Drone photo of the University of Stirling campus

Annual Review 2023

Our Annual Review reflects some of the University’s highlights and key achievements from the past year. For 2023, this includes celebrating well-deserved awards and recognition for our students and staff, enjoying momentous sporting occasions, leading innovative, impactful research projects, delivering significant international growth, and consulting widely on our new Strategic Plan.  

As part of our institutional commitment to enhancing our environmental sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint, we are continuing to produce our Annual Review in digital format.

The University continued to make important progress against its strategic objectives in 2023. Our dedication to deliver the best possible student experience has supported significant growth in our international student numbers, while helping to increase income and improve our performance in global rankings. Over the period, it was pleasing to see the International Student Barometer 2022 (wave two) rank our campus and our sports facilities first in the UK and top five in the world, and the QS World University Rankings 2024 place us within its top 500 global universities. In further success, our Campus Central student space was recognised at the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland Awards, and the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey 2022 rated Stirling among the top 30 universities in the UK for postgraduate student experience.

This recognition is a result of our ongoing commitment to improve the student experience at Stirling, and ensure we continue to be a top destination for prospective students globally. Over the past year, thanks to an increase in international student recruitment and growth in our transnational education and partnership activity, our student population has surpassed 18,500 for the first time, with more than 140 nationalities now represented on campus.

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We take great pride in the achievements of our university community. The past year has seen our students and graduates receive prestigious recognition from a host of organisations – for their coursework, their research, their extracurricular activities, and for the enormous contribution they make to society as they use their skills and knowledge to make a difference to the world. Our talented and inspirational staff continue to be celebrated for the leadership they provide in their respective fields – with the past year seeing colleagues bestowed with coveted awards, and appointed to national academies, government taskforces, and international societies.

In 2023, we were incredibly fortunate to strengthen our 108,000-strong alumni community with more than 4,700 knowledgeable, talented, and work-ready graduates celebrating their achievements at Stirling graduation ceremonies, alongside nine inspirational honorary graduates.

One of those to receive an honorary doctorate was Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, who was recognised for her outstanding services to dementia through the work of her Silviahemmet Foundation, whose work aligns with the research and teaching conducted at our world-renowned Dementia Services Development Centre. We will continue to strengthen our links with the Foundation and other international partners as we anticipate the launch of our Intergenerational Living Innovation Hub, to be established under the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal.

Sporting triumphs

As Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, University of Stirling athletes have continued to compete – and triumph – at the highest level of their sports over the past year.

Among the highlights, Duncan Scott and Lucy Hope won a total of four medals at the World Aquatics Championships, while the men’s football team made history when they played Dundee United in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup. The team – who were backed by more than 1,000 Stirling fans on the day and received the plaudits of many sports stars, including Sir Alex Ferguson – were crowned Scottish Student Sport Team of the Year after enjoying a successful season.

Lorna McClymont and George Cannon were recognised as the best female and male student golfers in the UK, respectively; our men’s tennis players triumphed in the UK’s premium student cup competition; and Scott Meenagh won Britain’s first ever medal at the Para Nordic World Championships. In further success for our sports scholars, pentathlete Tristen Bell won silver for the United States at the Pan American Games; Brandon McMullen put in top performances for Scotland in Cricket World Cup Qualifying; and curler James Craik led Team GB to gold at the FISU Winter World University Games.


Our researchers continue to take a mission-oriented, collaborative, and interdisciplinary approach to tackling the increasingly complex challenges facing our world, and 2023 saw major projects make important progress – from climate change, the environment and artificial intelligence, to health and wellbeing, criminology, and education.

Our experts have also been working with colleagues in Ukraine to support the improvement of water quality in the war-torn country. This project – led by Professor Andrew Tyler, the Scotland Hydro Nation Chair – has the potential to make a real difference to those in Ukraine, where the war has impacted rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and the coastal environment.

We are leading studies to understand how dangerous bacteria travel on microplastic pollution; exploring insect resistance to biopesticides; protecting wildlife through the development of artificial intelligence-powered cameras; and disrupting international trafficking of endangered pangolins.

We created the first long-covid resource for patients and healthcare professionals; reported on a project designed to improve the long-term outcomes for trafficked children in Scotland; delivered new guidance on the regulation of artificial intelligence; told the stories of forgotten HIV and AIDs campaigners; and helped reduce the stigma surrounding deaths from alcohol and drugs.

International activity

Internationalisation is a key strategic focus for the University and, in 2023, we have continued to build and strengthen relationships across the globe – growing our international student community, collaborating on major research projects, and enhancing our respected learning and teaching partnerships.

In September, I was pleased to join a Stirling delegation which travelled to China to visit Chengdu University Stirling College (CDUSC) – where we offer undergraduate programmes in data science, digital media and sports studies – as well as to the University of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (UCASS), where we jointly deliver a Doctor of Management. We received a very warm welcome from both institutions and held positive discussions on the progress of these partnerships. We were delighted to reciprocate when we welcomed Chengdu University's President Wang Qingyuan to campus in November to discuss potential research collaborations, and hosted a number of other visiting staff and students from CDUSC and UCASS at other points throughout the year.

It was also a landmark year for our longstanding partnership with the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) – where we celebrated our largest ever graduating cohort and hosted our first SIM alumni event since the Covid pandemic. In further success for our international programmes, colleagues travelled to the United Arab Emirates to mark the achievements of those graduating from our partnership with Planet One International Education in Ras Al Khaimah.

We look forward to continuing to enhance our international partnership activity with global engagement a key focus of our new Strategic Plan.

Local partnerships

Our projects under the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal continued to progress in 2023 with the launch of our Developing the Young Workforce scheme, which will create employment opportunities for young people across the region. We also signed a memorandum of understanding with Dollar Academy to formalise our shared vision and objectives of the Futures Institute at Dollar Academy progressive educational programme.

In a landmark project for Scotland’s International Environment Centre – one of three major university-led research hubs funded under the Deal, we launched the Forth Climate Forest, which will see 16 million trees planted across the local area.

In December, I launched the University’s participation in the White Ribbon campaign – which aims to encourage reflection and discussion that leads to personal and collective action, particularly among men, to end violence against women. The University joins key organisations across the region, under the umbrella of the Stirling Gender-Based Violence Partnership, in supporting the campaign. I am proud to be a White Ribbon ambassador and this campaign is another important step in the University and Students’ Union strategy to prevent and tackle gender-based violence.

Sustainability and the future

The University remains committed to playing its role in addressing the global climate crisis, and becoming net-zero by 2040 – therefore, we were pleased to be ranked in the top 13 percent of the QS World University Rankings for Sustainability. Furthermore, our researchers continue to provide leadership in supporting the world’s transition to net zero – particularly through the work of Scotland’s International Environment Centre and the Scotland Hydro Nation Chair programme.

At the end of 2023, work began on a new National Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Hub, part of our world-leading Institute of Aquaculture. The new facility will further enhance the work of the Institute in helping to tackle global hunger through its pioneering research and teaching.

Throughout 2023, we consulted widely with staff, students and external stakeholders to shape our vision, values and mission for our next Strategic Plan 2024-2030. I am incredibly proud of all that we have achieved to date, and I am confident that the University is on a robust footing to continue to deliver impactful world-leading research, excellence in learning and teaching, and an unrivalled student experience in the years ahead.

Professor Sir Gerry McCormac
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
University of Stirling

Principal Professor Sir Gerry McCormac

Professor Sir Gerry McCormac
Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Outstanding achievements in 2023

1st in the UK, top 3 in the world for campus environment

1st in the UK, top 5 in the world for sport facilities

108,000 Stirling alumni from 180 countries

4,700+ graduates celebrated their achievements

More than 18,500 students studying with us globally

Among the top 500 global universities