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Boost to Durham University’s international research reputation

(18 December 2008)

Durham University has won praise for the international quality of its research according to a new national assessment of UK universities.

The results showed that 90 per cent of Durham’s research work was in the top three categories (4*, 3* and 2*) of the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). Durham was independently assessed as having world-class research in every single area of assessment across the sciences, social sciences and humanities. Many of the University’s departments, including Applied Maths, Archaeology, Geography, and Theology and Religion are ranked among the best in the UK. Durham also performed strongly in comparison to other research intensive universities. (1) The results are a huge boost to Durham’s research profile, further consolidating its position as a leading international institution and the North East’s top university. The results also confirm that Durham’s students are receiving tuition from world leaders in their field. The RAE is a periodic national exercise to assess the quality of research at UK Higher Education Institutions. Results of the RAE determine how much money the University will be awarded for its general research activities from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). Evidence considered for the RAE, which examined 67 subjects nationally, included the number of ‘research active’ staff at an institution, the quality of research, research environment and tangible indicators of academic reputation. Durham submitted almost all its academic lecturing staff for the RAE (2). The Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, Professor Chris Higgins, explained: “Durham prides itself on its strong tradition of research-led teaching so our students can be very confident they are getting tuition directly from world-class leaders in their field. “While we are still considering the results and their implications in greater detail, this is a very pleasing outcome that is testament to the excellence and hard work of our academic staff over the last seven years. “The North East region also benefits from our excellent researchers who are working with regional businesses, the local community, including schools, and on a variety of public-focused projects which include aiming to improve regional health and wellbeing.” Professor Tom McLeish, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, said: “These results are yet another indicator of Durham University’s continually rising position as a leading research university which stems from the excellence, enthusiasm and energy of our staff. “The results will also provide a sound base for our future research development plans.” While Durham performed very well in the previous RAE in 2001, changes to the way in which the research quality is profiled mean that it is not possible to compare performance with the 2008 RAE. This is the last RAE, which will be replaced with a new national assessment exercise to be known as the Research Excellence Framework, or REF. Durham is participating in a pilot of the REF. Margaret Fay, One North East Chairman, said: “The North East has five outstanding universities which all help drive the growth and development of the regional economy. “The results achieved by Durham University reflect the quality of its internationally-renowned research activity and academia. Their success is a wider success for the North East and the University is rightly proud of the results it has achieved in this important study.” (Footnote 1) Based on the proportion of 4* and 3* activity. (Footnote 2) The majority of the staff members not submitted for the RAE are classed as ‘teaching only’ staff – no University has 100 per cent of its staff engaged in research.

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