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Anna Freud Centre’s ‘world-leading’ research, according to the Research Excellence Framework

The impact of UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences and the Anna Freud Centre’s research on the wider world have been recognised in the Research Excellence Framework 2021.

REF 2021 is the second assessment carried out under the Research Excellence Framework (REF), with the first one issued in 2014. UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences is best in the UK for Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience, according to research power.

Anna Freud Centre staff, who also work for UCL, were entered and their research output was judged alongside their UCL colleagues. Over two-thirds of the papers submitted by Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience were judged to be ‘world-leading’ and another 25% as ‘internationally excellent’. The ‘research environment’ submission, which featured the Anna Freud Centre, was rated a 100% ‘world-leading’ rating.

Impact case studies account for 25% of the total score for REF21. These are examples where research had societal impact that can be evidenced. Of the 15 impact case studies submitted, two are describing work from the Anna Freud Centre.

The first impact case study is the HeadStart Learning Programme, which is the first large-scale, longitudinal investigation of resilience-based approaches to support the mental health and wellbeing of young people in England. The programme, led by Professor Jess Deighton at the Evidence Based Practice Unit at the Anna Freud Centre and UCL, has created a detailed national picture of young people’s mental health that has informed policy development. The £67.4 million National Lottery funded programme was established by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. It aims to explore and test new ways to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people aged ten to sixteen and prevent serious mental health issues from developing.

The second impact case study is mentalization-based therapy (MBT), which has influenced the clinical practice of nearly 15,000 mental health practitioners in 22 countries. These practitioners have been trained at the Anna Freud Centre in MBT therapies supporting better mental health for adults and children. The team is led by the Anna Freud Centre’s CEO, Professor Peter Fonagy, and Professor Pasco Fearon. It showed that attachment, which they linked to the capacity to envision thoughts and feelings in others as well as in oneself (mentalizing), plays an important role in mental health. Furthermore, it showed that the therapeutic treatment based on this understanding can be helpful in many psychiatric disorders.