REF results: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Below, we have listed each unit area for the Faculty, along with the scores and rankings.


5th in the UK for 4* and 3* research (world leading and internationally excellent).

Our research is transforming understanding of key questions in human history, including the origins of our species, the transformation from hunter-gathering to farming societies, the emergence and nature of the world’s earliest civilisations and the archaeology of the UK.

Grants for our projects total c. £3 million pounds and we have c. 110 completed and current PhD students over the past 6 years. Our PhD students have gone on to post-doctoral scholarships and jobs in the archaeology sector, in Universities and Museums around the world.

Our research has benefited international museums and school teachers, providers of educational material, and school children. Successes include Castell Henllys, where excavation and reconstruction of an Iron Age settlement has become a major tourist attraction and provided resources for teaching of the National Curriculum for Wales.

Major investment is creating a suite of new archaeology labs with new high specification analytical equipment for archaeomaterials, archaeobotanical, isotope, lithic studies and experimental archaeology research. This follows on from the £600,000 refurbishment of the Garstang Museum making its rich research resources more accessible.

Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

9th in UK, 40% of publications rated as 4* (world-leading), 100% 3* and 4* impact.

Architecture at Liverpool has research strengths spanning the humanities, science and engineering, and has received more than £1.4 million in research funding during the last six years.

We engage with the history of modern architecture from a worldwide rather than solely British perspective and specialise in Chinese urbanism, tropical architecture, conservation of post-war buildings in the US and Europe and the design of multifaith spaces across the world. Within the Centre for Architecture and the Visual Arts, we research connections between architecture and popular music, and architecture and film.

Technical research on architecture and the built environment covers projects concerning the influence of climate change on building design, Building Information Modelling and digital design, as well as lighting, sound and vibration in the built environment. Putting research into practice, the Acoustic Research Unit transfers fundamental research on building acoustics measurements into International and European Standards, which are referred to in building regulations in 24 European countries.

Business and Management Studies

27th of 101 submissions in the UK for 4* and 3* (world leading and internationally excellent), 100% impact and 88% environment at 4* and 3*.

The University’s Management School is making a real difference to the lives of individuals, improving regional and global enterprise as well as economic, political and societal development.

Our research has changed the direction of legislative and political change in Welsh devolution and helped to develop universal healthcare systems in South-East Asia, Africa and Central Eastern Europe. The Livelihood Enhancement Plan developed through research at Liverpool into microfinance benefits half a million women in the Andhra Pradesh region of India each year. Our research has also reshaped regulatory frameworks in the water utility industry and the National Health Service.

The Liverpool Agility method for manufacturing operations and supply chains has boosted the region’s economy and employment by facilitating the growth of manufacturing SMEs, supporting their participation in global networks and equipping owner-managers with skills to grow businesses. Owner-managers in the North West have reported turnover increases averaging 21% after benefiting from the Management School’s research on managerial and entrepreneurial learning and its leadership development programme (LEAD), run in partnership with Liverpool John Moores University.

Accredited by AACSB and ranked among the top 80 business schools in Europe according to the Financial Times, the School has attracted more than £5 million of grant funding in the last six years.


80% of outputs rated at 4* and 3* (world-leading or internationally excellent).

Our expertise ranges from Homer to Late Antiquity, with particular emphasis on the ancient economy, Greek and Roman religions, the literary culture of the Roman Empire and Achaemenid Persia, as well as the reception of antiquity in the modern world.

We have a thriving community of postgraduate research students and a strong track record of developing early career researchers for future employment. We have been successful in obtaining a number of prestigious fellowships from organisations such as the Leverhulme Trust and the Marie Curie Foundation.

Our researchers work with a number of non-academic partners, including documentary-makers, secondary schools and the business community.

Communication, Cultural and Media Studies

90% of impact judged as 4* and 3* (outstanding or very considerable).

We have specialist expertise in research in film and TV, in media ethics, new media and mediated politics and in local film history. Our activity now includes studies of cinema history, of gender relations, and of current affairs broadcasting, working with a range of partners locally, nationally and internationally.

Specific research projects include activities involving the United Nations Human Rights Council to examine the media’s approach to human rights, as well as studies with healthcare professionals to assess how film and memory can enhance quality of life.

Our research with private film collectors and regional, national and international film archives documented information on 1,700 films of Liverpool and its historic landscape between 1897 and 1984, ranging from the earliest factual films, newsreels and amateur films to more recent features, television dramas and documentaries.

English Language and Literature

10th of 89 in UK for 4* and 3* research (world leading or internationally excellent).

Our particular areas of strength include: textual criticism; contemporary literatures; religion and literature; Shakespeare and the Renaissance; literature, science and the environment; creative writing; language variation; and language and culture.

Our dual commitment to individual research excellence and public engagement sees us involved in projects with local, national, and international reach. We are the only department in the country to have three members of staff to succeed in the Radio 3 Arts and Humanities Research Council New Generation Thinkers scheme.

Our partnerships include collaborative work with arts institutions, the Gladstone Library and the British Library – which recently hosted the ‘Out of this World’ Sci-Fi exhibition, underpinned by original Liverpool research.

We are currently developing strengths in new writing and our Envisioning the Indian City project fosters international scholarly collaboration.


Top quartile position for 4* research (world leading).

Our research builds on our renowned tradition of making history accessible and relevant and examines how the past points the way to the future, tackling international themes at the forefront of debate today, from slavery and human trafficking to gang culture.

Our studies of Liverpool’s past have helped shaped visions of the future for the city, and the region. In the same way, the work of our historians in the Institute of Irish Studies has had a strong impact on discussions about the past and the future in Ireland.

Our close collaborations with public bodies such as National Museums Liverpool help to bring academic research to the widest possible audiences. Research into youth gangs in Victorian England gave rise to a successful collaboration with a theatre group and influenced practitioners in the education, criminal justice and tourism sectors.


16th of 67 submissions at 4* and 3* (world leading and internationally excellent), 88% 3* environment and 100% 3* impact.

Research undertaken in the Liverpool Law School is far-reaching and diverse, reflecting our core commitment to socially relevant legal scholarship. Our research influences legislative and policy developments at regional, national and international levels, pioneers institutional reforms, and informs judicial proceedings.

We have particular strengths in the law relating to charity, the European Union, European children’s rights, international law and human rights, economic governance and regulation, and medical and healthcare law. We also produce a wide range of internationally excellent research in other legal areas, in pursuit of our overarching goal of critically exploring the role of law in the promotion of social justice.

We strive to ensure our work has an impact on key policymakers. The work of our EU lawyers on the Treaty of Lisbon has been influential internationally, and cited in the Court of Justice of the European Union and the Latvian Constitutional Court, while the research of the Charity Law and Policy Unit has directly contributed to an improved legislative framework governing the charity sector in the UK.

The European Children’s Rights Unit has been at the forefront of EU action in the field of children’s rights, completing work for the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency and UNICEF to allow the impact of EU law and policy on the rights of children to be measured and evaluated.

Modern Languages and Linguistics

Ranked in top 50% for 4* and 3* research with 90% of environment at 4* and 3* (world leading and internationally excellent).

Research in Modern Languages and Cultures at Liverpool is characterised by our wide-ranging interests in the national and global dimensions of language-based study, including a focus on France, Germany, Italy and the countries of the Iberian Peninsula as well as Francophone, Hispanophone and Lusophone cultures and societies outside Europe.

Coherent cross-language themes structure our research. Our work places us at the cutting edge of fields such as colonial and post-colonial studies (including slavery studies), cyber-culture and digital transformations, and world cinema. Colleagues are fully engaged with the development of Modern Languages nationally, many playing leading roles in academic publishing, subject associations, and on behalf of major funding bodies.

Collaboration and engagement strongly underpin our activities, with researchers beyond our own department and disciplines, with our many cultural partners (especially Merseyside Museums) and in our interactions with non-academic communities. Distinctive public-oriented events include poetry readings with practitioners and audiences in Spain, a major exhibition in France in association with the multinational Tata Group, and a series of Holocaust-related events in the UK and Germany designed to enhance understandings of the sources and consequences of racism.

Music, Drama and Performing Arts

Increased proportion of 4* from 10% to 32% from RAE 2008, with 40% of impact rated 4* (outstanding) and 50% of environment rated 4* (world-leading).

Our research is centered on the creation, performance and effect of music, from Beethoven to K-Pop. It encompasses performance, composition, and technological production, as well as the role of music (classical, popular, world, audio-visual) in lived experience. This is reflected in our four main research groupings: analysis, aesthetics and cognition (cutting across repertoires); audio-visual media (including gaming); composition and praxis; popular music, heritage and the music industry.

Our activities have allowed audiences to gain new perspectives on music through installations staged in collaboration with the BBC, the National Trust, and English Heritage. At the Royal Opera House, one million visitors heard an installation based on our collaboration with the pianist Joanna MacGregor. We have organised major events such as the Open Circuit Festival and concerts in conjunction with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

At the heart of our research is the creation and function of all types of music in contemporary society, whether as an art-form in itself, as an agent of identity or well-being, or through its mediations in culture, industry, and memory.


62% of activity judged to be 4* and 3* (world-leading or internationally excellent).

Our research encompasses a wide variety of philosophical problems, periods and traditions. Our work is increasingly oriented to the future through a critical and analytical engagement with contemporary and emerging global challenges.

The work is delivered primarily through three research groups: Metaphysics, Language and Mind; Religion, Ethics and Practical Philosophy; and Aesthetics, Art and Literature. Each group produces substantial and original work in philosophy, sustains international networks of researchers and trains PhD students to be the next generation of philosophers.

Our Philosophy in the City programme has stimulated valuable philosophical debate within the local community. Our Religious Symbolism and Discrimination Project engaged with faith groups, legal practitioners and policy-makers to raise awareness of the issues involved in religious discrimination cases. Drawing on our research in aesthetics and philosophical pedagogy our Lyceum Project has been praised by UNESCO for empowering young people to integrate in multicultural societies.

Politics and International Studies

50% of impact judged outstanding.

The Department of Politics at Liverpool produces research of international standing and engages in a wide range of dissemination and engagement activities to ensure the impact of this work is maximised both within academia and beyond.

We have a thriving community of researchers, supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and other major funders as well as doctoral students researching topics ranging from the Labour Party and electoral reform to corruption in the Caribbean.

Members of staff also have a high profile in the media, give evidence to select committees and work with a range of external bodies. We work with political parties, providing detailed data on their membership's perceptions of key issues, the state of internal party organisations, perceptions of other parties and views on party leadership. We have undertaken collaborative work with the Electoral Commission on issues concerned with electoral administration. We are also involved with the London-based Smart Partnership Hub, which is exploring how policy learning can be shared more effectively between Commonwealth nations.

Social Work and Social Policy

22nd of 62 submissions at 4* and 3* (world leading and internationally excellent) and 100% 4* and 3* impact (outstanding and very considerable).

Our research challenges social inequality and injustice. We are both theoretically and practically engaged with policy makers and practitioners and our research seeks to challenge and critique the operation of political power at local, national and global levels.

Our research develops long-term solutions to a broad range of social and public policy, criminal justice and social welfare problems. We share our expertise and insights with Government agencies, human rights NGOs, welfare organisations and a diverse range of participants in the knowledge and cultural industries, helping to initiate, influence and develop policy.

Our work makes a tangible difference to society - our research over the past five years has led to changes in criminal justice policy and procedure, changes in the way that public bodies are audited, and has led to the establishment of best practice in the evaluation of large-scale arts and cultural programmes.

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