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RAE 4/01

December 2001

2001 Research Assessment Exercise: The Outcome

1 Introduction

The results of the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) confirm further improvements in the overall quality and international standing of research carried out in the universities and colleges of the United Kingdom.

As Table 1 shows, 55 per cent of research-active staff now work in the top-rated 5 or 5* departments compared with 31 per cent in 1996, when the last RAE was carried out. Furthermore, research at the lower end of the scale (rated 1 or 2), which in 1996 accounted for nearly a quarter of the submissions, now accounts for only 6 per cent of submissions.

Table 1: Comparison of RAE Results, 1996 and 2001

a. RAE Submissions by Grade

GradeRAE 1996RAE 2001

b. Category A and A* staff by grade

GradeRAE 1996RAE 2001

The results reveal high quality research in a very large number of institutions: 61 institutions have one or more 5* rated departments, and 96 have a department rated 5. A total of 173 institutions took part in the 2001 RAE.

There has been a considerable increase in the volume of research that equates to national or international levels of excellence. 64 per cent of the submissions in 2001 fell into these categories and were awarded grades of 4, 5 or 5*, compared with 43 per cent in 1996.

The results of the 2001 RAE confirm the United Kingdom’s position as one of the world’s foremost research nations. They are consistent with the findings of the review of research conducted by the HEFCE in 2000, which showed that on many measures UK researchers remain among the best in the world. UK researchers rank first in the world in terms of the numbers of publications and citations generated per million dollars spent on research. In terms of number of papers produced per researcher they are among the top five nations. [HEFCE 00/37 ‘Review of Research’]

Considerable care was taken to ensure that the process was robust and that the results were reliable. There have been improvements in the management and operation of the exercise, particularly in the following areas.

International standards

Almost 300 leading international experts from outside the UK provided independent verification of the results. They reviewed the provisionally 5* and 5-rated submissions and a sample of the 4-rated submissions to ensure that panels applied the standard of international excellence appropriately. Their reports were sent to the panels who were required to take their comments into account before arriving at a final judgement. The international experts overwhelmingly endorsed the panels’ application of the standard of international excellence, with 97 per cent confirming that the standard had been set correctly.


Chairs of assessment panels in cognate subject areas met in five umbrella groups to ensure cross-panel consistency in the assessment process and application of standards. This enabled marking standards to be calibrated across related groups of subjects. Particular attention was given to areas of work that spanned the boundaries of Units of Assessment, including interdisciplinary research.


In advance of the exercise, each of the 60 panels published a statement describing their working methods and assessment criteria, following full and open consultation. The statements reflected the need to recognise differences in the way research is conducted and published in the various disciplines. In reporting grades for each Unit of Assessment, panels were required to show that they had taken account of all evidence presented in submissions in accordance with their published criteria.

Interdisciplinary research

Each panel was required to state in its assessment criteria how it would deal with interdisciplinary research. In the RAE 2001 exercise there was mandatory cross-referral of submissions where institutions requested that work should be looked at by more than one panel. There was also a requirement that panels should discuss with each other their assessment of cross-referred work.

Applied research

Three-quarters of panels benefited from the direct involvement of non-academic users of research, through their membership of either panels or sub-panels. Representatives from industry, commerce and the professions helped to ensure that the quality of applied work was fully and appropriately recognised.


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Last updated 14 December 2001

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