Research Excellence Framework

REF2021: excellent results for the School of Health in Social Science

Results from the Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF 2021) were released on 12th May 2022. REF is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions, and the 2021 results confirm Edinburgh’s position as a world leader

Based on the quality and breadth of its research the University of Edinburgh is ranked 4th in the UK and is Scotland’s top ranked institution. Nearly 90% of the University’s research activity is in the highest categories – 4 star (defined as “world leading") and 3 star (defined as "internationally excellent”).  This represents a growth of 10% on the last REF, held in 2014.

Researchers in the School of Health in Social Science were returned as part of two Unit of Assessment (UOAs): UOA 04: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience and UOA 20: Social Work and Social Policy.

Colleagues from Counselling, Psychotherapy and Applied Social Sciences (CPASS) and Nursing Studies submitted to Social Work and Social Policy (UOA 20) alongside those from the School of Social and Political Science (SSPS) and the College of Medical and Veterinary Medicine’s Usher Institute. Our contribution to this broad and multidisciplinary unit focused on the social determinants of health and public health policy, exploring the lived experiences of illness, health and social care, and developing methodologies, interventions and evaluation. Ranked against seventy-six other UK submissions, the quality and breadth of UOA 20’s research ranked 2nd in the UK and 1st in Scotland according to Times Higher Education (THE). 84% of UOA 20’s outputs were judged to be world-leading and internationally excellent, judged for their originality, significance and vigour.

Clinical Psychology, together with Psychology, Neuroscience and Psychiatry (UOA 04) was ranked 2nd in the UK for overall quality of its research and 3rd in relation to its quality and breadth of research (THE). Our vibrant research community focuses on brain, mind and mental health across the lifespan, with particular strengths in cognitive neurosciences, psychological treatments, and theoretical and applied work in contextual and social predictors and applied child development. Both research environment and research impact were classified as “World Leading” and 90% of UOA 04’s outputs were judged to be world-leading and internationally excellent.


“As a School, this was our largest REF submission to date in terms of research outputs and number staff returned. As a research unit with a clear interdisciplinary and applied focus, the School of Health in Social Science contributed significantly to both our panel submissions. The diversity and collaborative nature of our contribution highlights the value of our School’s key themes of individual and community needs, understanding our place in society and responding to social and health related challenges. It also highlights the importance of our constructive collaborations with a diverse range of stakeholders, from local services through to international collaborators. The School’s submission comprised contributions from early career researchers through to senior investigators and is a testament to the hard work and effort of all our colleagues. Our results are an endorsement of the strength and breadth of our research”

Professor Matthias SchwannauerHead of the School of Health in Social Science