We are pleased to report on our research and impact achievements as recognised by the REF2021 assessment exercise, reflecting an enormous amount of sustained effort by many colleagues – academic staff and also support staff – over the last seven-plus years. For details, see


The School has supported two REF submissions. One, directed to Unit of Assessment 7 (Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences), combines our earth scientists, physical geographers and colleagues from both the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) and Interdisciplinary Studies (IS, Dumfries Campus). The other, directed to Unit of Assessment 14 (Geography and Environmental Studies), comprises our human geographers.


Human Geography: UoA14 submission

Our UoA14 submission has performed very well, being one of the highest-achieving Geography units submitted to REF2021, with over 50% of its activity adjudged to be ‘world-leading’ and over 40% to be ‘internationally excellent’. Well over a third of its outputs are graded as ‘world-leading’ and well over a half as ‘internationally excellent’. These outcomes confirm the School’s long-term commitment to improving its human geography research performance through the recruitment of high-quality academic staff, expanding postgraduate numbers and contributing significantly to the intellectual development and institutional infrastructure of geography globally.


Most notably, 100% of the impact work in this submission has been assessed as ‘outstanding’ (4*). Our impact case studies – tied to high-quality primary research on the ‘geographies of missing people' and ‘outsider art’ – have made transformative interventions in policing sensitive issues, extending museum outreach, addressing mental ill-health, and engaging vulnerable people and their families. Participatory principles have guided our impact activity from planning through delivery and into the securing of legacies, both in the case studies and across our wider portfolio of ‘worldly work’. Our goal is to make a research-informed positive difference, particularly seeking to support and include people usually marginalised in wider society.


Earth Sciences and Physical Geography: UoA7 submission

Our UoA7 submission has performed well, with nearly 25% of its activity adjudged ‘world-leading’ and over 60% ‘internationally excellent’. Over a third of its outputs are graded as ‘world-leading’ and over a half as ‘internationally excellent’, while the unit’s impact work – on different dimensions of environmental governance – is recognised as predominantly ‘very considerable’. For a unit undergoing substantial transformation over recent years – in staffing, research foci, and organisational structures – this outcome reflects what has been achieved and holds promise for what more can be achieved going forward.


Our research culture is collegiate and inspiring, with a focus on people and career development, evidenced by the successful progression of early career researchers who are now emerging as new research leaders, replacing senior staff members who have moved into national leadership roles. A platform is being laid for future success, linked to the high-profile roles now being played by staff in directing Centres for research excellence, including the Centre for Data Science and AI (Ana Basiri), National Environmental Isotope Facility (Darren Mark), Centre for Sustainable Solutions (Jaime Toney), and National Centre for Resilience (Fabrice Renaud).