University of Glasgow recognised for world-leading research and impact

Published: 12 May 2022

The University of Glasgow has been recognised for its world-changing research, and the positive impact it has on society, by the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The University of Glasgow has been recognised for its world-leading research and the positive impact it has on society, by the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The results highlight Glasgow’s position as a world-changing university which produces research of global and national importance.

The submission also highlighted Glasgow’s commitment to making a difference beyond academia. The University submitted 118 impact case studies to expert panels, showcasing the University’s wide-ranging collaborations with external partners to deliver societal and economic impacts locally, nationally and globally.

The University of Glasgow has one of the broadest research bases in the UK with a wide range of disciplines reflected in its academic community.

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor said “We are very pleased with these results which highlight Glasgow’s global outlook and the hard work and talent of our colleagues. We are committed to working with partners across the world to create high-quality research with real-world impact. Our strategies and investment will continue to reflect this ambition and commitment.

“The past two years have been particularly challenging for everyone, and this moment provides a timely opportunity for us all to reflect on our own institutions’ achievements – and indeed the significant progress that we have achieved together. I would like to extend my thanks and congratulations to colleagues at the University of Glasgow for all their efforts and many congratulations to our sister institutions across the UK on their results.”

Professor Chris Pearce, Vice-Principal for Research & Knowledge Exchange: “We are extremely proud of the quality of research we produce at Glasgow; research carried out with integrity and rigour. Our REF results reflect the culmination of years of work and the collective effort of our researchers, professional staff and partners. I would like to thank everyone involved in the research effort at Glasgow.”

The assessment results reflect Glasgow’s commitment to world-changing research, a commitment which has consistently been recognised through external esteem and funding.

Research excellence and impact was demonstrated across the University’s disciplines:

  • Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences brings together expert researchers from diverse disciplines working to address the major challenges that face society. Strategic, financial, and intellectual investments have driven improvements across research disciplines since the last UK-wide assessment in 2014. The disciplines performed exceptionally well, the collaborative and interdisciplinary approach was recognised by the REF panels, who judged over 95% of the research submission as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’.  A commitment to making a difference across society was acknowledged, with all submitted impact case studies being confirmed to have delivered ‘outstanding’ or ‘very considerable’ reach and significance. These results underline the importance of collaboration and confirm that our researchers contribute to society to improve human and animal health through policy, practice and treatment, and contribute to the competitiveness of the UK economy.
  • Working collaboratively with communities and institutions, Social Sciences’ research materially improves people’s lives, in Glasgow, Scotland and across the world. Across all six Units, 90% or higher of research was assessed as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Reflecting the collegiality of Social Sciences, 100% of the research environment was assessed as having the 'vitality and sustainability' to produce 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent' research and impact. Social Sciences made important contributions on a huge range of knowledge domains including: the urban environment, the UK-wide Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence, the Productivity Institute, the Economics Observatory and the International Public Policy Observatory; the net zero economy; climate democracy; equity in education; migration; health and wellbeing; Central and Eastern Europe including Ukraine and Russia; crime and justice; and the public policy process.
  • Research in Science & Engineering supports the University’s world-changing ambition to lead discovery research that has a positive impact on society in areas including net-zero, healthcare technologies and safe drinking water. International collaborations are creating new forms of imaging for exploring the quantum world, discovering gravitational waves, and advancing next generation communications. Six out of seven units have a research environment that was assessed as 100% 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent', reflecting the commitment to supporting a positive research culture and investing in early career researchers. Strong partnerships demonstrate how Science & Engineering delivers excellent impact: the monitoring and modelling of coastal erosion to enable policy and practice changes to guard against this threat to the environment; the transformation of semiconductor laser products, driving international industrial and economic benefits; and developing the tools required for monitoring air and water quality, providing the expert evidence base for policy changes in these environmental and health-critical areas.
  • Arts & Humanities is committed to sustaining a positive and nurturing research culture. This is reflected in the strong REF performance, with two-thirds of environment and impact being recognised as 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent'. Researchers work closely with public, private and third sector partners across the creative, cultural and heritage industries, and education and policy arenas. These partnerships highlight the value of Arts & Humanities research in tackling economic and societal challenges in the modern world. The 28 submitted impact case studies reflected engagement with civic institutions, public policy, social inclusion, public understanding, mental health and wellbeing, curation of cultural memory, creative arts, education, heritage conservation, cultural diversity and the profile of Gaelic.

Research Excellence Framework

The assessment process, the Research Excellence Framework (REF2021), was managed by the REF Team based at Research England on behalf of the four UK higher education funding bodies.

The REF assessment covered research conducted from 2000-20 and provides a detailed profile of research activity in universities and colleges in the UK. The assessment also examines the wider impacts of research, generated from mid-2013-2020. The REF is a recognised indicator of research quality, influencing student choice and the distribution of public funds for research.

Submissions are assessed according to the following criteria:

  • Four star: quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • Three star: quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
  • Two star: quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • One star: quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • Unclassified: quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or work which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of this assessment.

Impacts of research (presented via case studies) are assessed according to their reach and significance, as follows:

  • Four star: Outstanding impacts in terms of their reach and significance.
  • Three star: Very considerable impacts in terms of their reach and significance.
  • Two star: Considerable impacts in terms of their reach and significance.
  • One star: Recognised but modest impacts in terms of their reach and significance.
  • Unclassified: Impact is of little or no reach and significance; or the impact was not eligible; or the impact was not underpinned by excellent research produced by the submitted unit.

First published: 12 May 2022

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