Research Excellence Framework

The Royal College of Music has taken part in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), which is the periodic external review of its research activities and its impact in the wider world.

Carried out under the auspices of the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE), this is an extremely thorough evaluation by a large and diverse panel of external academic peers from across the worlds of music, drama, dance and the performing arts, together with advisers from a wide range of cultural organisations and industries.

The results of the REF are used by HEFCE to determine future research funding settlements for individual institutions and also allow for a comparative view of activity and achievements across the sector.

The REF evaluation process involves evaluation of quality in three broad areas of research activity:

1. A Sample of Research Outputs.

Outputs represent the end-products of research processes and can take many forms – books, scholarly articles, conference papers, scores, performances, recordings, editions of music, text-books, and so on.

The RCM chose a total of 76 outputs by 23 members of staff including performers, composers, musicologists and music-psychologists, and these were rated by the REF panel in terms of their originality, significance and rigour.

The REF panel rated 25% of the RCM’s Research Outputs as world leading and a further 38% as internationally excellent


2. Impact of Research on the Wider World Beyond Academia

The RCM evidenced the extraordinarily wide impact of its research on the lives of numerous different beneficiaries ranging from the training, general education, health and well-being of professional and amateur musicians, to the opening up of artistic innovation and musical knowledge to audiences around the world.

We highlighted our impact with two contrasting case studies, one featuring the work of Head of the Centre for Performance Science, Professor Aaron Williamon on Enhancing Musicians’ Health and Wellbeing and the other entitled Learning from the Past featuring the work of RCM Director and eminent clarinetist, Professor Colin Lawson’s work on historical performance practice.

The REF panel rated 90% of the Impact of the RCM’s research as world-leading and 10% as internationally excellent


3. Research Environment

This is made up of a variety of factors. Here we described the RCM’s rich resources and infrastructure for the support of research, such as its Library, world-famous Special Collections of important scores, personal archives and concert programmes, the Museum of historical musical instruments; and our fully professional standard music studio.

But we also pointed out the possibly more significant resource, unique to conservatoires – hundreds of musicians of the highest quality who enable researchers to try out their ideas in practice.

We described our Postgraduate Research Degrees Programme and its approximately 50 students pursuing doctoral research across all our areas of interest; our substantial achievements in attracting major grant funding from the UK Research Councils and charitable foundations for projects including Musical Impact, the Listening Experience Database; the Performance Simulator; Creative Practice as Mutual Recovery; and finally, national and international recognition of our researchers, performers and composers, and their contributions to their respective world-wide scholarly and artistic communities.

The REF Panel rated 80% of the RCM’s Environment as internationally excellent and 20% as internationally significant


Overall REF Quality Profile

The REF Panel rated 73% of the overall quality of the RCM’s Research profile as either world leading or internationally excellent, and 22% as internationally significant



Centre for Performance Science

Performance, Practice & Sources

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Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS. Tel: +44(0)20 7591 4300 Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS.
Tel: +44(0)20 7591 4300
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