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Top ten in the UK for our research with real-world impact

Posted on 12 May 2022

The Times Higher Education (THE) ranking of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 has placed the University of York’s Department of Computer Science in the top ten computer science departments in the UK, recognising the ongoing dedication to original and significant research grounded in real-world application.

The REF 2021 assessment, released today, shows that the Department continues to undertake and publish world-leading and internationally excellent research. The Department leads multidisciplinary research in areas such as critical systems, human-centred technology, quantum computing, and computer vision. In recent years this focus has extended to incoming technologies such as machine learning, robotics, and autonomy. 

Overall results

The Department is placed ninth in the country for research according to the THE’s ranking of the REF 2021. All aspects of the Department’s research environment and impact were rated world-leading or internationally excellent.

“We are extremely pleased with our REF 2021 results, which recognise the excellent research undertaken by the team in the Department. To continue to be placed in the top ten, among such strong computer science departments in the UK, is a great accolade,” said Professor Paul Cairns, Head of Department.

“As a University for public good, we are committed to undertaking research that has an impact on the people and the world around us,” continued Professor Cairns. “Our commitment to research in areas such as safety-critical systems and robotics and autonomous technologies has brought about many successes and I am very proud that this has been recognised by the REF assessment.”

A successful history

This year the Department is celebrating its 50th anniversary. There have been many notable successes over this time, particularly in areas such as safety-critical and real-time systems engineering. Methods and processes developed by the Department, such as the Goal Structuring Notation and schedulability analysis techniques, are used worldwide and have influenced national and international standards, guidelines and regulations.

Future focus

In recent years the Department has led research on more future-focused technologies that will impact how we live and work.

“Autonomous systems are increasingly part of our everyday lives,” said Dr Ibrahim Habli, Deputy Head of Department for Research. “These complex and critical systems challenge the way we assure safety and societal acceptability. To have confidence that the systems will behave safely and as intended, we need to consider every aspect of the system and its impact, not just its technical development. The Department has a rich culture of this essential multidisciplinary research with ongoing collaboration with engineering, mathematics, sociology, philosophy, and law.”

“We work with industry to co-design and validate our research in real-world environments,” continued Dr Habli. “Working with clinicians, developers, safety engineers and regulators ensures that the research we undertake as a Department is impactful and this was recognised in the REF assessment. It ensures that the research we’re doing at York continues to drive real-world practice and continues to improve the world we live and work in.”

The Department’s impact case study

The University’s REF statement