Spotlight on REF 2021

University of Stirling research is making a tangible difference across the globe – with new analysis recognising that 87% is of the highest standard, having an outstanding or very considerable impact on society.

The results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 – an independent appraisal of the quality of research conducted by all UK universities – also reported that more than 80% of Stirling's research is either world leading or internationally excellent.

REF2021 final logo


infographic: More than 80% of our research

More than 80% of our research

is world-leading or internationally excellent

REF 2021
infographic: 87% of our research

87% of our research

has an outstanding or very considerable impact on society

REF 2021
infographic: 4th in Scotland

4th in Scotland

for research impact

Times Higher Education

REF 2021 results

The REF 2021 results underline the positive impact the University’s research has in tackling real-world challenges, such as climate change, food security and an ageing population. Between 2014 and 2021, the University improved in each of the three pillars of REF assessment – outputs, impact and environment. 

  • There was an overall increase in the proportion of research considered either world leading or internationally excellent (71.9% in 2014 to 80.74% in 2021).
  • The percentage of university research deemed as having outstanding or very considerable impact – the top ratings within that category – was 87.05%, up from 82.6% in 2014. 
  • The research environment – incorporating strategy, culture, facilities, and interdisciplinary collaboration – also improved across the period, scoring 85% in the world leading or internationally excellent categories (up from 78.1% in 2014).

Sir Gerry McCormac

"This important independent recognition underlines our commitment to use our innovative and interdisciplinary research to address the needs of society and reflects the hard work and dedication of our staff who ensure purpose and impact is at the centre of everything we do. 

As we look to the future, we will continue to build on the progress we have made. Excellent opportunities lie ahead for the University, including those presented by the multi-million-pound investment in economic and social improvement, based on University-led research, enabled through the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal."

Professor Sir Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor

infographic: 1st in the UK

1st in the UK

for research impact in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science

infographic: Top 15 in the UK

Top 15 in the UK

for research impact in Geography and Environmental Studies

infographic: 3rd in Scotland

3rd in Scotland

for overall research in Social Work and Social Policy

Research spotlights

fish swimming
Research Spotlight

Combatting poverty and hunger via sustainable aquaculture

We have enhanced farm management in Europe, Latin America and Africa, which has led to increases in fish production, optimising the use of space and resources, and reduced the environmental impact from aquaculture.

two people on bench at seaside
Research Spotlight

Finding innovative solutions to the challenges of ageing and dementia

Our research brings together a vast mix of skills, from doctors and nurses to economists, psychologists, social workers and artists – all working towards a common goal of promoting better wellbeing and quality of life.

River Thames, London
Research Spotlight

Saving Europe's freshwaters

Find out how our research has been critical to implementing major new policies to repair tens of thousands of water bodies across Europe.

snowy mountains
Research Spotlight

Improving avalanche safety through philosophy

Learn how our research is informing best practice among mountain safety practitioners, professionals and educators around the world.

Student concentrating on exam
Research Spotlight

Enhancing educational opportunities

How education experts at Stirling are helping to ensure young people get the best possible education.

children running in playground
Research Spotlight

Encouraging childhood physical activity

Our research showed that a simple local solution could improve the fitness of school pupils. Now 10,000+ schools have adopted The Daily Mile approach.

Illustration of CCTV cameras
Research Spotlight

Ensuring transparency in surveillance camera use

Learn how research conducted at Stirling has been pivotal to the creation of a National Surveillance Camera Strategy designed to ensure surveillance cameras are used responsibly and with transparency.

More highlights

  • Education: top 20 in the UK for impact and research environment
  • History: 15th in the UK for impact, 3rd in Scotland for outputs and impact
  • Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism: 1st in Scotland for outputs
  • Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information: 2nd in Scotland overall
  • Philosophy: joint 1st in Scotland for impact
  • Psychology: 2nd in Scotland for impact