Durham University has dropped to 20th in the latest research excellence framework (REF) results, which were published over the winter break.
The rankings, which are formulated by the Times Higher Education, saw Durham place behind the universities of York, Warwick and Sheffield, despite beating all three in the world rankings earlier this year.
The Times Higher Education also published subject rankings for UK universities. Durham placed 32nd for Biological Sciences, behind the Universities of Reading and Southampton, and placed joint 34th for Psychology, behind the Universities of Dundee and Sussex.
However, Durham’s Department of Theology placed 1st in the rankings, ahead of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, whilst Durham’s Law school ranked 3rd, also ahead of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
In response to the rankings, Professor Claire Warwick, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, told Palatinate:
“There is world leading research across the full spectrum of subjects in each of our Faculties. However, it is difficult to compare our overall performance with that of others because we have a different mixture of subjects from many of our competitor universities.
“For example, we do not have a medical school, which is significant because medical research attracts very large amounts of funding.
“There are several ways of reading the REF results, depending on the metrics one chooses, and as a result interpreting the results is not straightforward. For example, overall rankings look different when weighted by percentage of staff entered.
“We will continue to deepen our analysis of the outcomes – this will be one element of our ongoing review of research strategy.”
Overall, the Times Higher Education claims that the quality of UK research has increased since the last REF results in 2008, with 22% of research judged to be of world-leading standard.
The Institute of Cancer Research maintained pole position on the rankings after placing first in 2008.
Cambridge University dropped in the rankings, falling from second to fifth, whilst Cardiff University climbed from joint 22nd to sixth.
Photograph: Venus Loi