University of Strathclyde performs strongly in Research Excellence Framework 2021

Exterior of Technology & Innovation Centre.

The University of Strathclyde has performed very strongly in the latest national assessment of the UK’s higher education research profile.

Almost 90% of research produced by the University of Strathclyde has been rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’ in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021.

In a reflection of Strathclyde as ‘the place of useful learning’, the University’s impact and research environment have been recognised as particularly strong, with both quality profiles being above average for the sector. 

REF is the UK Government’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. Strathclyde’s 2021 performance improves on the 2014 results and demonstrates that the University has continued to build strength and quality in its research profile.

The strong performance in REF 2021 relative to other institutions is reflected in the Times Higher Education’s (THE) REF ranking tables based on Grade Point Average. The University was ranked fourth in Scotland and joint 33rd in the UK, an increase of four places since 2014. 

Strathclyde’s highlights from the REF 2021 results includes:

  • An overall institutional quality profile above the sector average for ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally-excellent’ research of 89% versus 84%.
  • 57% of our impact was rated ‘outstanding’, with 93.2% rated as ‘outstanding’ or ‘very considerable’, compared to sector average of 87.2%, according to the THE REF tables, Strathclyde has the second-highest impact quality profile in Scotland.
  • 56% of our research environment was recognised as ‘world-leading’, which is above the sector average of 50%, with 96.2% rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’, compared to sector average of 86.5%. This is the third-highest environment quality profile in Scotland, according to the THE.
  • The School of Government and Public Policy’s submission was the highest-rated submission in the UK, with 62% of the research rated ‘world-leading’ and 100% of the impact rated ‘outstanding’, making it first in the UK overall, according to the THE.
  • Strathclyde’s Allied Health submission, which included research across four Strathclyde departments, was rated 100% ‘world-leading’ for its research environment. According to the THE, the Allied Health submission is ranked joint 11th in the UK for its overall research quality and is the highest-performing Scottish institution.
  • Strathclyde’s Architecture, Built Environment and Planning submission was rated 100% ‘outstanding’ for impact and was the only submission in the unit to achieve this
  • Strathclyde’s Engineering submission, which included the research of seven departments from the Faculty of Engineering, has the joint highest impact quality profile in Scotland and joint highest environment quality profile in Scotland, based on GPA as calculated by THE.
  • Strathclyde Business School’s environment was rated 75% ‘world leading’.
  • The School of Social Work and Social Policy has the highest quality profile for research publications in Scotland, according to the THE GPA calculations, with almost half of our nominated publications being classed as ‘world-leading’.
  • The Department of Physics’ impact submission was rated 75% ‘outstanding’, which is the highest impact quality profile in Scotland, according to the THE GPA calculations.
  • Strathclyde’s History submission has the second-highest impact quality profile in Scotland, based on GPA as calculated by THE.

Strathclyde submitted more than 1,800 research outputs and 58 impact case studies across 14 units of assessment (UOA) for peer review by expert panels. Each UOA is awarded a quality rating with the top ratings being ‘world-leading’ (4-star) or ‘internationally excellent’ (3-star).

For each submission, three distinct elements were assessed: the quality of outputs, their impact beyond academia, and the environment that supports research. Together these provide an overall quality profile for each UOA.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal & Vice-Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, said: “I am delighted with Strathclyde’s strong results in the REF 2021 which reflects our status as a leading international technological university that is delivering high-quality research which is making a positive impact on the world.

I am delighted with Strathclyde’s strong results in the REF 2021 which reflects our status as a leading international technological university that is delivering high-quality research which is making a positive impact on the world.

“There has been an uplift and growth in our research quality from the last REF in 2014 and the performance confirms the further expansion of our research quality and power. This result is an important milestone on our institutional journey.

 “Across the board, the proportion of our research which is world-leading and internationally excellent in quality is increasing and above sector averages. I am also delighted to see our very strong scores for our research environment and impact – which are again above the sector average – across almost the whole submission.

“This recognises the emphasis we place on creating a first-class research environment that allows our academics – and those that support the research activities – to make a positive impact in tackling some of the biggest societal challenges we face.

“We also put strong emphasis on working in collaboration with academic, industrial and public and third sector partners, both within Scotland and the UK as well as internationally. Collaborative working is crucial to high-quality research and this is part of Strathclyde’s distinctiveness.

“The result shows we are one of the UK’s most research-intensive universities. However, we have achieved this while also expanding our socially progressive agenda.  We are connected to our community, committed to our people and actively playing our part in improving society for all.

“Our academic community delivered this result, supported by a first class process coordinated by colleagues from across the institution. I would like to thank all of the staff at the University, as well as our partners and collaborators, who have played a part in these excellent outcomes.”

More than 750 staff were directly included in Strathclyde’s REF 2021 submission, which included research conducted over a seven-year period from January 2014 to December 2020, and many more contributed to the University’s strong results.

Strathclyde submitted to 14 UOAs: Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy; Chemistry; Physics; Mathematical Sciences; Computer Science and Informatics; General Engineering; Architecture, Built Environment and Planning; Business and Management Studies; Law; Politics and International Studies; Social Work and Social Policy; Education; English Language and Literature; History.

Across all of them, the strength of Strathclyde’s impact was recognised, demonstrating a commitment to achieving real-world value from research. Some of the impacts showcased through Strathclyde’s case studies were:

  • The development and clinical testing of a new class of anti-infective drug, fighting Clostridium Difficile whilst reducing the risk of antibiotic resistance. MGB Biopharma, a new biotechnology company formed to develop the drug and sponsor the clinical trials, has raised over £11 million in equity and public funding. MGB Biopharma expects the drug to be fully licensed and commercialised in 2024/5,
  • The establishment of the UK’s first Fraunhofer Centre in Strathclyde’s Technology and Innovation Centre, enabling UK companies to accelerate technology development, develop new products, create and protect jobs and operate in international markets,
  • Efficiency savings in the planning and installation of major offshore wind farm projects for industrial partners Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) and Scottish Power Renewables (SPR) through the use of Strathclyde-developed modelling tools,
  • Better understanding of the causes of poor indoor air quality, protecting occupant health by influencing Scottish common law, sharing UK Government policy and public health advice to reduce COVID-19 transmission and informing building regulations and industry guidance to improve building performance in Scotland and the UK,
  • Improving stop and search practices by Police in Scotland by informing the development of a Code of Practice, regulating police practice during stop and search. Since the introduction of the Code, Glasgow has seen a 59% reduction in the number of stop and search incidences and public confidence in the tactic increased,
  • Strathclyde’s Scottish Oral History Centre’s work has deepened understanding of Scotland’s industrial heritage and history of working lives, whilst marginalised voices were made more visible. For example, a series of corporate oral histories enriched companies’ perception of their workers’ role in their development and boosted their economic activities through adding heritage narratives to their marketing tools.

Strathclyde carries out a wide range of research across key themes, including: Advanced Manufacturing & Materials; Energy; Health & Wellbeing; Innovation & Entrepreneurship; Measurement Science & Enabling Technologies; Ocean, Air & Space; and Society & Policy. Each of the University’s strategic research themes were well represented in the REF submission. For example:

  • Multiple impact case studies across the REF 2021 submission relating to energy, reflecting our position as one of the largest energy clusters in Europe. Impacts ranged from informing energy policy to improving the management of nuclear facilities to influencing codes regulating power networks, with Strathclyde receiving a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Further & Higher Education in 2020 for its contribution to energy innovation,
  • The multidisciplinary and collaborative Health and Wellbeing theme was in part represented by a joint submission by the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy & Biomedical Sciences, the School of Psychological Sciences and Health, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and the Department of Computer and Information Sciences to the Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy Unit of Assessment, reflecting the strength of our Health and Wellbeing strategic research theme.

Strathclyde is ambitious in its vision to continually increase its research capabilities. We have more than doubled our research income from 2010, rising from £35million to £96 million in 2021 and are well on target to meet our target of £125 million by 2025.  

The REF 2021 saw 157 UK universities take part, with submissions including:

  • 76,000 academic staff
  • 185,000 research outputs
  • 6,700 impact case studies

REF results also provide accountability for public investment in research, demonstrate its benefits, and provide important reputational yardsticks and benchmarking information about the research performance of UK universities. The REF 2021 results will be used to allocate around £250 million of annual research funding to Scottish Universities.

For more information on how research from Strathclyde is having a positive impact on society visit our Research Excellence Framework pages.