School of Social and Political Science

REF 2021: Politics and International Relations at the University of Edinburgh



Ref 21 Results


UK and world-leading research 

Our research environment, outputs and impact have been ranked second in the UK for our world-leading research, and third for the overall quality of our research according to the Research Professional Quality Index. Among other highlights, the REF panel: 

  • Awarded the document summarising our research environment 100% 4* (world-leading) scores, a feat all the more impressive since we were also awarded this score in 2014.  As a result of this we are ranked first in the UK for research environment according to the Research Professional Quality Index. 
  • Recognised a substantial jump in the quality of our research impact, with an increase of outstanding (4*) impact from 50% to 80% since REF14 across our five impact case studies.  . As a result of this we are ranked fifth in the UK for research impact according to the Research Professional Quality Index (or third according to RP’s Power index, which takes account of both our quality and size). 
  • Identified an equally impressive jump in the quality of our research outputs, with an almost doubling (to 38%) of research judged to be world-leading and a more than 20-point jump in the proportion of research that was judged to be at least internationally excellent.  Almost nine-tenths (87%) of Edinburgh UoA19 outputs were judged to be 3* (internationally excellent) or 4* (world-leading) 

Who we are 

These scores are a reflection of years of careful work consolidating a research environment in which academic members of staff and postgraduate students could access world-leading research support regardless of career stage or subfield. We have prioritised equal access to research mentorship and support, as befits our inclusive approach to REF submission in 2014 and our equal approach to selecting outputs for REF 2021.  

PIR’s success in REF was facilitated by an emphasis on equality and the importance of collegial support. While we tripled  our research income, to £12.16M, including 17 prestigious fellowships, but we also witnessed a significant expansion in the proportion of staff winning external funding, with three quarters having held external funding in this REF period.  

Our positive impact on society 

The range of our outputs and impact reflects a growing, vibrant, diverse unit, with particular strengths in: 

  • the future of the state 
  • knowledge and governance 
  • democracy and representation 
  • trade, markets and international cooperation 
  • conflict, security and justice. 

Our impact case studies chronicled an impressive range of research impact that included  

  • aiding and influencing public understanding of the 2014 independence referendum 
  • improving the quality of public services reform (and citizen engagement with it) 
  • improving the quality of electoral ward design and election reporting 
  • influencing the development of inter-government relations in the UK 
  • influencing immigration policy in Scotland 

These were drawn from an impressive range of wider research impact conducted by colleagues across Politics and International Relations, the diversity of which is summarised in our research environment document. Our impact partners reflect deep partnerships with those in Scottish and UK politics, but also with international organisations and think tanks around the world.