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REF 2021 results confirm world-leading quality of Oxford Computer Science research


The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK’s national research assessment exercise, based on rigorous peer review of UK research by expert panels across 34 subject-based units of assessment. The results of the most recent exercise, REF 2021, are published today (12 May 2022).

Overall, 100% of Oxford’s submitted research activity in the REF 2021 unit of assessment for Computer Science and Informatics (CS) is rated as “internationally excellent”, and of this 81% is rated as 4* or “world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour”, the highest possible rating. This is the second-highest percentage of 4* research activity out of all 90 UK institutions making submissions in Computer Science and Informatics.

Overall research quality is based on assessment of research outputs, research environment, and research impact. The percentage of submitted research assessed as 4* is the key metric that measures the quality of research activity in each area.

Oxford CS scored strongly in all three categories:

  • 82.6% of all submitted research outputs were rated as 4* or “world-leading” – the second highest score awarded for outputs among the 90 submitting institutions. Only four submissions had >70% of research outputs rated 4*, and only two >80%.
  • Our research environment was awarded a perfect 100% 4* score, one of only seven UK research institutions to achieve this rating in the Computer Science unit of assessment.
  • Two thirds of our research impact activity was evaluated as 4*, or “outstanding in terms of reach and significance”.

% of the submission meeting the standard for:































Fig. 1: Quality profile for Oxford’s Computer Science REF 2021 submission.

Professor Leslie Ann Goldberg, Head of the Department of Computer Science, said:

 “This result clearly demonstrates the exceptional quality and strength that exists across the whole spectrum of Computer Science research at Oxford. It is a testimony to the insights of our researchers and to the hard work and dedication of all the staff across our research groups and institutes. I am privileged to work in a department that has demonstrated such marked strength across such an extensive range of fields, from foundational theory to challenge-led and interdisciplinary work, and it gives me great satisfaction to see the brilliance that our staff bring to their research and teaching reflected in these results. Their energy and industry help to create the thriving and exciting research environment that is recognized in the perfect quality score awarded to this element of our submission. It is also truly impressive to see the many and varied impacts that are arising from our work – many more than could be reflected in our impact case studies, which themselves range widely across industry sectors as diverse as aviation, infrastructure, internet technologies, and healthcare. Of course, none of these impacts would be possible without absolutely outstanding academic discoveries such as those reflected in our 4* research outputs”.

This outstanding result places Oxford CS second overall out of 90 institutions assessed in the REF 2021 Computer Science and Informatics unit of assessment when ranked according to the percentage of overall research activity assessed as 4* or “world-leading”.

The results continue an upward trajectory for Oxford Computer Science over the last decade and a half, as the Department continues successfully to maintain quality alongside growth. Against the previous national research assessment, REF 2014, Oxford CS’s percentage of overall research activity assessed as 4* quality increased by 28 percentage points, from 53% (the fourth-highest in REF 2014) to 81% (the second-highest in REF 2021). The percentage of research outputs assessed as 4* quality increased by 35.1 percentage points, from 47.5% in REF 2014 (the third-highest score awarded) to 82.6% (the second-highest score). The percentage of research environment activity assessed as 4* quality increased from 70% in REF 2014 to 100% in REF 2021. The percentage of research impact activity assessed as 4* quality increased from 60% in REF 2014 to 66.7% in REF 2021.

More information about REF 2021 and the published results of the assessment can be found at: