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Research Excellence Framework

The results of the UK-wide assessment of university research have confirmed that Scotland’s universities continue to excel in producing world-leading research with evidence of impressive impact.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 results, published today (12 May 2022), provide a robust and thorough assessment of the quality of universities’ research in all disciplines, providing accountability for public investment in research and demonstrating the benefits of that investment.

The results for Scotland’s universities are based on 21,256 research outputs from 8,675 academic staff at 18 institutions. Key findings are as follows:

  • 41% of research was world-leading (4*) and 44% internationally excellent (3*) across all submitted research activity.
  • All Scottish institutions have 50% of research judged as world-leading or internationally excellent, demonstrating excellence right across the country.
  • Over three-quarters of institutions have more than 20% world-leading research.
  • Almost 90% of impact is judged outstanding or very considerable.

REF 2021 provides a broader view than available before of research quality that spans the range of research activity being undertaken by each participating university. This arises from rule changes requiring the inclusion of all staff with a significant responsibility for research and has seen a substantial increase in the number of staff returned in the assessment since the last REF in 2014 – up 37 per cent.

Speaking on the day the results were published, Scottish Funding Council Chief Executive, Karen Watt, said:

“Today’s results underline the strength of university research in Scotland and reinforce the global reputation of our world-leading institutions. With almost 90% of Scottish university research being judged to have outstanding or very considerable impact, we can clearly see the real benefits that public investment is having on people’s day to day lives.

This is a huge achievement and I would like to pay tribute to every member of staff who has contributed to this robust process and to all those who continue to make such a huge contribution to addressing the societal challenges we collectively face.”

Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Jamie Hepburn, said:

“Today’s REF2021 results highlight the excellent research being carried out in our institutions and confirms Scotland’s position as a world-leading research nation. They also demonstrate the impact of Scottish research across all disciplines which is something we should be rightly proud of.”