So, the sleepless nights are now over (for a while anyway) as the outcome of REF2014 is published. We are still analysing the results, but overall the outcome for both the institution and the faculty is positive. The headline is that as an institution we have moved up one place with respect to overall grade-point-average from 27th to =26th. Perhaps a better measure of our performance is research power, where we move from 17th to 16th. I would say that wouldn’t I, but seriously research power is a better measure because, if an institution returned just one individual with four guaranteed 4* outputs, then they would top the table in terms of the GPA for outputs. This is an extreme example but hopefully you can see what I mean.
This overall result does however hide some spectacular successes at UoA level. Top of the class this time in SAgE is computing sciences, who have risen to 9th of 89 submissions. Mathematics has also done extremely well, achieving =11th from 53 submissions. Moreover, electrical engineering has also performed well rising to 16th from 37 submissions. The performance of computing science is particularly pleasing – I’ve often highlighted on these pages our aspirations for Science Central, involving an investment of some £50M of University funds. Computing Science will be anchor tenant of this operation, so if their performance had dropped I might have anticipated collecting my P45. The performance of electrical engineering and mathematics is also of significant relevance as the driving schools behind the rebirth of our new Physics programme (which is progressing very well by the way).
So was an increase of one place worth all the effort? Of course – you need to be in it to win it! It’s early days, but from cursory inspection it looks as though, with few exceptions, there has not been much movement across the sector (although I note that some significant ‘competitors’ seem to be below us). This would suggest that, while our performance has obviously improved, so has that of many others. At the risk of repeating myself it’s a Darwinian world out there.
Of course, given notable successes, there have been some falls in a couple of UoAs within SAgE. No need to panic – we’ll take the time to think through what went wrong and devise a strategy to improve for the next REF. As all will hopefully know, our main strategic focus in SAgE has been the next REF, and today’s outcome is a very solid basis for this. A heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in the exercise.
Merry Christmas everyone!