REF 2021: Social sciences on the up as arts and humanities shrink

Main panel C records biggest increase in number of submissions and participating staff

五月 12, 2022
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There has been a big increase in the amount of social sciences research being submitted to the Research Excellence Framework – but there is mounting evidence of the shrinking of arts and humanities departments.

There were 658 submissions to main panel C – social sciences – for the 2021 exercise, by far the largest of any of the four disciplinary areas examined by the REF, and up 44 on the 2014 exercise.

In contrast, the number of submissions to main panel D, which covers the arts and humanities, fell by 28 to 554. A string of departmental closures in this area has been reported across the UK sector in recent years.

Submissions to main panel A (medicine, health and life sciences) held steady at 312, and while there was a reduction in the number of submissions to main panel B (physical sciences, engineering and mathematics), likely reflecting the merging of four engineering units of assessment into one this time around. In total, there were 354 submissions to main panel B.

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The size of the social sciences in the UK is also reflected in the number of full-time equivalent staff submitted to the REF, with 23,451 now included in main panel C, up 9,038 on 2014. Main panels A and B also reported significant increases – up 6,375 to 19,983, and 5,046 to 18,393, respectively. While main panel D also reported an increase – most likely a reflection of the requirement to submit all research-active staff this time – the rise was much smaller, 3,612, taking the total to 14,305.

All the main panels reported a rise in mean grade point average (GPA). Main panel B led the way on 3.33 (up 0.26), ahead of main panel A, on 3.29 – although its increase of 0.14 was the smallest of the four.

Mean GPA stood at 3.2 for main panel D (up 0.25) and at 3.14 for main panel C (up 0.24).

Full REF 2021 results by subject

Panel A

Clinical medicine
Public health, health services and primary care
Allied health professions, dentistry, nursing and pharmacy
Psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience
Biological sciences
Agriculture, food and veterinary sciences

Panel B

Earth systems and environmental sciences
Mathematical sciences
Computer science and informatics

Panel C

Architecture, built environment and planning
Geography and environmental studies
Economics and econometrics
Business and management studies
Politics and international studies
Social work and social policy
Anthropology and development studies
Sport and exercise sciences, leisure and tourism

Panel D

Area studies
Modern languages and linguistics
English language and literature
Theology and religious studies
Art and design: history, practice and theory
Music, drama, dance, performing arts, film and screen studies
Communication, cultural and media studies, library and information management



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