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OU research impact is recognised as world-leading

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The Open University’s commitment to research and societal impact is recognised today (12 May), with 82% of its research impact assessed to be ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021.

These results are a welcome acknowledgement of the impact of Open University (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 Research Excellence Framework (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). There is more information about the impact of OU research on the OU's Research website.

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, gained 100% 4* or 3* ratings for their impact.
  • Eight Units of Assessment scored 4* or 3* for 100% of their research environment.

The full tables are available 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.

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