Research Excellence

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK universities. 

The REF is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies: Research England, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE). The funding bodies aim to secure the continuation of a world-class, dynamic and responsive research base across the full academic spectrum within UK higher education.

In REF 2021 UCA achieved some fantastic scores. UCA is the UK's top specialist art and design University for world-leading research outputs.

250 research outputs were shortlisted for this REF submission. Othe 115 selected, 63 are practice-based projects that were exhibited in 89 different galleries, museums and venues across 26 different countries. This demonstrates UCA’s international influence on research in culture and creativity, resulting in economic, social, and cultural impact stemming from a dynamic research environment

Our results

The most recent round of assessment found UCA to be an impressive environment for creative arts research.



UCA is the UK's top specialist art and design University for world-leading research outputs.




Of our research activity was recognised for its quality internationally (4*, 3* or 2*).


Of our research was classed as world-leading (4*) and internationally excellent (3*) for its originality, significance and rigour.


115 outputs from 72 researchers were submitted. They included exhibitions, sculptures, ceramics, photographic collections, films, essays, books and reports


Our creatives conduct theory-based and applied research into art, design, and the built environment, pushing the impact of creative thinking and practice into new areas. It cuts across the areas of film, fine art, photography, crafts, fashion and architectural design.

UCA's creative-based projects, submitted for REF2021, were exhibited in 89 different galleries, museums, and venues across 26 different countries, demonstrating UCA's international influence on research in culture and creativity.

UCA’s Research Excellence 2014-2021 Catalogue

All the research outputs submitted by UCA in REF 2021, including written outputs (books, chapters and journal papers) as well as practice outputs, are listed in the REF2021 Catalogue.

Download the Catalogue

case studies

UCA demonstrated the continuing impact of its international research centres in four Impact Case Studies