18 December 2014 11:00

Research in Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University has been ranked as having the biggest impact on culture and society in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The REF measures the quality of research conducted in universities and other higher education institutions in the UK against international standards of excellence.

The 2014 REF differs from the previously-used RAE assessment as it measures how research makes a significant impact on society, culture and economies outside of universities.

All of Lancaster University’s Politics, Philosophy and Religion research is considered to be of at least internationally excellent quality for impact, with 87 per cent of the department’s research impact ranked as world-leading – the highest in the UK.

Among world-leading work assessed as part of the REF process was Professor Linda Woodhead’s work on ‘Recasting the Public Debate on Religion’.

Professor Woodhead has argued for an updated, expanded understanding of religion and belief in the UK today. Her research has influenced the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s handling of new equalities legislation, and it has significantly enhanced public discussion through the Westminster Faith Debates – co-organised with former Home Secretary, and Lancaster University Visiting Professor in Religion and Faith, Charles Clarke.

The debates have reached millions, increasing recognition of religion’s ongoing presence in public life and generating further policy impacts – benefitting policy-makers, politicians, journalists and the general public.

Professor Simon Guy, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, said: “At Lancaster University we are committed to generating knowledge that inspires and matters globally, and to engaging and influencing beyond the University, so we are delighted that our innovative work in Politics, Philosophy and Religion has been recognised as world leading.”

Other research to have been assessed includes Dr Hiroko Kawanami’s research into the religious and social standing of nuns in Myanmar. This work played a vital role in setting up a nunnery school for Buddhist nuns in Myanmar, which is now a leading religious and educational establishment and has helped expand opportunities for the country’s women and girls.

The REF assessment also measured: ‘outputs’ – which rates originality, significance and rigour – of research; research ‘environment’ and also gave an overall score for the subject area. Assessors judged that overall three quarters of Lancaster’s Politics, Philosophy and Religion research was at least internationally excellent or world-leading.

The REF assessment will be used by UK higher education funding bodies to allocate block-grant research funding from 2015-16.

Politics, Philosophy and Religion forms part of Lancaster University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.