School of Social and Political Science

REF 2021: Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Edinburgh



Ref 21 Results


Overall, the quality and breadth of our research has been ranked by Times Higher as second in the UK and first in Scotland, and as third in the UK and first in Scotland according to Research Professional.   

Our Social Work and Social Policy submission 

Our REF2021 submission brings together the work of colleagues in the Social Policy and Social Work subject areas, and from across the School of Health in Social Science and Edinburgh Medical School’s  Usher Institute. The inclusion of 91 colleagues (84.5 FTE) constitutes a 44% increase on our 2014 REF return, making ours the largest submission of the 76 made to this Unit of Assessment. Our work across multiple disciplines and fields is organised around five themes:  

  • Children, families and relationships 
  • Global health policy 
  • Governance of welfare states 
  • Health, inequalities and care 
  • Science, knowledge and policy

World-leading and internationally excellent research 

Eighty four per cent  of our submitted publications were rated as world-leading and internationally excellent for their originality, significance and rigour (up from 73% in REF 2014). 

Our submission was well-balanced, with extensive contributions from colleagues across all career stages. Women comprise 64% of submitted staff, with authorship in 74% of our outputs. We adopted an expansive approach to inclusion of early career researchers, who constitute 28% of our staff and contributed proportionately to submitted outputs.  

Our investments in research infrastructure and support are reflected in broad engagement in research leadership across our submission, with 63 colleagues acting as principal investigators across 192 new externally funded projects. One hundred per cent of our research environment was assessed as being world-leading for its vitality and sustainability.   

Impact on key national and international challenges 

The submission highlights the scale and diversity of our contributions to addressing key challenges confronting policy and society, including in responding to the pandemic locally and internationally. 
Our colleagues utilise their skills, expertise and networks in collaborating with external partners, governments and international agencies, and providers of health and social care, as well as with advocacy, professional and practice organisations.  

Our impact case studies encompass: 

  • Integrating children’s rights into policy on gender-based violence 
  • Promoting effective governance of private-sector roles in advancing universal health coverage 
  • Enabling implementation of innovative restorative justice services in Scotland 
  • Managing conflict of interest in health governance 

Ninety three per cent of our impact case studies were recognised as world-leading and internationally excellent for their reach and significance beyond academia.