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31st May, 2022

Results of the REF 2021


The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama congratulates its colleagues in music, theatre, drama, dance, performing arts, film and screen studies across the sector for a strong showing in REF 2021 that demonstrates the importance of research in the creative arts to public life. 

Central’s Head of Research Strategy and Projects, Dr Tony Fisher, said: 

“In the face of many adverse political and economic headwinds, the sector has shown great resilience but also more importantly, it has shown once again the value of research in theatre, drama and performance in sustaining the vibrancy of the UK’s research ecology, and the contribution our discipline makes to wider civic, public and cultural discourses.”

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a UK-wide assessment of the quality of universities’ research in all disciplines, providing accountability for public investment in research and demonstrating the benefits of that investment. Results are produced as ‘overall quality profiles’ which show the proportions of submitted activity judged to have met quality levels as world-leading (4*), internationally excellent (3*), recognised internationally (2*), recognised nationally (1*) or unclassified (U).

REF 2021 demonstrates something of a quantum leap forward for Research at Central. The results — 75% 4*, 19% 3*, 4% 2* and 2% 1* — show the vital role that the small specialist sector and arts institutions play in a field dominated by larger multi-faculty institutions. They are also a testament to the commitment, creativity, and above all the collegialities found among Central researchers across all levels – from PhD, ECR to senior researchers. 

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr Ella Parry-Davies, said: 

“I have hugely appreciated being part of a community of practitioners and researchers at Central, brought together through our commitments to performance and what it can do in the world. Central’s strength lies in the conversations happening between colleagues through teaching, research, knowledge exchange, policy and ethics – it is a shared academic life where I have found curiosity, critique and friendship.”

For Central, REF 2021 confirms the strategic value of making significant investment in research, whether through new facilities or funding that enables external collaborations, where engagement from industry partners, and a diverse range of communities, forms a key part of the work it undertakes.  It also promotes a vision of research that is inclusive and enabling, with 22.85% of Central’s submitted staff identifying as neurodivergent and 24% early career researchers, with many submitting for their first time to the REF. 

Central extends its congratulations and deep gratitude to the many collaborators with whom it worked closely over the past 7 years, and without whom its work would not be possible. These include not only colleagues in other HEI departments, but the longstanding commitments made in Central from the wider performing arts sector, the heritage industry, and third sector partners such as the NHS, as well as the wider support received from sector organisations like GuildHE and London Higher. 

Central is delighted that the impact of its external collaborations has been recognised by REF 2021, demonstrating the influence that research in the performing arts can have on the fields of film and performance, whether in relation to ensuring greater gender equality in the performing arts (Tonic Advance), or in recognition of the difficulties confronting parents and carers working in the theatre industry (PIPA). 

Reflecting on the results of REF 2021, Central’s Principal and CEO Josette Bushell-Mingo OBE, said:

“Research at Central is all about asking questions of ourselves and of our world. These results show that despite being a small, specialist institution, our commitment to asking questions contributes to making outstanding contributions to our community – locally and globally.

Our research is rooted in partnerships, collaborations and a devotion to working with different audiences. The values of teamwork, support and inclusivity that are behind the results inspire Central to keep evaluating itself and grow.

It marks a clear step forward for all of Central’s work in the future.”

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