REF2021: Great results across Humanities & Social Science

Posted on: 12 May 2022 by Nick Jones in 2022 Posts

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Great results across the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

We are delighted to share an outstanding set of REF results from across the Faculty.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is carried out every 6-7 years to assess the quality of research across UK universities, show the quality and output of research on a domestic and global stage and show the impact research has on the academic environment and our society, and highlight its real-world benefits.

Below you can find the results of each Unit of Assessment (UoA) submitted by the Faculty, highlighting the exciting and high-quality research being undertaken across the Humanities & Social Sciences here at Liverpool.

Across the Faculty, we have grown our Grade Point Average (GPA) by 11% overall, and ten of our twelve Units of Assessment are in the top quartile (quartile four) for impact.


You can see the REF2021 results for the University of Liverpool as whole here.

The REF submission process is rigorous, and at times challenging, so to see such strong results below is testament to not only the quality of our research, but also our commitment to help it shine.

As well as the researchers and their academic achievements below, we would like to thank all those who specifically contributed to the REF return. These results signify a significant step forward in the University's vision to be world-leading in specific research areas and globally recognised in all our research and impact activities.

Everyone in Humanities and Social Sciences, no matter what their role, has contributed to thesde great results: the success we celebrate today is a truly collective success which every one of us can be proud of.

Faculty REF results

ArchaeologyArchitecture, Built Environment & PlanningBusiness & Management StudiesCommunication, Cultural & Media StudiesEnglish Language & LiteratureHistoryLawModern Languages & LinguisticsMusicPhilosophyPolitics & International StudiesSocial Work & Social Policy |


100% of Archaeology's research impact is outstanding (4*) or very considerable (3*). 100% of Their environment is conducive to generating research that is world leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*). They are ranked 5th in the sector for research power out of 24 submissions.

Researchers in the Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology are transforming our understanding of key issues in human society, including the origins of our species, the transformation from hunter-gathering to farming societies, the emergence and nature of the world’s earliest civilisations studied through their material culture and textual remains. 

Read more about Archaeology research here.

Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

100% of Architecture's research impact is outstanding (4*) or very considerable (3*). 100% of their environment is conducive to generating research that is world leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*).

Their outstanding (4*) impact almost doubled from REF 2014, seeing an 87% increase. Their research overall (covering outputs, impact and environment) is in the top quarter.

Architecture are ranked joint 5th in the sector for research classified as world leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*) overall (covering outputs, impact and environment) out of 38 submissions and 7th in the sector for world leading (4*) outputs out of 38 submissions.

International in focus, ambitions, geographical reach and staff base, research at the Liverpool School of Architecture department covers a broad range of topics spanning architectural history, heritage, urban form, thermal and acoustic environments and sustainability.

The school continues to see strong postgraduate research completions that reflect the outward-facing nature of our work.

Read more about Architecture's REF submission here.

Business and Management Studies

100% of Business and Management Studies' environment was classified world leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*). They are ranked, 9th in the sector for research power out of 108 submissions, 12th in the sector for research classified as world leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*) overall (covering outputs, impact and environment) out of 108 submissions and 16th in the sector for research classified as world leading (4*) out of 108 submissions.

At University of Liverpool Management School (ULMS), a commitment to world-leading research lies at the heart of their vision. Research is geared towards developing innovative work that delivers disciplinary and practice-oriented impact.

ULMS is known for undertaking high quality, responsible research for the betterment of business, society and the environment. We meet the highest standards of reach and significance, locally, nationally and globally.

Read more about Business and Management Studies here.


Communication, Cultural and Media Studies 

100% of Communication & Media's research is classified as outstanding (4*) or very considerable (3*). 100% of their environment is conducive to generating research that is world leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*).

They are placed in the top 25% overall (outputs, impact and environment) for research classified as world leading (4*). They are ranked 4th in the sector for outstanding (4*) research impact out of 58 submissions and 10th for research environment classified as world leading (4*) out of 58 submissions.

Researchers in the Department of Communication and Media use interdisciplinary methods and new computational techniques to research some of the most urgent issues in digital media, from fake news and to online gender-based and sexual harassment and wider social digital inequalities.

This large and thriving department is outward looking, with experts on global film, international journalism and pressing social issues, such as migration, populism, nationalism, and climate change.

Read more about their REF submission here.

English Language & Literature

100% of English's research environment was classified as world leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*). They are ranked 10th in sector for research impact classified as outstanding (4*) out of 92 submissions and 13th in the sector for the percentage of our research overall (covering outputs, impact and environment) classified world leading(4*) or internationally excellent (3*) out of 92 submissions.

Research in the Department of English addresses the breadth of speaking, listening, writing, reading, and communicating, in a global language of many variants and in literatures of many types. Concentrations of research include new and international writing, data and discourse, drama and performance, literature and science, and science fiction, with areas such as ‘Northern Voices’ and gender and sexuality cutting through traditional disciplinary boundaries.

The Department’s rich impact and public engagement agenda enables diverse audiences to access and benefit from their research. Their commitment to raising the profile of English is also reflected in five staff members succeeding in the BBC New Generation Thinkers scheme.

Read more about English Language & Literature here.


100% of History's research impact is outstanding (4*) or very considerable (3*). We are in the top 25% for outstanding impact (4*).

Researchers in the Department of History believe passionately in discussing their research with non-academic audiences to share a love of the past, forge new research questions, inform public debates and contribute to government policies.

Their research covers both local and global history, including topics as varied as colonial violence in India, how urban living has shaped human-canine relationships, exploring how books and lending libraries helped shape social, cultural and political life in the 18th Century, the role of Ngozi spirits in Zimbabwean reconciliation, plus re-examining our ideas around Vikings. 

Read more about their research and REF submission here.


Law have seen an 80 percentage point increase in the proportion of their outstanding (4*) impact since REF 2014, placing in the top 25%. They are ranked, 10th in the sector for research impact classified as outstanding (4*) out of 69 submissions and 14th in the sector for research power out of 69 submissions.

The Liverpool Law School consistently delivers research with far-reaching real world impact, reflecting our core commitment to socially relevant legal scholarship.

Social justice is at the heart of their most significant projects, including influential work on interrogating the results of Brexit, tackling childhood obesity through challenging food marketing, international law and human rights, facilitating access to justice for the most vulnerable, and legal support for charities.

Their agenda-setting research comes in various forms including traditional academic outputs (articles, monographs, founding and editing journals) and impactful initiatives such as third-party interventions, policy engagement and extensive programmes of practitioner training and public awareness raising.

Read more about research at Law here.


Modern Languages and Linguistics 

100% of Modern Languages and Linguistics environment was classified world leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*). They are ranked, 4th in the sector overall for research classified as world leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*) out of 47 submissions and 10th in the sector for 4* research overall (outputs, impact and environment) out of 47 submissions.

The Department’s research adopts a linguistically and culturally sensitive approach to address a range of real-world problems, and has influenced communities in many ways, from highlighting political issues to helping disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.

Some key projects include new ways of engaging people with dementia through popular films and music from their pasts, exploring the roles museums, archives and commemoration can play in resolving political conflict, understanding the legacies of the Romani Holocaust, the historical legacies of colonial trade, plus projects exploring the fundamental nature of how multilingualism and translations help transmit our histories and beliefs.  

Read about these projects and more here.

Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies

Music’s outstanding (4*) impact is in the top 25% and has increased by 88% since REF2014. 

The impacts of Music's research are diverse and span the development of professional practice, including that of museum and heritage practitioners, musicians, artists and music entrepreneurs; the enhancement of cultural life for museum visitors and music audiences, and for community and youth groups, plus impacts on cultural policy, particularly in relation to cultural heritage and tourism.

From the history of Jazz in Britain to projects such as exploring photographic archives in partnership with the Open Eye Gallery, and from the new Tung Auditorium and an MA focussing on the Beatle’s heritage impact and legacy, the Department’s civic and collaborative focus is clear.

The Institute of Popular Music continues to find innovative ways to bring national and international history to life, and projects exploring phenomena such as K-Pop ensure contemporary relevance.

Read more about Music's research here.


Philosophy have more than doubled our world leading (4*) research (outputs, impact and environment) compared to REF 2014. We are ranked 4th in the sector for research impact classified as outstanding (4*) out of 35 submissions.

A central part of Philosophy's vision is to build upon their long and distinguished history of combining research excellence in core areas of philosophy with innovative work at the frontiers of the discipline.

The Department regard philosophy as a set of approaches and methods that can help us all make sense of whatever is puzzling, perplexing or interesting in the world around us.

Accordingly, Philosophy work very much in the social and civic space of the city of Liverpool with its rich history of commerce, culture, protest, industry and migration. We work with partners such as the Bluecoat, Tate Liverpool, National Museums Liverpool, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and others to find applications for our work and to inspire our thinking.

Read about Philosophy's REF submission here.


Politics & International Studies

Politics have achieved a 100% increase in world leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*) research compared with REF 2014 and our outstanding (4*) impact is in the top 25%. We are ranked 8th in the sector for research impact classified as outstanding (4*) out of 56 submissions.

The Politics Department’s diverse and vibrant research reflects their commitment to impact  through a range of public engagement events, contribution to policy making, giving expert evidence and informing ongoing debate.

Areas of particular focus include modern slavery and human trafficking, monitoring and influencing political changes in attitude in Northern Ireland, and the status and movements of refugees across Europe.

The Department places a particular emphasis upon supporting high impact research of wider societal benefit. This involves working with a wide range of organisations from political parties to anti-human trafficking agencies. High profile partners we have worked with include United Nations agencies, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, members of Houses of Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly, Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum, and Tate Liverpool.

Read more about research at Politics here.

Social Work & Social Policy 

Social Work & Social Policy’s research classified as world leading (4*) overall (covering outputs, impact and environment), and world leading (4*) outputs are in the top 25%. We are ranked 3rd in the sector for research outputs classified as world leading (4*) out of 75 submissions. 

The Department of Sociology, Social Practice and Criminology is a vibrant centre of critical research characterised by cutting-edge projects and high-quality publications and events. The Department seeks to extend the public benefit of critical social science wherever possible, including via the Eleanor Rathbone Public Lecture Series. 

Against this backdrop, major funded projects include vital work exploring the shadow pandemic of domestic violence, youth justice and detention, drug testing, radicalisation and social exclusion, and the digitising of historic criminal records.

Furthering the public benefits of their research, the Department proud to be a base for Interchange, a charity that partners local community and voluntary organisations with colleagues and students for co-produced research. Research collaborations with external cultural and arts institutions and criminal justice agencies in the city region and beyond are also a feature of the department.      

Read about the department’s work here.

Congratulations to all our colleagues on these fantastic achievements!

Keywords: REF2021.