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Brunel beats 'game players' to rise up research rankings

Brunel University London has rocketed up the research rankings by matching quality with quantity in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), announced last month.

According to the Times Higher Education, Brunel is one of two universities in the UK to have shone brightest in the REF results when the university’s quality scores are weighted against the high number of staff submitted for assessment.

In fact, the university submitted 85 per cent of its eligible staff, lifting it 35 places from 75th to 40th on intensity-weighted GPA (Grade Point Average) – the joint biggest rise among research-intensive universities.

Among the successes, business and management rose from 65th to 20th position on the Times’ research intensity rankings, law shot up to 14th position from 45th and politics rose from 30th to 12th place.

Brunel was in the top 10 universities for intensity-weighted GPA in anthropology and sports science, and the top 20 for public health, mechanical engineering, economics, business and management, law, politics and sociology.

Prof Geoff Rodgers, deputy vice-chancellor for research at Brunel, said: “The REF is a measurement point, not an end point. We are committed to trying to say we are a broad-based research community all working together to improve it. It is a nice, straightforward message about what we are trying to achieve and where we are going.

“Hiring people to do research and then not putting them in to the REF sends a very mixed message, which is very difficult to manage.”

The Times says there were institutions it calls ‘game players’ that were supposedly highly selective in the researchers they submitted to the REF so that they could maximise their position in the quality rankings. Their quality score reflects the work produced by only a small proportion of their staff.

Brunel made the 30th largest submission in the sector, and the 5th largest among London universities. In 2008, the submission to the then Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) was 8% smaller, indicating that the volume of quality research has increased.

The REF, which assesses the quality of research at universities across the country, placed 61% of Brunel's submitted work in the categories of world-leading and internationally excellent, compared to just 43% the RAE.

The Times Higher Education article can be seen here.