St Andrews Places 28th in UK REF Results

The REF (Research Excellence Framework) results of 2021 place research at St Andrews amongst the top thirty in the UK.

According to the REF results, more than 88% of research carried out by the University of St Andrews is world-leading or internationally excellent. The results were published today, Thursday 12 May 2022.


St Andrews excelled in key areas such as Physics, Earth Sciences, Art History, Anthropology, Modern Languages, and Chemistry, a joint submission alongside the University of Edinburgh.


The partnership with the University of Edinburgh for Chemistry was ranked first in the UK based on the quality and scope of its collective research.

Other subjects which performed strongly included Medicine, Psychology, History, and Maths and Statistics.


The REF is a detailed analysis of the research strength of all UK universities. It found that the overall quality of research at St Andrews had increased by 5.7% since the last assessment in 2014.


St Andrews Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Sally Mapstone FRSE said: “The overall quality of our research has increased significantly since the last REF in 2014, we have cause to celebrate the achievements of several of our Schools whose research is rated amongst the best in the UK, and the fact that over 88% of the research we produce in this small corner of Fife has been held to be world-leading or internationally excellent is a remarkable achievement.”


Although REF itself does not explicitly rank universities according to research strengths, the system of measurement it produces is widely used in the higher education sector and in the media to benchmark research performance.

According to these figures and using the Grade Point Average (GPA) method, St Andrews was top in Scotland for Physics, Earth Sciences, Modern Languages, Art History, Anthropology and Chemistry (joint submission with the University of Edinburgh).


Overall, according to the GPA method, St Andrews came third in Scotland and was one of six Scottish universities ranked among the top 50 research institutions in the UK.


Research at St Andrews which REF judged to be world-leading included:


Medicine: The global fight against tuberculosis. Developing global capacity to improve tuberculosis treatment by developing shorter, safer drug regimens, and improved diagnostics for monitoring treatment.


Chemistry: On track to greener trains. St Andrews is developing Scotland’s first hydrogen train which entails the conversion and re-use of a 40-year-old three-car class 314 train to a hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrain. The project will reuse existing rolling stock to create new supply opportunities and skills creation for the emerging green economy while reducing emissions from the Scottish rail sector.


Psychology and Neuroscience: Rethinking dementia with Adaptive Interaction. Research concentrates on helping people living with advanced dementia to communicate. ‘Adaptive Interaction’ focuses on developing meaningful ways to communicate with those who have lost speech.


Earth and Environmental Sciences: The journey to a smoke-free future, research on alternatives to combustible tobacco to decrease the exposure to harmful chemicals still further while providing users with a nicotine source. Scientists focused on the quantities of carcinogenic chemicals present in the aerosols that smokers and vapers inhale to make vaping a safe alternative.


Maths and Statistics: Developing statistical methods to reduce environmental impacts on the world’s oceans. Research has been used in a range of industries, from naval forces to wind turbine deployment to the response of marine animals to sonar, providing critical datasets that have been used to improve sonar use around the world.


The REF assessment of 2021 required all staff with a “significant responsibility” for research to be entered for assessment, for the first time in the history of the UK’s national audit of research. This rule change resulted in 76,132 academics submitting at least one research output, up 46 per cent from 52,000 in 2014.


In total, 41% of outputs were deemed world-leading (4*) by assessment panels and 43% were judged internationally excellent (3*). Steven Hill, director of Research England, which runs the REF, described this as an “exceptional achievement for UK university research” by Steven Hill.




Image: Wikimedia Commons

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