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REF 2021: UAL leads in Art and Design research 

A group of people are stood in front of some wooden fencing - affixed to the wood are large green letters which read
  • Written byDan Austin
  • Published date 12 May 2022
A group of people are stood in front of some wooden fencing - affixed to the wood are large green letters which read
MAKE at Storygarden in Camden, 2019, UAL | Photograph: Adam Razvi

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 has cemented University of the Arts London’s position as the top institution for Art and Design research (A&D) – leading in the sector for the size and quality of its REF submission.

In comparison to the REF 2014, the last time the exercise was undertaken, UAL increased the size of its submission by 75% whilst maintaining exceptional quality. In the REF 2021 assessors graded 85% of UAL research as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*) - a 2% increase on 2014.

Analysis of the results by Times Higher Education demonstrates that UAL dominates in A&D with the highest market share (7.2%) and is 1st for research power*. With a GPA of 3.18, we rank 50th on their overall REF table.

For A&D, UAL is one of the highest performing specialist HEIs, and the top practice-based institution, as demonstrated by the following REF 2021 results:

  • Largest submission for A&D - 57% larger than the next largest institution, Royal College of Art.
  • 85% of research received overall grade of world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*)
  • 100% of our environment scored 4* and 3* -  an increase of 10% in 4* driven by an increase in the size of UAL’s PHD programme
  • 90% of our impact was scored 4* and 3*
  • Increased the number of outputs submitted while maintaining quality profile with 79.1% of outputs scored 4* and 3*
  • An increase in our Grade Point Average to 3.18 from 3.12 in 2014.
Faced with some of the biggest challenges of our times, we know it is creatives that will be best place to imagine possible solutions. Our academics and partners are working at the forefront of research to address inequality, climate crisis and building communities. And we want to deliver more. We want to have an even greater impact and truly live up to our social purpose. As the largest institute for A&D and with 85% of our research graded world-leading or internationally excellent, we can be confident that we are building on excellence.

— James Purnell, President & Vice-Chancellor
Congratulations to all who have played a part in achieving today’s results, from our academics to professional services. You have delivered so much that we can be proud of. In our new UAL strategy, The world needs creativity, we have set ourselves the goal to change the world through our knowledge and creativity. This result is a great platform which we will build on with the launch of our new Research Strategy later in the year.

— Professor David Mba, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise