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The OU combines open access with research excellence

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The Open University’s (OU) results in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) published on Thursday 18 December demonstrate world leading research excellence in many of its subjects. The OU is unique among UK universities having both an access mission and demonstrating research excellence.

The REF results saw nearly three quarters (72%) of The Open University’s research assessed as 4 or 3 star – the highest ratings available – and awarded to research that is world-leading or internationally excellent. The OU saw a significant increase in its excellence scores across almost all subject areas.

Research is at the heart of The Open University’s work – underpinning the teaching it provides as the UK’s largest university to around 200,000 students. It also informs the programmes it makes with the BBC, reaching 40 million viewers every year and features in the OU’s myriad open education resources – massively extending global access to higher education.

These results demonstrate the huge quality and diversity of research undertaken by higher education institutes right across the UK, and we are particularly proud of how we have performed here at the OU. Woven into our mission is a commitment to increase the public’s access to high quality research and teaching, so it is immensely gratifying to see these results shining a light on the impact our research has on people’s lives right around the world – from our students to teachers and pupils in Africa, to financial traders in European Investment Banks.

Professor Tim Blackman
Acting Vice-Chancellor of The Open University

The OU was ranked in the UK top ten for Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts, in the top 20 for Education and Art and Design, and in the top third for Business and Management, and Computing Science and Informatics. In addition, the OU was ranked in the top 10% for the impact of its research in History.

Particularly The Open University Business School (OUBS) performed at the very highest levels (4* and 3*) for impact, resulting in being ranked 16th overall (out of 101).  

The REF result demonstrates that we are a strong player amongst the research based Business Schools, particularly in the area of impact measurement, where we are delighted to have performed so strongly against such well-established research schools during the period. With the almost inevitable increase in importance and significance of impact, we look set to be a leader in the extent to which our research engages, informs and changes management processes and practices in all sectors of the economy.

Professor David Wilson
Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship

OUBS also performed extremely well with outputs, being ranked 32nd (out of 101) with the majority sitting in the 3* and 4* categories. This has taken OUBS into the top third of Business Schools and Departments of Management.

The Research Excellence Framework is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs), replacing the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) which was last carried out in 2008. The assessment is carried out by the four UK funding bodies for higher education and managed by the REF team based at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). In addition to overall quality, research is assessed on its outputs, impact and environment for research.

For more information, please visit our research website to explore the OU's REF 2014 results.

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