This was the first time the University has submitted to the Law Unit of Assessment. Our submission comprised 20 staff (19.6 FTE) — three times the number of Law staff who contributed to other units in REF 2021 — reflecting our substantial growth in research excellence, impact and other activities. We also achieved a 50% increase in the number of PhD students over the period.

Our gender-balanced submission reflects the success of a series of targeted recruitment and development strategies, including Internationalisation with Impact and the Nobody Left Behind Strategy. Our submission included two new professors, over one-third of the submitted staff are Early Careers Researchers and half of the submitted staff have a practitioner background.

Results in REF 2021

  • 47% of our research outputs were judged to be internationally excellent or world-leading.
  • 50% of our impact was rated as having very considerable or outstanding reach and significance.
  • We are ranked seventh overall among modern universities by research power, according to Times Higher Education.

Research areas

The submission included a broad range of topics from our roots in International, Business and Human Rights Law to newer areas of strength such as Criminal, Family, Legal Education, Public, Property and Data Protection law. Across the submission, 30% of which was interdisciplinary in nature, our work spans all five of the University’s research themes and contributed to strategic ambitions including:

  • Environmental sustainability — see case study below.
  • Student experience and employability — through our legal education research.
  • Global research and impact — critically informing legal debates within judiciaries, governments and organisations in the UK and internationally.

Impact case studies

We submitted two case studies exemplifying our research.
Close up of carved ivory souvenirs

The elephant in the saleroom: Influencing law, policy and practice regarding the sale of 'antique' ivory  

Caroline Cox’s work on the Ivory Project influenced the consultation ahead of the Ivory Act 2018, which reformed how antique ivory could be sold. The Act reflected many of her recommendations, helping prevent the illegal trade in modern ivory and better regulate the antiques exception. Her research was picked up internationally and she was invited to attend public hearings in Australia about the adoption of similar legislation there. Domestically, two major trade associations produced best practice guides for their members/readers and the Metropolitan Police are seeking to use techniques employed in the research to help identify illegal ivory being sold online and to help train British law enforcement agencies in the area.

Someone signing a last will and testament

Clarifying the Law of Donatio Mortis Causa and Reform of the Law of Wills

Juliet Brook’s research on Wills has helped clarify the law surrounding ‘death-bed wills’. This work has supported the appeal in the leading case in the area and contributed to the Law Commission’s consultation on reform. This will ensure that the forthcoming modernisation of the law has the potential to improve the inheritance process for a very wide range of people. Her contributions have been very well received within the legal profession.