Faculty of Environment delivers world-leading research

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 results are a wonderful recognition of the high-quality research across the Faculty of Environment.

The REF is the system for assessing the quality and impact of research in UK higher education institutions along with the environment that supports this research. 

The Faculty is composed of four academic units, the Institute for Transport Studies, School of Earth and Environment, School of Food Science and Nutrition and the School of Geography. The Faculty led three Unit of Assessment (UoA) submissions to REF 2021, and contributed to one more. 

We are delighted that REF 2021 recognised that: 

  • 96% of research activity across UoA7 (Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences) is rated as either ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent. 
  • 93% of research activity across UoA14 (Geography and Environmental Studies) is rated as either ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent. 
  • 86% of research activity across UoA6 (Agriculture and Veterinary and Food Science) is rated as either ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent. 

We are delighted that the Times Higher Education has confirmed that we secured 1st place for Research Power in UoA7 (Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences) and that UoA14 (Geography and Environmental Studies) is now ranked in the top 5 for overall Grade Point Average (GPA) in the UK.  Research power is defined as the overall quality of our submission (overall GPA), multiplied by the full-time equivalent number of researchers submitted. 

As a collaborative Faculty working across many disciplines, it is incredibly encouraging to see that the breadth as well as depth of our research has been recognised in this way. I would like to thank all those who contributed to this collective success. 

Professor Alan Haywood, Pro Dean Research and Innovation

Research quality and impact 

Researchers in the Faculty of Environment conduct an enormous amount of genuinely world-leading and world-changing research at the University. Researchers in the Faculty collaborate with a wide range of external partners to translate their research into real-world solutions. The REF 2021 results reaffirm the understanding that our researchers, along with their collaborators, are expanding the frontiers of knowledge and achieving real-world impacts.  

For example, research carried out by the Faculty provided evidence that influenced dietary guidelines, food policy and industry practices to reduce sugar intake. Our research on tropical ecosystems led to the creation of new national parks in Peru and the Congo. Our scientists have developed new toolkits steering future cycleway investments, and our atmospheric scientists have made life-saving weather forecasts in Africa. The impact of our research in climate change and weather/climate challenges has also been recognised through the recent award of the Queens Anniversary Prize

We look forward to building on these successes as we pursue our vision of helping to create borderless environmental sustainability for all.  

Research environment 

The REF 2021 results are testament to the Faculty’s ability to attract world-class talent and also how it fosters an environment that supports these researchers, their ambitions and our students.  

For example, since REF 2014, the School of Earth and Environment completed its most significant programme of growth, specifically targeted towards sustaining its research base, recruiting, and developing 25 tenure-track fellows in new areas of endeavour. We have trained 340 post-graduate research students and invested £11 million in infrastructure to support our excellent research facilities, including the expansion of the School into the Priestley Building. This has led to a stimulating work environment for staff and students. 

We are delighted that the REF2021 assessment judged our Research Environments across the Faculty to be conducive to producing research of world-leading or internationally excellent quality thus enabling exceptional impact in terms of its vitality and sustainability. 

I want to congratulate all my colleagues and students for their outstanding performance in the REF2021. This well-deserved recognition makes me feel immensely proud to be a member of this extraordinary community, our Faculty of Environment. Thank you for striving to build a sustainable and fairer future for all.

Professor Selina Stead, Executive Dean, Faculty of Environment

Further information 

For media enquiries contact the University of Leeds press office via pressoffice@leeds.ac.uk.

View the University of Leeds REF 2021 results for all units of assessment.