School of Earth and Environment celebrates REF 2021 outcome

The national Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) exercise highlights the world leading and internationally significant research in the School of Earth and Environment.

The outcomes support our view that we are a world-leading centre for Earth, Environmental and Sustainability Science of global impact and influence. 

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 School of Earth and Environment was assessed via the Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences REF unit of assessment (UoA7).  The REF 2021 results have recognised that 96% of research activity across our UoA is rated as either ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. The REF assessed our research from three different perspectives (outputs, impact and environment).

We are delighted that 95% of our outputs (publications) were determined to be world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour.  94% of our impact case studies had outstanding or very considerable impacts in terms of their reach and significance.  Our research environment was judged to be conducive to producing research of world-leading or internationally excellent quality, and enabling outstanding impact in terms of its vitality and sustainability. 

Times Higher Education has also named us first for research power – ‘research power’ is the overall quality of our submission (defined here by the Grade Point Average (GPA)), multiplied by the full-time equivalent number of researchers submitted. 

Our accomplishments would not have been possible without the strength of our collaborations and partnerships globally, nationally, across the University of Leeds, and within the seven research themes of our School. During the REF period our School collaborated on over 700 different research projects involving partners from across the globe with ~68% of our papers including international co-authors from a total of 127 different countries.  

Circular diagram showing the interdisciplinary themes within the School of Earth and Environment


It is great to see that 96% of our research has rated as world-leading or internationally excellent.  It reflects the high quality of research being undertaken across our broad disciplinary staff base within the School.

Professor Simon Kelley, Head of School of Earth and Environment

Since REF 2014, the School completed its most significant programme of growth, specifically targeted towards sustaining our research base, recruiting and developing 25 tenure-track fellows in new areas of endeavour, and training 340 post-graduate research students. 20% of the publications we submitted to REF included a School Postgraduate research (PGR) student as the lead or co-author. Our excellent REF results reflect the outstanding contribution and commitment of all our academic staff, including our early career academics and researchers, research support and technical staff.  

Between 2014 and 2021 we invested approximately £11 million in infrastructure and our excellent research facilities, including the expansion of the School into the Priestley Building.

Priestley building 

Our research has extensive impacts beyond academia through working closely with partners in business, government and the third sector to tackle major environmental, economic and social challenges.

By providing targeted evidence, we have demonstrably influenced policymakers, from local and national government, through to shaping international agendas and approaches, including tackling climate change through place-based action. We co-design and co-produce research projects with partners from a wide range of sectors and internationally, including the storm chasers making life-saving forecasts in Africa. We work with businesses to develop new technologies including increasing the use of satellite technology in hazard response and ground stability monitoring, and informing business and consumer decisions by empowering retailers and consumers to make sustainable choices.

This result truly reflects the hard work of the entire school. It reaffirms our capabilities in conducting fundamental research and in translating our research to successfully address global grand challenges

Professor Alan Haywood, Unit of Assessment Lead and Pro-Dean for Research and Innovation in the Faculty of Environment

Further information 

For media enquiries contact the University of Leeds press office via

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

Infographic: showing our school research themes which act as a catalyst for interdisciplinary activities supporting the delivering of research impact empowered through global partnerships.

In-text picture: School of Earth and Environment and Priestley Building viewed from Chancellor’s Court