School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies celebrates success at REF 2021

The results of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) highlight the intellectual vibrancy, creativity and real-world impact of art and design research at the University of Leeds.

Art and design bridges the research of the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies with that of the School of Design.  

The results recognise the ambition, scale and high quality of research in art and design, with 81% of the submission rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.

Celebrating the news, Dr Joanne Crawford, Head of School, said: “These REF results represent the real intellectual and creative labour that goes into our collective research. The complex nature of what we do in School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, the ways in which research feeds into our everyday endeavours – books, teaching, exhibitions, conferences, outreach – enable us to create a unique path upon we can negotiate and understand the intersections between the past and present which in turn enable meaningful dialogues between local and global cultures and communities.

“These results are more than numbers on a graph, they give us a mandate for moving forward, for reflecting on and growing our research culture and thereby making a real difference. Everyone who has been involved in getting us here over the last eight years should be immensely proud of themselves and each other. Many congratulations to all my lovely colleagues!”

Research quality and impact 

The distinctive interdisciplinary culture in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies operates at the interface between the histories and activities of critical humanities, practice-based fine art and museum/heritage research. Staff undertake genuinely inventive research, questioning disciplinary boundaries and initiating new methodologies.  

We are delighted that our researchers’ unique and wide-ranging contributions are recognised for their creative visions, academic influence and societal impact. The REF 2021 peer reviewers affirm the understanding that our researchers along with their collaborators – international, national, regional, and local – are expanding knowledge and creative practice-led research and influencing society: 

  • Achieving 100% “world leading” status for the research environment.  
  • 90% of the impact case studies scored as “world leading” or “internationally excellent”.
  • 72%% of the research publications, patents and practice research rated as “world leading” or “internationally excellent”. 

Our researchers have produced path-breaking and influential publications: books and monographs on critical theory, cultural history, heritage and art history; artists’ books; edited volumes and chapters for collections; and peer-reviewed essays for academic journals. As creatives and curators, they have presented noted exhibitions of painting, sculpture, poetry, bookwork, installations, and audio-visual art, as well as exhibitions addressing cultural and artistic histories.  

They have been recipients of major research-project funding and have achieved a range of honours and awards. Notable successes include Helen Graham’s three-year AHRC project, which considered the political geographies of Bradford’s National Science and Media Museum, and the wider Science Museum Group, addressing the tensions facing museums in engaging diverse local audiences ‘translocally’. The project formed part of an impact case study. 

The prestigious 2020 Holberg Prize confirmed Griselda Pollock’s profound influence on art history, feminist cinema research, trauma and Holocaust studies – the first time the prize has been awarded to an art historian – which is now generously seeding new generations of feminist research.

Research environment, culture and partnerships 

The REF 2021 results underscore the vitality of the research culture in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies and the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures. We are excited to be building on these achievements in fine art practice, art history, critical-cultural theory, and in feminist, digital, museum and heritage studies. 

Valued partnerships continue with major institutions, such as, the National Trust, English Heritage, V&A, Tate, British Library, British Museum, National Gallery, as well as with regional museums, galleries and libraries, including The Hepworth Wakefield, The Bowes Museum, The Tetley and the Henry Moore Institute. Our researchers collaborate with organisations as far afield as South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil, India, Peru, Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, Japan and Australia; our creative practitioners work with the European Artists Research Network.  

Equally important are our social partnerships: such as engagements in educational settings, or action-research collaborations with groups and communities, working for social justice and actively shaping their own futures.  

Fostered by a collegial environment, our community supports and invests in the achievement of individual and collaborative research ambitions. The significance of our colleagues’ research-in-process has already been recognised. They have won fellowships and study leave to complete new books and undertake ambitious creative projects; they are recipients of substantial funds from, for example, AHRC and Research England to grow their research and pursue their visions; and they are highlighted as emerging World Changers

Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, said: “The University is a values driven organisation that works with academic, governmental, industrial and third sector partners to deliver world changing research and create a fairer future for all.   

“That is why it is so encouraging that the REF 2021 results show we continue to provide research that is shaping the world around us for the better.   

“The results are a testament to the hard work of our researchers, professional services staff and Unit of Assessment leads. I thank everyone who was involved in this monumental effort.” 

View example case studies of University of Leeds research impact submitted for REF 2021.

Further information  

For media enquiries contact University of Leeds press office via   

View the University of Leeds results for all units of assessment