REF highlights world leading research at Aston


18 December 2014

Aston University has received ‘world leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’ accreditation for nearly 80 per cent of its overall research in the Government’s Research Excellence Framework 2014, announced today (18th December). 

In specific research subject areas, Aston University’s Area Studies is rated 3rd in the UK; Allied Health Professions 5th in the UK; and Business Studies 17th in the UK for research classed as world leading (4* star) or internationally excellent (3* star). 

Business Studies, Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Computer Science and Informatics all received a maximum 100 per cent for Research Impact – the real world effect their 4* and 3* academic research has upon society, communities and businesses. 

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) which benchmarks the quality, impact and research environment of every UK University, highlights 78 per cent of Aston’s academic research as world leading (4*) or  internationally excellent (3*). This compares to Aston University receiving 45 per cent on the REF’s predecessor - the Research Assessment Exercise assessment in 2008. Aston University is also ranked 5th of all UK universities under 50 years old for its world-leading (4*) research. The REF results are used to determine future funding from the Research Councils and determine research reputation for years to come. 

Aston’s Allied Health Professions (5th in UK) -Pharmaceutical, Ophthalmic, Biosciences and Psychology research- has 94 per cent of its academic research classed as world leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*). This places Aston University’s Allied Health research above the universities of Bath, Surrey, Birmingham and Kings College London. 

Aston’s Area Studies (3rd in UK)-European Political Studies and Regional Economy Research- has 81 per cent of its academic research classed as world leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*). 

We are delighted that the REF results reflect the ‘world leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’ research carried out by our academic staff

Aston University Vice Chancellor, Professor Dame Julia King, said:“We are delighted that the REF results reflect the ‘world leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’ research carried out by the many leading thinkers amongst our academic staff. Their research directly influences medical breakthroughs, advancements in engineering, policy and practice in government, and the strategies and performance of local and international business. 

“To maintain global excellence for our research during these challenging economic times is always difficult and our strong performance in the REF will be vital to continue our investment in research that delivers applicable and exploitable results for society as a whole.” 

Aston University is involved in a wide range of international and world leading research across its range of Schools. These include; treatment for type 2 diabetes; control of healthcare-associated infections; research into photosensitive epilepsy; machine-learning based visual analytics; high growth entrepreneurship and small business growth; building alliances in the EU; developing renewable fuels and improving the delivery of justice with forensic linguistics. 

The University’s investment in applicable research continues with its plans for a new medical school which will train a new generation of doctors in the heart of Birmingham.  Aston Medical School (AMS) will cater for 100 medical students each year and will include a research institute focused on vascular disease. Planned for opening in autumn 2017, the School will be based on Aston University’s campus in Birmingham City Centre. 

For further media information contact Alex Earnshaw, Aston University Communications on 0121 204 4549 or

Notes to editors 

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the current framework exercise, developed by the UK higher education funding bodies, to assess the quality of UK research and to inform the selective distribution of public funds for research. The first REF, which has replaced the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) was submitted in November 2013 with the results being disseminated in December 2014. 

Research Impact: The University’s research was also assessed for its impact, with a panel of judges forming an overall view about its reach and significance. This is a new assessment category in this year’s REF, demonstrating how research has a real world effect on society, communities and businesses. 

  1. The Quality Profiles for each Unit of Assessment assign the research submitted by an institution into one of five categories, ranging from 4* to unclassified, where 4* is world-leading, 3* is internationally excellent, 2* is internationally recognised and 1* is nationally recognised.
  2. The subject rankings given for Aston University are based on the volume of staff research in 4*and 3* ratings as a proportion of staff submitted.
  3. The Research Excellence Framework is run jointly by the four Funding Councils for the UK. The results of the Research Excellence Framework – previously the Research Assessment Exercise in 2008 are used to calculate the amount of research funding each university receives from their Funding Councils.   


The primary purpose of the REF is to produce assessment outcomes for each submission made by institutions:

  • The funding bodies intend to use the assessment outcomes to inform the selective allocation of their research funding to HEIs, with effect from 2015-16.
  • The assessment provides accountability for public investment in research and produces evidence of the benefits of this investment.
  • The assessment outcomes provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks.