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REF2014 Results – UoA26: Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

King’s is pleased to announce its excellent performance in the Research Excellence Framework (REF), with 88% of the overall submission for this unit of assessment rated as 4* and 3*, ‘world leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’, and 82% of research outputs being rated 4* and 3*.  Overall, our submission was ranked sixth in the UK across the 51 submissions, based on our Grade Point Average for this unit of assessment.  

The REF assessed the quality of research taking place between 2008 and 2013 in UK higher education institutions. A very high proportion of staff working in this subject area submitted to the REF.

King’s expertise in human, exercise and applied physiology spans a number of research divisions and themes. These include skeletal, cardiac and respiratory muscles, ageing, tissue regeneration and environmental physiology.

Professor Stephen Harridge, Director of the Centre of Human and Aerospace Physiological Sciences and lead for this Unit of Assessment, said: “Few institutions carry out research on human physiology which encompasses such a diverse range. We are also privileged to have world-class bio-analytical and pharmaceutical laboratories in which a wide range of drug-related research is carried out, from developing new treatments to devising new tests for illegal ‘performance-enhancing’ drugs.”

A new element of the REF was the requirement for higher education institutions to demonstrate the impact their research was having on the economy, society, culture, public policy, services, health or environment, beyond academia. King’s submitted two impact case studies in this category, both of which were rated 4* or 3*, and one of which highlighted our role in the London Olympic Games.

Working with GlaxoSmithKline, our state-of-the-art Drug Control Centre (DCC) carried out the anti-doping analysis at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This operation, undertaken in the Centre’s World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) accredited laboratories, was carried out on an unprecedented scale with great speed, sensitivity and accuracy. Although a number of athletes were disqualified in the pre-Games testing, the deterrent effect of the DCC was evidenced by the few doping cases during the Games itself. Using the new biomarker test developed by the DCC at King’s in collaboration with the University of Southampton, the team identified for the first time the administration of recombinant human growth hormone (hGH) in two athletes. The work at King’s is being used to help develop similar testing facilities for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Explore the Research in Action pages for more examples of the impact King’s research is having on the economy, society and public policy beyond academia.


The Grade Point Average (GPA) represents an average score (out of four) for the submission to a unit of assessment and is derived by multiplying the percentage of the submission at each of the levels (4*, 3*, 2*, 1*) by the number of the star ranking and dividing by 100.

The Quality Index is similar to the GPA but gives an additional weighting to the proportion of research at the higher star level. The index that the university has used is % 4* x 9, % 3* x 3, divided by 9. Different league tables may use different proportions for this.

Read the summary of results for the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine.