Birmingham City University’s research is bigger, better and broader, major review finds

UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 11 MAY

Ground-breaking projects from those changing health guidelines to others profiling the true extent of the contribution of Muslim soldiers in WWI have seen Birmingham City University's research become bigger, better and broader, according to a major review published today (Thursday 12 May).

Research at

Birmingham City University

BCU is one of 157 UK universities to have taken part in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF2021) - an independent review assessing the excellence of research in higher education.  Four UK higher education funding bodies use the REF to inform the allocation of around £2 billion of research funding per year.

BCU's REF2021 submission involved research carried out by 310 individual staff members including 56 early career researchers - more than double the number (151 individuals) submitted to the last REF which took place in 2014.

From research that has informed the first UK guidance for endometriosis treatment, to projects helping Indonesia to transform waste to clean energy, and expertise that has redefined Islamophobia and influenced anti-Muslim hate crime policy in Britain – BCU's REF2021 submission illustrates the breadth and real-world impact of the University's research.

BCU's REF2021 highlights are:

  • 100% of BCU's English Language and Literature research was rated the highest level of 4 stars for impact; with over 85% of English research outputs judged world-leading or internationally excellent;
  • 100% of BCU's research in communication, culture, media, music, drama, performing arts, film and screen studies was rated either four-star or three-star for impact;
  • 100% of BCU's research in applied health across dentistry, nursing and pharmacy was rated either four-star or three-star for impact, with 70% of its outputs in these areas deemed world-leading or internationally excellent.

Professor Philip Plowden, Birmingham City University Vice-Chancellor, said: “We are proud of our research, which is achieved through inquisitive study, sharing our knowledge, learning from others, and harnessing and developing important partnerships with collaborators.

“While we always strive to improve and will not rest on our laurels as we look to the next REF, I want to take this opportunity to thank our staff for their hard work and ongoing commitment to deliver research which provides tangible benefits to the city and beyond.” 

Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Innovation and Enterprise) at Birmingham City University, added: “Our REF2021 results reflect the success of our 'Better, Bigger, Broader, Bolder’ research strategy aimed at improving the quality and value of our research, ensuring it is more inclusive and delivers greater value to our students, while also creating new knowledge and understanding, which powers innovation, benefits organisations with whom we collaborate, and delivers real-world impact - regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Also amongst the research in BCU’s REF2021 submission was a series of UK-based research reports shining a light on period poverty, and research that heavily informed the first NICE guidance to improve healthcare for 95,000 babies born preterm every year in the UK.  It also included research that led to a 10% reduction in post-surgery infections in women who had c-sections at a hospital trust in Birmingham, and studies increasing access to music education for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

BCU’s REF2021 submission was driven by £16million of funding, and included 34 research impact case studies - nine more than in 2014.  BCU also submitted research in an increased number of specialist subjects, known as units of assessment (UoAs), from 11 in 2014 to 14 in 2021 - including for the first time submissions in psychology, engineering and sociology - ensuring the University’s submission spanned all of its academic portfolio.

It comes as BCU aims by 2027 to grow its postgraduate research community to more than 800, and plans to invest in 100 STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) PhD studentships over the next three years.

REF is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies: Research England, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE).  

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