University of Glasgow – Colleges – College of Social Sciences – Our research – Research Excellence – REF 2021


College of Social Sciences: REF results

The College of Social Sciences is delighted that, on average, 93% of its research submitted to REF2021 has been assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent in originality, significance and rigour. 

This achievement reflects the College’s commitment to research that materially improves people’s lives, in Glasgow, Scotland and globally, working collaboratively with communities and institutions. 

Logo of the Research Excellence Framework 2021

This builds on the recent recognition of the effectiveness of our work when the University of Glasgow was placed 19th in the world for its contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, an outcome to which the College of Social Sciences made a significant contribution. 

The College is one of the largest centres of social science research in the UK, with 1,673 research, teaching and professional staff. We led submissions to six REF Units of Assessment and contributed to four others within the University. 

A major achievement is that 88% of our outputs were assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent in originality, significance and rigour. This is at least in part because of the sort of environment our Schools offer staff, a point recognised in the REF2021 exercise, in which all aspects, 100%, of the research environments described in all six of the submissions we led were assessed as world leading or internationally excellent in terms of their vitality and sustainability. One example of this vibrancy is that we have appointed 330 new lecturing staff since 2015 and more are in the process of being appointed.    

We are particularly pleased that over 98% of the impact case studies we submitted were assessed as having world-leading or internationally excellent reach and significance. 

Professor Sara Carter, Head of the College of Social Sciences, said:  

“This success in REF2021 is a testament to the real-world impact of our entire research community and the public value of social sciences. I want to thank all of our staff, students and partners whose work has contributed to this recognition, and who make Glasgow University a lively, challenging, supportive place to develop a career in social sciences. 

“We have invested time, resources, and energy in building strong core subject disciplines, in creating supporting structures for interdisciplinary work to address global and local challenges, and in expanding our capacity and involvement in social data science. We are very pleased that the value of these approaches has been recognised in the REF2021 results, but we see this very much as part of an ongoing process of development and improvement, as the College continues its work to understand and remove the sources of social and economic inequalities.”

Among many examples that demonstrate our impact in Scotland, are Baltic Street Adventure Playground, which encourages healthy and sustainable eating in Glasgow’s East End, and Justice for Scottish miners, which helped establish and inform an Independent Review into the Policing of the Miners’ Strike. Beyond Scotland, Football Fans in Training has helped over 10,000 men in 11 countries to benefit from healthy lifestyle programmes delivered in professional sports clubs. 

Our staff are important contributors to thinking on a huge range of knowledge domains including: economic policy, the UK-wide Productivity Institute, the Economics Observatory and the International Public Policy Observatory; the net zero economy; climate democracy; wellbeing economy; equity in education; migration; Central and Eastern Europe including Ukraine and Russia; crime and justice; health and wellbeing, and the public policy process.    

We are also proud to host three ESRC-funded research centres, each of which work creatively across disciplines and with external partners in the public, private and third sectors: 

Our REF2021 submission is recognition of the public value of high-quality social science research. We look forward to working with everyone within the College to undertake even more world-changing research in the future.

Get the results for each Unit of Assessment and see more about the projects and research culture that have supported our impact:  

With experts from across multiple disciplinary areas, the School of Interdisciplinary Studies has contributed to seven themes across the REF Units of Assessment.

See the University of Glasgow’s response to the REF2021 results.

Learn more about the Research Excellence Framework on the REF 2021 website in What is the REF? 


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