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The business schools at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, along with three top London institutions, are the five big hitters in global business research according to the latest UK government assessment, the Research Excellence Framework (Ref).

The results are particularly important as they determine levels of future government funding for business and management research at each school.

According to the 2014 Ref, more than 50 per cent of the research activities at the business schools or management departments at Cambridge, London Business School, the London School of Economics and Oxford were judged to be world-leading, while at Imperial College London the figure was 49 per cent.

Ninety per cent of the activities at the LSE received 4* or 3* (internationally excellent) ratings just ahead of the 89 per cent at the Judge Business School in Cambridge, 87 per cent at Oxford’s Saïd Business School and 82 per cent at London Business School. At Imperial, 92 per cent of esearch activities were judged to be world-leading or internationally excellent.

The Ref is often seen as an exercise in politics as much as research. Universities can choose to submit the work of all their academics to the Ref or just those whose research will score the highest rating. In addition, those business schools with undergraduate programmes often have double the number of academics as their postgraduate counterparts. The research grant schools receive is calculated on the basis of both the quantity and quality of submissions.

So the business schools at Lancaster, Manchester and Warwick universities were each graded on more than 100 submissions. Smaller business schools such as Cambridge’s Judge Business School submitted just 39 and Oxford just 42.

Lancaster, along with Cardiff University and Strathclyde in Glasgow, jointly holds the accolade of having the best research environment of the top schools, while Cambridge and Strathclyde scored highly for conducting research which delivered impact.

The Ref assesses research from all university departments at institutions in the UK. In total, 154 universities took part in the exercise, making almost 2,000 submissions between them. On average, 76 per cent of the submissions were judged to be in the two top categories — world-leading or internationally excellent.

More than a dozen UK business schools did better than the average in this regard, with more than 76 per cent of their research activities ranked 4* or 3*. These included the universities of Aston, Bath, Cardiff, Durham, Edinburgh, Leeds and Reading as well as Cass Business School at City University.

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