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Faculty of Economics

Thursday, 12 May, 2022

62% of the University of Cambridge’s overall submissions have been rated as ‘world leading’, to which our Faculty made a significant contribution, and 93% of Cambridge’s overall submissions were rated 3* and above, demonstrating the major impact that researchers in our Faculty are making every day.

The REF is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions and is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies: Research England, the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland.

Professor Leonardo Felli is Chair of the Faculty and Professor of Economics. “I would like to congratulate and thank everyone who has taken part in this year’s REF for all their hard work, which we believe has paid off in these results,” he said.

The Faculty of Economics saw some overall improvement in the REF results compared to the previous exercise in 2014. Within the Economics and Econometrics unit of assessment, 59% of our submissions were awarded the highest rating of 4* overall, meaning they are ‘world-leading’.

Among the data submitted by universities and other institutions are case studies that describe the impact of their research, where the research has made a difference the economy and society, and have influenced important policy decisions. The average weighted score – the ‘grade point average’ – for Impact case studies submitted in the UoA for the Faculty of Economics is 3.88 (out of 4), significantly above the results for 2014. The percentage of Impact case studies that were rated four star was 87.5%. On both of these measures, the Faculty came out on top with the highest scores given to any department within UoA 16.

The average star rating given to the research environment was also very high, with a Grade Point Average at 3.88, which was only just below the level of the joint first ranked departments.

The environment results mark a success of an overhaul of the Faculty’s research structure that began in 2011. This includes the reorganisation of the Faculty around Research Groups; establishment and growth of the Cambridge INET institute; establishment and growth of the Keynes Fund; integration of PhD students into Research Groups; and creation of leadership posts of Director of Research and Director of Impact, and a Research and Impact Office.

The Faculty of Economics is very effective in being agile in response to significant world shocks. A particular success is the Faculty’s response to the Covid crisis.

Dr Toke Aidt is the Director of Impact on the Faculty’s REF Committee. He said; “the results demonstrate the real-world relevance of the research being done in the Faculty to tackle major problems facing our world today and put the spotlight on the tremendous impact of this research on policy making by central banks, international organisations, and national and local governments around the world.”

In the REF results, there was a clear and marked improvement in our environment for research and impact, with acknowledgement of the integral role of Cambridge INET and the Keynes Fund in this achievement. This validates the success of activities since REF 2014 and the future strategic direction of the Faculty.

Professor Vasco Carvalho who oversaw the research environment section of the REF says; “These results today from this year’s Research Excellence Framework reward the substantial and long-running effort by the Faculty in shoring up and modernising the research infrastructure that renders high-impact, world leading research possible. In turn, these efforts were bolstered by substantial gifts to the Faculty, with the endowment of the Keynes Fund for Applied Research and the newly endowed Janeway Institute. It is pleasure to see this reorganisation and continued investment now starting to bear fruits and actually impacting society, well beyond the confines of academia.”

There was a significant increase in the number of submitted staff for Economics – from 27 in REF 2014 to 48 staff members in REF 2021 – a 78% increase. This reflects the success of an ambitious early and mid-career recruitment programme over the last decade.

“These results really highlight the great research we are doing in Economics. In particular, it is satisfying that the impressive impact of our research has been widely recognised,” said Professor Oliver Linton who is the Professor of Political Economy and the Director of Research at the Faculty of Economics. “Also, of note is how much of our research environment was judged to be of high quality.”

For the purpose of the REF, each academic discipline is assigned to one of 30 out of a possible 34 units of assessment such as Economics, Chemistry, Business and Management Studies and Philosophy. Each unit is judged by three criteria – outputs (such as publications, performances, and exhibitions), their impact, and the environment that supports research.

The Faculty submitted four case studies to the REF. Dr Toke Aidt said “I am very grateful for the hard work these academics put in to support our submission.”

1. Developing inclusive measures that look beyond gross domestic product. Led by research by Partha Dasgupta, Diane Coyle, Matthew Agarwala and the Wealth Economy team at Cambridge to determine how an economy can prosper sustainably without sacrificing the natural environment or the future health and wellbeing of its people.

2. Designing stabilisation policies in response to debt crises. Giancarlo Corsetti’s research, in collaboration with officers at policy institutions, pioneered a new generation of models for the assessment and design of stabilisation policies in response to large downturns and sovereign debt crises in the United Kingdom and the European Union.

3. Bolstering central bank transparency and accountability. Petra Geraats research shows how more transparent central bank communications make it easier for the public to infer the central bank’s intentions and align private sector expectations, thereby making monetary policy more effective in stabilising financial markets and the economy more broadly, while also increasing public accountability.

4. Trade policy post-Brexit. Meredith Crowley’s research brings together deep economic, institutional and legal knowledge about the details of how trade policy is conducted and negotiated in practice under the constraints imposed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) with timely research on exporters’ response to trade policy uncertainty.

Read more about the global impact of Cambridge research

The impact of the Faculty’s research on society and the economy is not limited to the REF impact case studies. Over the REF period, many Faculty members have taken on policy advisory roles to build durable relationships with policymakers and influence economic policy. Examples include:

  • Dr Flavio Toxvaerd was appointed as an Economic Advisor to the UK Parliamentary and Wellcome Trust Independent Review into Antimicrobial Resistance.
  • The publication of the Dasgupta Review into the economics of biodiversity authored by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta.
  • Dr Petra Geraats’ research informed the ‘Warsh Review’ – an independent review into the transparency practices and procedures of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee and similar reviews by other central banks and international organizations.
  • Professor David Newbery’s research informed the design of electricity markets on the Island of Ireland.
  • Dr Meredith Crowley was appointed to serve on the Trade and Economy Panel at the Department for International Trade.

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