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Durham University

Department of History

Research Excellence Framework

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a method of assessing the quality of research at British higher education institutions. The most recent REF took place in 2014 and assessed research that took place during the period 2008–2013. You can view criteria and definitions of the starred levels used for assessment here.

Significance of the REF

The four UK higher education funding bodies allocate about £2 billion per year of research funding to UK universities, based on the quality and volume of each university’s research. They aim to support a dynamic and internationally competitive UK research sector that makes a major contribution to economic prosperity, national wellbeing and the expansion and dissemination of knowledge.

As well as informing funding allocations, the REF provides accountability for public investment in research, demonstrates its benefits, and provides important reputational yardsticks and benchmarking information about the research performance of UK universities.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) measured the quality and impact of research submitted by UK universities across all disciplines. The University’s research breadth and power was demonstrated in a submission of more than three-quarters of staff from all three faculties across 22 Units of Assessment (subjects).


Durham University research was almost universally assessed as being of international quality. These results confirm that Durham is an international research powerhouse carrying out a breadth of excellent research which has proven and wide-ranging societal impact internationally, nationally and regionally.

Professor Claire Warwick, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research)


History Department at Durham University

Of the research assessed in the Department of History, 81% was assessed as being in the highest two categories; that is 3* (internationally excellent) or 4* (world-leading). 38% of our research was assessed as being in the highest category; that is world-leading. The assessment is based on originality, significance and rigour of the research.

One of the components of the assessment was the 'Research Environment', defined as the vitality and sustainability of the Department and its contribution to the vitality and sustainability of the discipline. 90% of the Department’s activity in this area was assessed as 3* (internationally excellent) or 4* (world-leading).

Another component was 'Research Impact', specifically social, economic or cultural impact or benefit beyond academia that took place during the assessment period, and which was underpinned by excellent research. Again, 90% of the Department’s activity in this area was assessed as 3* (internationally excellent) or 4* (world-leading). The Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition in Durham, based on new research into how the role of this iconic book evolved over time, increased public understanding and appreciation of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and culture. It was visited by almost 100,000 people from many countries, engaged hundreds of school children through an extensive outreach programme, brought significant economic benefits for regional businesses and inspired further research, notably into the pigments of medieval illuminators.

Contact Us

T: +44 (0)191 334 1048

E: history.reception@durham.ac.uk