Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences


Extraordinary REF Results for UCL Social and Historical Sciences

12 May 2022

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To colleagues and friends of the Faculty,

I am now able to offer heartfelt congratulations and thanks to everyone involved in our REF 2021 submissions – every researcher whose publications, research grants, and PhD students were included, every impact case study author, and every member of professional services staff who supported the research, impact, and research environment, and who helped manage the complicated and extended process of preparing our submissions. As a Faculty we have achieved some extraordinary results in this assessment of research excellence.

I would like, in particular, to congratulate the staff of the Institute of the Americas, who made their first UCL REF submission, which has been ranked 1st in the UK in the Area Studies panel by GPA and % of 4* research, and which achieved 100% 4* for impact. This is a fabulous outcome, and a testament to the extraordinary talent, dedication and hard work of every member of the Institute, and to the leadership of Jonathan Bell, who prepared the submission and has served as Head of Department through most of the assessment period. There are fantastic results for our other Panel D submissions, with History of Art (submitted to Art and Design) ranked 3rd by GPA and 1st in London for % of 4 and 3* research, and History ranked 4th in the UK and 1st in London by GPA.

When it comes to Panel C – the social sciences – UCL has maintained our position as top in the UK for ‘research power’ (fte x GPA) (with Oxford coming second). Economics is ranked 3rd for GPA, and 1st for research outputs (with 72.2% of outputs rated 4*) and environment (100% 4*). Political Science is ranked 4th in the UK by GPA, and Geography 10th, with 96% of research assessed as 4 and 3*, and 1st in London for research power and research environment. Archaeology is also 10th in the UK for GPA, and 1st for research power in the UK, and Anthropology is 18th for GPA (in the combined Anthropology and Development Studies UoA) and 5th in the UK for research power and 1st in London.

It is important to remember that much of our research, and all of our impact case studies, rest on collaborations with academic and non-academic colleagues and partners beyond UCL. There are always winners and losers in academic ranking exercises, and no assessment framework captures the full breadth and depth of our work and the difference it makes in the world, and certainly not the full measure of our worth. But we can be rightly proud of how our research has been evaluated by the panels of peers and non-academic research users.

I would like to end by thanking the large number of people who supported our submissions: first and foremost, Helen Stark, Luis Rego, Ali McAnena, Karen Wishart, Serife Dervish, Adam Cresswell and the whole UCL REF team, and David Price, who has been an extraordinary Vice Provost (Research) for many years; Helene Burningham, who has served as Vice Dean (Research) through much of the REF assessment period, and who offered copious amounts of incisive feedback and generous support to impact case study authors and those drafting environment statements; to the 57 authors of our 29 impact case studies, whose research and external engagement activities contributed 25% of our results; and finally, to the UoA and impact leads, who worked tirelessly, with groups of colleagues in departments, over a long period of time - much of it during the difficult days of the pandemic - reviewing and selecting outputs, gathering information, checking data, writing environment statements, commenting on impact case studies, and much more: Jonathan Bell, Rose Marie San Juan, Briony Fer, Margot Finn, Pedro Carneiro, Vincent Sterk, Kristin Bakke, Alan Renwick, Chronis Tzedakis, James Steele, and Martin Holbraad… with my apologies to anyone I might have missed off this list!

Our REF results speak of enormous amounts of hard work – hundreds of thousands of hours over many years, alone and with colleagues, planning projects, reviewing literatures, reading in libraries and archives, conducting interviews, working in the field, carrying out experiments, analysing materials and data, and, of course, sitting alone in front of a computer, thinking and writing. Thank you all, and congratulations. SHS has demonstrated once again that it is an extraordinary community of researchers, whose work is developing rich new bodies of knowledge, reshaping our disciplines, and changing the world for the better.

To read more about UCL’s REF results, please visit:

With my warmest wishes,