Communication from VC in December 2008 to all staff
It is my pleasure to write to all staff with the excellent news that the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise has ranked the University of Sheffield in the top 10 for research excellence out of the Russell Group of leading UK research-intensive universities.
The results of the RAE, in which the quality of research carried out by staff in every university department is independently assessed, are published today (18 December 2008) by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The headline results are as follows:
Internationally-recognised academics and departments
The quality, breadth and volume of research activity in Sheffield is demonstrated by 93% of the University´s academic staff submitted being 'recognised internationally´. Many are judged to be `world leading´. The University of Sheffield is one of only ten universities in the country which submitted more than 40 units of assessment, with over 90% of our eligible staff included in the RAE.
Each of our faculties has world-leading research. All of our Engineering departments, 8 out of 9 Science departments, 9 out of 10 Arts and Humanities departments and 11 out of 13 Social Sciences departments are rated mostly 4* or 3* in the 2008 RAE. Areas of traditional strength such as Information Studies, Politics and Town and Regional Planning are top nationally. Architecture, Biologies, French, Mechanical Engineering, Philosophy and Russian are in the top 3. Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, Clinical Dentistry, Human Communication Sciences, Landscape and Music are all in the top 5.
Departments ranked in the top 10 include Archaeology, Biblical Studies, Chemical and Process Engineering, Civil Engineering, East Asian Studies, Engineering Materials, Geography, Hispanic Studies, History, Neuroscience, Nursing and Midwifery, Physics and Astronomy, ScHARR and Sociological Studies.
41 out of 49 units of assessment were assessed as having 50% of more of their submitted research at 4* and 3*. This signifies research that is world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
At Sheffield Mechanical Engineering, Music and Politics top the tables for the departments with the most 4* rankings, and significant improvements were made by Economics, History, Mechanical Engineering, Management, Physics and Astronomy and ScHARR.
Note: These results refer to the 'medal table' of 3* and 4* and grade point average ranking.
What the RAE results mean to the University
The RAE provides important information on the quality of research conducted in UK universities and other Higher Education Institutions against international standards of excellence. This RAE confirms many things which we already knew: the excellence of our research overall and the hard work and international standing of our academic staff and students, supported by other colleagues.
Sheffield´s strong showing in the 2008 RAE will enable it to continue to recruit the best research staff and students, and to achieve our many aims which stem from our mission `to discover and understand´. The RAE results are also important to us because they determine the level of research funding that is approved by our Funding Council. The financial outcomes for University funding will not, however, be known until spring 2009. RAE results also help to guide investment decisions by industry, charities and other organisations that sponsor research, and give potential students and staff an insight into the quality of UK universities.
Other measures of success
Sheffield´s success in the RAE complements the University´s existing strengths in teaching. The National Student Satisfaction Survey ranked us 3rd in the Russell Group. In this sense, our RAE success is directly relevant to the quality of teaching we offer as we provide a stimulating environment for students at the cutting-edge of knowledge.
We have also enjoyed many other accolades in 2008, all confirming the quality of our academic endeavour. The University was recently awarded five EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training, with Sheffield leading two Centres and partnering on three. These Centres represent a new approach to training PhD students, creating communities of researchers working on current and future challenges. In securing five of the 44 Centres, the University of Sheffield has confirmed its reputation for research excellence in the fields of energy research, metallurgy, nuclear energy and advanced engineering for the water sector. The University also received royal recognition when it was awarded the Queen´s Anniversary Prize for the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing, the fourth time the University has won this award which publicly recognises our significant contribution to intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.
But all these measures can only compliment what we already recognise. Our strength for the future continues to lie in the efforts of our outstanding
staff across all roles who work together to make the University an effective home for teaching and research of the highest standard. For this reason, I warmly congratulate all staff and students who have been involved in the RAE process on their success.
Professor Keith Burnett