• 87% of the University's research has an outstanding or very considerable impact on society
• More than 80% of Stirling research is world leading or internationally excellent
• 4th in Scotland and 43rd in the UK for research impact
• Research environment at Stirling commended for enabling excellence and delivering impact
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.
The recognition underlines the positive impact the University’s research has in tackling real-world challenges, such as climate change, food security and an ageing population.
Notably, Stirling places joint 4th in Scotland and joint 43rd in the UK for research impact (Times Higher Education REF 2021: Impact Scores rankings).
Research from the University’s Institute of Aquaculture, Biological and Environmental Sciences, and Social Sciences was rated highly by assessors for its significant quality and impact, while the research environment was also commended for enabling excellence and delivering significant impact.
The analysis reflects the University's commitment to delivering positive societal change through high quality interdisciplinary research and furthers its strategic ambition of enhancing its research profile by 100%.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Stirling
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.
Professor Sir Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling, said: “I am incredibly proud of the University's performance in the Research Excellence Framework 2021. When compared with the previous REF 2014 results, we have improved across all three pillars of assessment – research outputs, impact, and environment – key markers of excellence which demonstrate the progress we have made over the last seven years.
“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.”
REF 2021 results
The REF is conducted every six to seven years to assess the quality of research across UK universities; show the quality and output of research domestically and globally; and illustrate the impact research has on the academic environment and our society, and its real-world benefits. The process – which assesses research outputs, impact, and environment – is jointly conducted by the four UK higher education funding bodies, including the Scottish Funding Council, and informs the allocation of around £2 billion of research funding each year.
Having improved in each of the three pillars of assessment between 2014 and 2021, Stirling experienced 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% (up from 78.1% in 2014).
Key areas of strength
The University's Institute of Aquaculture ranked 1st in the UK, in the field of Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science, for impact – with 100% of its research having outstanding impact, the highest possible rating.
Similarly, all research (100%) from Biological and Environmental Sciences was rated as having either outstanding or very considerable impact – ranking it joint 12th in the UK for Geography and Environmental Studies.
Social Sciences also performed well – ranking 3rd in Scotland and 23rd in the UK for Social Work and Social Policy – with 88% of its research deemed world leading or internationally excellent.
Notably, the University is set to further build on its success in these three areas, with the creation of the National Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Hub, Scotland's International Environment Centre, and the Intergenerational Living Innovation Hub, through the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal.
Other highlights include:
- 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
Professor Judith Phillips, Deputy Principal (Research) at the University of Stirling, said: “I am delighted that the University's collaborative and interdisciplinary research has been recognised in the latest REF assessment.
“At Stirling, we understand that research is a collaborative endeavour, and that all of our staff and students contribute to our research culture and environment.
“Our REF outcome reflects the contribution made by our entire community and partners.”
Harry Adam, Chair of University Court, said: “On behalf of University Court, I send our congratulations to the University of Stirling research community on the positive REF results.
“It is with great pride that we continue to see Stirling research make a difference around the world.”
For more information, please visit our REF 2021 and research webpages.