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REF 2014 finds Scotland’s higher education sector is “world-class"

Friday, December 19, 2014 | By Universities Scotland International Team | Not tagged

This week the long awaited results from the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) were published and Scottish universities certainly fared well.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is an assessment of the quality and impact of the research that UK universities undertake. The REF itself is a huge undertaking and is carried out roughly every six-to-seven years. The last assessment was published in December 2008.

The REF results provide important reputational yardsticks and benchmarking information about the research performance of every one of the UK’s higher education institutions.

The REF provides an assessment of three different factors as well as an overall assessment. These factors are: quality of research outputs, impact to wider society and economy, and research environment.

Submissions are then graded on a scale from 1* to 4*. 1* is defined as quality that is recognised nationally, 2* is defined as quality that is recognised internationally, 3* is defined as quality that is internationally excellent, and 4* is defined as quality that is world-leading.

Here is a summary of the key findings for Scotland:

1. Every one of Scotland’s higher education institutions undertakes research judged to be of “world-leading” quality.


2. The higher education sector in Scotland submitted research to all 36 units of assessment (broad subject groupings) and was judged to undertake research of “world leading” quality in all 36 units of assessment.


3. Overall, 77 per cent of Scottish research submitted to the REF2014 was judged to be “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” (4* and 3* combined) on the overall profile. This puts Scotland just ahead of the UK average of 76.1 per cent.


4. Scotland’s performance in REF 2014 exceeds that achieved in the last UK-wide research assessment exercise conducted in 2008. Scotland’s overall profile figure for 4* and 3* research in 2008 was 52 per cent.


5. Scotland performs more highly than the UK average when assessed on the impact of its research; a new measures for REF 2014. 85.8 per cent of Scottish research was judged to be at 4* and 3* - levels which means the research has had “outstanding” or “very considerable” impact (compared to the UK average of 83.9 per cent).


6. Demonstrating its strengths across all disciplines, the Scottish sector has above the UK average proportion of world-leading research in fields such as: chemistry, biological sciences, physics, history, art and design, agriculture, veterinary and food science, music, drama, dance and the performing arts.


7. Scotland was found to have the highest rating of 4* and 3* combined in the UK for the research environment measure. The assessment of environment includes the wider research team including researchers and post-doctoral students as well as facilities and infrastructure.

These results demonstrate that the quality of research in Scotland is of a high quality in all fields and that Scotland truly is leading the world in research and innovation. 

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