Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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The Strathclyde REF2021 submission was completed on Friday 26th March 2021. The REF Team would like to thank all staff involved in the preparations for their hard work and dedication throughout and for their collaborative approach to working with the team.

We are now awaiting the results, which are expected in April 2022.

About REF

The REF assessment, which takes place approximately every 6 years is administered by the four UK higher education Funding Councils: Research England (formerly Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the government's Department for Employment and Learning. The results of REF are used by these funding councils to determine the value of the block grant awarded to HEIs for the subsequent 5 year period.

REF assess research quality by expert peer review across 34 subject areas (Units of Assessment). Assessment will be across 3 pillars which together comprise the overall quality profile for a unit as follows:

  • Research Outputs (publications) - 60%
  • Impact (the contribution and benefit of research beyond academia) - 25%
  • Environment - 15%

Outputs and Impacts are reviewed by a REF Panel for each subject area. The panel reviews submissions against star rating criteria - a basic overview of which is given below.

Star ratingDescription - OutputsDescription - Impacts 
 4* World leading   Outstanding
 3*  Internationally excellent  Very considerable
 2*  Recognised internationally  Considerable
 1*  Recognised nationally  Recognised but modest

As an institution we are ambitious in our delivery of internationally excellent research and world class impact. We strive to submit a portfolio in the next REF dominated by 3* and 4* outputs and impact.

Submission elements

For information on how REF2021 data will be used, please read the privacy statements for both staff (REF 2021 Staff Data Collection Statement) and non-staff (REF 2021 Non-Staff Data Collection Statement). These detail how personal data collected for the purposes of the exercise will be processed.


As a research intensive University, delivery of internationally-leading research forms one of our core institutional strategic themes. In line with this, and in the context of an increasingly competitive research environment, the continued enhancement of the quality of our research outputs is crucial to our success. As an institution we must be ambitious in our research and focus on producing an outputs profile dominated by 3* and 4* quality.

Strathclyde staff can find more details on outputs and our institutional preparations on the RKES portal.


Within the context of an ever changing research funding environment, achieving impact from our research now forms a core pillar in any research project. Strathclyde's excellent impact performance in REF 2014, reflects the applied and highly relevant nature of our research. We must continue to build on this success to remain competitive for REF2021. A key objective of the institution is to increase research impact; achieving this will add value to our research and will allow us to explore new research areas as a result.

Examples of our international impact can be found on our Strategic Theme pages.

Strathclyde staff can find more details on preparation of our impact case studies on the RKES portal.


In the REF 2021, institutions will be rewarded where they have a dynamic and creative research environment, a vision and direction for their research and related activities, and a plan to deliver impact through their research. At Strathclyde, we seek to ensure continued progress as an institution which is bold, innovative and ambitious in its vision. We will do this by increasing our research intensity in all areas and creating and adopting innovative approaches to connect high-quality fundamental research to outcomes that have impact in contemporary global society and industry.

Environment statements will be required from each submitting unit. These statements should describe the unit’s vitality and sustainability, where vitality is understood as the extent to which a unit supports a thriving and inclusive research culture for all staff and research students, and sustainability is understood as the extent to which the research environment ensures the future health, diversity, well-being and wider contribution of the unit.

Strathclyde staff can find more details on environment statements on the RKES portal.

2014 REF results

The UK results are available on the REF2014 website and tables of UK rankings have been compiled by the Times HigherResearch Professional and other publications. All Impact Case Studies submitted to the REF can be found here.

Highlights for the University of Strathclyde included:

University of Strathclyde

Top 20 in the UK for Research Intensity

Overall increase of 14 places (from our 2008 position) – in the top 5 biggest moves in the UK 
Physics Number 1 in the UK (GPA Quality) 
Strathclyde Business School Top 10 UK: 1st in Scotland
Electronic and Electrical Engineering  3rd in UK : 1st in Scotland (GPA Power) 
Pharmacy, Biomedical Engineering and Speech and Language Therapy Grouping (Allied Health)  4th in UK : 1st in Scotland (GPA Power) 
Joint Research of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Design, Manufacture and Engineering Management; Chemical and Process Engineering; and Naval Architecture, Ocean and Marine Engineering  4th in UK (GPA Power)
Chemistry: Joint University of Strathclyde and University of Glasgow Chemistry (WestChem)   4th in UK (GPA Power) 
Civil Engineering 8th in UK : 1st in Scotland (GPA Power) 
Government and Public Policy  11th in UK : 2nd in Scotland 
Social Work  Up 18 places on 2008 
History  Up 21 places on 2008





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