University of Strathclyde’s research quality makes major strides

The University of Strathclyde is making significant progress in its research quality, according to a Government-led benchmarking exercise.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) measures the quality of research in higher education institutions and the latest results have shown that Strathclyde has major strengths in science, engineering, business and the humanities.

The University has leapt 14 places nationally, coming in at 37th in the UK, a result which sees the University move to fifth in Scotland. That increases to fourth in Scotland and 31st in the UK when measured in terms of ‘research power’.

Highlights for the University include –

  • The overall increase of 14 places is in the top five biggest moves in the UK.
  • The Department of Physics has been rated the number one department in the UK – beating Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College.
  • Strathclyde Business School is in the top 10 in UK and number one in Scotland.
  • The Electronic and Electrical Engineering subject area was third in the UK and first in Scotland.
  • The Pharmacy, Biomedical Engineering and Speech and Language Therapy research was fourth in the UK and first in Scotland.
  • The joint research from Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Design, Manufacture and Engineering Management; Chemical and Process Engineering; and Naval Architecture, Ocean and Marine Engineering was rated fourth in the UK.
  • The joint University of Strathclyde and University of Glasgow Chemistry research was fourth in UK.
  • Civil & Environmental Engineering's research was placed at eight in the UK and first in Scotland.
  • Seven of our eight Engineering departments are ranked in the top 10 in UK;
  • Government and Public Policy were ranked 11th in the UK and second in Scotland.
  • The University made significant progress in Social Work, jumping 18 places in the national table.
  • Our History research has delivered significant progress, moving up 21 places.

Carried out every six years, the REF is the gold-standard in measurement of the UK’s academic profile.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal of the University of Strathclyde, said:

These results cement our position as a leading international technological university and represent independent confirmation of the momentum and strategic focus we have established.

Research is of central importance in everything we do, as it informs our undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and allows us to translate findings into impact which makes a difference to business, industry and society as a whole.

The role of a leading international technological university requires strength across a broad range of specialisms embracing science, engineering, business and the humanities. These results show we have both breadth and depth in our research and that we are playing an important role in the research landscape of the UK at the highest international quality levels.

To have the number one physics department in the UK is a stunning outcome and it shows that our strategic investment in key areas is paying dividends.

In addition, we have top 10 results in major disciplines, along with significant progress in Social Work and Government and Public Policy. Our Business School has proved to be one of the best in the UK.

Our vision for the University of Strathclyde has been one where all of our faculties work in harmony to achieve our aims of solving the challenges facing society and industry, and this is significant external endorsement of that strategy.

Strathclyde prides itself on collaborative working and I would like to thank staff across the institution who have pulled together to produce these excellent results.

The assessment also reflected the very active research environment across the University, with more than half of all submissions making the top 20 in the UK.

The strong REF results come in the same week that Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, led the celebrations to mark the establishment of the University’s new £89m Technology and Innovation Centre.

In addition, the results in Physics align well with the University’s partnership with the Department of Business Innovation and Skills and the University of Surrey to provide future leadership of the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, Middlesex.

Strathclyde’s strength in this field was also reflected in the University recently being named as the only UK higher education institution involved in four new Quantum Technology Hubs. The £120 million, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council-funded national network of hubs will explore the properties of quantum mechanics and how they can be harnessed for use in technology, ranging from GPS navigation systems, to medical imaging, to financial transactions, to computing.

As well as informing funding allocations, the REF provides accountability for public investment in research, demonstrates its benefits, and provides important reputational yardsticks and benchmarking information about the research performance of UK universities.

Related information

Find out more about our Strathclyde's research.

Research Excellence Framework 2014

The four UK higher education funding bodies – the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Scottish Funding Council, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and Department for Education, Northern Ireland – allocate about £2 billion per year of research funding to UK universities, based on the quality and volume of each university’s research. They aim to support a dynamic and internationally competitive UK research sector that makes a major contribution to economic prosperity, national wellbeing and the expansion and dissemination of knowledge.

Aims of the Research Excellence Framework

To distribute funds selectively on the basis of quality, the funding bodies assess universities’ research through a periodic exercise. This was previously known as the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), and was last conducted in 2008.

The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) replaced the RAE. It assessed the quality and impact of research submitted by UK universities across all disciplines. The results will be published in December 2014 and will be used by the funding bodies to allocate block-grant research funding to universities from 2015-16.

As well as informing funding allocations, the REF provides accountability for public investment in research, demonstrates its benefits, and provides important reputational yardsticks and benchmarking information about the research performance of UK universities.

REF 2014 key facts

  • 154 UK universities took part. They made 1,911 submissions for:
    • 52,077 academic staff
    • 191,232 research outputs
    • 6,975 impact case studies.
  • 36 expert sub-panels reviewed the submissions, overseen by four main panels
  • around £2 billion per year of research funding will be allocated on the basis of the results.