by the funding bodies to allocate block-grant research funding to universities from 2015-16.

As well as informing funding allocations, the REF provides accountability for public investment in research, demonstrates its benefits, and provides important reputational yardsticks and benchmarking information about the research performance of UK universities.

REF2014 key facts

      ●   154 UK universities took part. They made 1,911 submissions including:

             – 52,061 academic staff

             – 191,150 research outputs

             – 6,975 impact case studies.

      ●   36 expert sub-panels reviewed the submissions, overseen by four main panels

      ●   around £2 billion per year of research funding will be allocated on the basis of the results.


The four UK funding bodies are: the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Scottish Funding Council, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and Department for Education, Northern Ireland.

* These figures are approximate, exact numbers will be available on the REF website on 18 December.

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