Institute for Transport Studies (ITS)

Research Excellence Framework (REF2014)

REF 2014 judges transport and civil engineering research at Leeds to be ‘internationally excellent’, and places it second nationally for research power

The results of the national Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) exercise have confirmed that the Institute for Transport Studies (ITS) at the University of Leeds is an international centre of excellence for research outputs, impact and environment.

ITS was assessed by the Civil and Construction Engineering sub-panel, as part of a joint submission with the University’s School of Civil Engineering (SoCE).

The overall result for the ITS/SoCE submission is a research quality profile of 3.04, which means that research activity in ITS and SoCE is judged to be ‘internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour’.

The Institute for Transport Studies is the largest transport research centre in the UK and this is reflected in our position as 2nd in the national league table on research power (a measure capturing both quality and the number of staff submitted).



Overall quality profile



Nationally on research power



Of our research environment is conducive to producing research of ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world-leading’ quality



Of our research impacts are ‘very considerable’ or ‘outstanding’



Of our research is ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world-leading’



Of our research outputs are ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world leading’

Professor Greg Marsden, the Institute’s Director said: “This result confirms the Institute’s position as a world leading centre for transport research, covering a range of complex multi-disciplinary topics. We are particularly pleased that our research impact as well as our academic outputs and environment have been recognised. Our research has been shown to make a difference to how transport decisions are made, the efficiency of public spending and the development of safer cars for the future. The joint working with Civil Engineering reflects an exciting future agenda in the areas of resilient infrastructure and major network investment programmes.”

Research Excellence Framework

The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) replaced the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), which was last conducted in 2008. The REF is a robust and internationally-recognised exercise to measure the quality of UK university research and the results are used to allocate around £2 billion of government funding for research each year. The results will be used by the funding bodies to allocate block-grant research funding to universities from 2015-16. For the first time, research was also judged on its impact outside academia, such as its effects on the economy, public policy, civil society or culture.

The overall research quality profile is based upon assessment of quality in three sub-profiles:

Outputs (accounting for 65% of the overall quality profile): published research outputs are assessed in terms of their ‘originality, significance and rigour’.

 (20%): the benefits of research beyond academia are assessed in terms of their ‘reach’ and ‘significance’.

 (15%): the environment within which research is conducted is assessed in terms of its ‘vitality and sustainability’.

Research power 
represents a measure of volume (i.e. the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) academics which were submitted for assessment through REF) combined with quality (i.e. GPA).

The REF was conducted jointly by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the Department for Employment and Learning Northern Ireland (DEL).

Further information

REF2014 results from the across the University of Leeds:  
REF2014 results for engineering research at Leeds: 
Research impact case study -  intelligent speed assistance
Read more about ITS research, carried out across our four research groups: 
REF2014 results for all UK universities published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England:

Research Assessment Exercise  (RAE 1992-2008)

Prior to REF (above) the process to measure of the quality of research undertaken in UK universities was the Research Assessment Exercise  (RAE).  It was undertaken in four cycles, with the results published in 1992, 1996, 2001 and 2008.  As with REF, RAE directly informed university funding - institutions conducting the best research received a larger proportion of the available public funding.

In the RAE of 2008, ITS confirmed its standing in the international elite of transport research centres.

The RAE of 2008 identified 95% of the ITS submission as being of ‘internationally recognised’ quality for originality, significance and rigour. Of this, 65% was either 'world leading' or ‘internationally excellent’.

The quality of the research environment was highlighted as a particular strength, as was the support for research students and early career researchers. The assessment panel commented that the ITS submission provided evidence of a research environment which was ‘predominantly outstanding’, with a clear strategy and assessment of progress made over the review period. Support for students and early career researchers was also said to be outstanding.

ITS performed particularly strongly in terms of its research power, reflecting the volume of high quality work conducted across its research groups. With the research of 41 staff submitted to the exercise, including 10 early career researchers, ITS reinforced is position as the largest free-standing academic transport department in the UK.

Commenting on the result, the Director of ITS Mark Wardman said “I am delighted that across the entirety of our wide portfolio of research, with almost all eligible staff submitted, we have been recognised for our excellence in what was by far the largest entry of transport researchers to the RAE and a 60 % increase on the 2001 RAE.”

This result helped to position the University of Leeds as one of the top research universities in the UK, with a ranking of 14th for research quality and 8th for research power, according to the Times Higher Education League Table (THE). Further commentary on the University of Leeds’ RAE performance is available from and

The ITS performance in 2008 followed on from an un-paralleled performance across the previous RAEs of 2001, 1996 and 1992. In each of these, ITS achieved the highest possible ranking and was the only transport research unit to deliver such a consistently world-class performance.

The RAE has evolved into a system known as the Research Excellence Framework (REF), which will continue to determine University research funding and be the benchmark of quality, but the assessment includes greater emphasis on the wider impacts of the research. For more details, please see the HEFCE website.