This study uses data envelopment analysis (DEA) to examine the relative efficiency in the production of research of 109 Chinese regular universities in 2003 and 2004. Output variables measure the impact and productivity of research; input variables reflect staff, students, capital and resources. Mean efficiency is just over 90% when all input and output variables are included in the model, and this falls to just over 80% when student-related input variables are excluded from the model. The rankings of the universities across models and time periods are highly significantly correlated. Further investigation suggests that mean research efficiency is higher in comprehensive universities compared to specialist universities, and in universities located in the coastal region compared to those in the western region of China. The former result offers support for the recent merger activity which has taken place in Chinese higher education.