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REF2021 recognises Edinburgh Law School’s world-leading ideas and influence

Thu 12 May 2022

ELS staircase

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK's system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions, and is undertaken approximately every 6 – 7 years.

Edinburgh Law School deeply values the remarkable range of ideas and influences that a research community of our scale produces; not least through collaboration with researchers and research users, and through service to the discipline and wider society.

This ethos underpinned the entirety of our REF2021 submission and, as a result, we are delighted that Edinburgh Law School has proven its extraordinary strength in every area of assessment – from our research environment to our research outputs to the difference that we make in the world.

A world-leading research environment

Edinburgh Law School is incredibly proud to have been recognised as having a 100% world-leading research environment in the REF2021 exercise. This follows transformative investment in our estate and sustained work to increase and diversify our research and impact awards, all of which led to expanding the critical mass and quality of our environment.

Empowering ambitious research

Edinburgh Law School seeks to empower staff at all career stages to realise ambitious research and impact goals. We endeavour to ensure disciplinary legacy in areas of strength, to foster promising fields of research, and to sustain our position as a discipline leader in winning external funding.

Edinburgh Law School also continues its excellence in research outputs, 80% of which have been rated as either world-leading or internationally excellent in REF2021.

Making a difference

Edinburgh Law School has a long tradition of supporting impactful research that makes a difference locally and globally. For REF2021, we submitted impact case studies that led to significant change both in Scotland and across the world. Our research has increased the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland; limited executive discretion in planning for Brexit; promoted the responsible use of human biomedical collections; led to new international laws and practices on the inclusion of women in peace and transition processes; transformed the practice of stop-and-search in Scotland; and supported constitution-making in multiple countries in order to support the ending of violent conflict and to facilitate peace agreements.

Edinburgh Law School is committed to making a difference and we are pleased that 92% of our case studies have been rated as either world-leading or internationally excellent.

Professor Niamh Nic Shuibhne, Professor of European Union Law and Director of Research, said: “Acting as the Unit of Assessment Coordinator for our REF2021 submission has enabled me to learn even more about the research and impact activity that thrives in every corner of our Law School. I am deeply inspired by the diverse contributions, ideas and impacts of my colleagues; as well as by their commitment to and passion for their work.

“Above all, work on a REF submission is a profoundly collective enterprise and we have thanked a (very) long list of people for contributing to and shaping the School’s submission, which could not have happened without the enormous efforts, unending patience and much appreciated good humour of so many members of our research community. The degree to which our environment has been recognised in REF2021 is especially heartening, given the sheer scale of the School and the often challenging conditions that affected all of us in the final months of the REF assessment period.”

Professor Jo Shaw, Head of Edinburgh Law School, further commented: “Looking across all elements of our REF submission, this is our strongest performance to date, and this success is built upon the contributions of every member of the School and on the sterling work done for REF2014. I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved and grateful for the efforts and commitment of our colleagues in making Edinburgh Law School the internationally recognised and world-leading place that REF2021 has undoubtedly shown us to be.” 

University of Edinburgh success

Edinburgh Law School is also pleased to join the University of Edinburgh in its REF2021 success. The University of Edinburgh’s submission was one of the largest and most comprehensive in the UK, and as a result, the University is now ranked 4th in the UK based on the quality and breadth of its research by the Times Higher Education's REF power ratings and is Scotland’s top ranked institution.

Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, said: “This fantastic result is a testament to the talent, ingenuity and sheer hard work of our staff. It shows that our world-class research is playing its part in making the world a better place in a way that few places – with a combination of the brightest minds, the most cutting edge facilities, powerful partnerships, and a commitment to tackling sticky problems from all angles - can do it the way that Edinburgh can. This success is shared with our industrial, charity and philanthropic supporters with whom we have collaborated to maximise the impact of our work locally and globally.” 

Learn more about Edinburgh Law School’s REF2021 submission and results