Strathclyde Business School Newsletter
May 2022

Research Excellence Framework recognises Strathclyde Business School research

REF 2021 Banner

The latest Research Excellence Framework (REF) has recognised the University of Strathclyde for its research and the impact it has on society, with the University performing very strongly in this 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 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.

In terms of highlights for Strathclyde Business School:

  • Its overall proportion of world-leading research at 42% is significantly above the sector average of 35%. With a GPA of 3.26 this positions SBS as the third-highest overall quality of all Scottish institutions, as ranked by THE.
  • Its proportion of world-leading and internationally-excellent research outputs combined at 81% is above the sector average of 76.3%.
  • SBS’s exemplary research environment achieved particularly strong recognition having a rating of 75% ‘conducive to producing research of world-leading quality and enabling outstanding impact’.
  • With the remaining 25% rated as ‘conducive to producing research of internationally excellent quality’, this places SBS significantly above the sector average and makes it the second-highest environment quality profile in Scotland.
  • The proportion of SBS’s impact assessed as ’outstanding’ is also well above sector average at 55.6% against 41.7%.
  • In terms of scale and quality, the SBS submission has been ranked 16th in the UK on Research Power by the THE (a calculation which takes account of the volume of associated staff). This makes it the second-highest in Scotland

Executive Dean of Strathclyde Business School, Professor David Hillier said, “Strathclyde Business School has a history of ‘useful learning’ and we are delighted that our research is continuing to be recognised as strong and impactful in the most recent Research Excellence Framework.

“We are particularly proud of the fact we carry out interdisciplinary research which is important in addressing complex business issues that impact on society, the economy and the political landscape and we continue to move forward with our socially progressive agenda.

“Throughout the pandemic years, staff have continued to work collaboratively and I congratulate all for the hard work they consistently put into their research and how they work across faculties and with other bodies to carry out important, relevant and impactful business research.”

Professor John Quigley, Vice Dean (Research), said, “At SBS we are keen to foster a research community which sees our young researchers be cultivated allowing them to be successful in taking on positions of teaching and research at the business school and to move up the ranks to become more senior lecturers within the business school, which testifies to our performance in terms of Environment.

“We are pleased to have achieved the third-highest overall quality profile in Scotland, and the second highest Research Power ranking in the Times Higher Education REF tables.”

In terms of research impact, SBS put forward a number of case studies (which can be found on the University’s REF webpages):

  • Researchers helped NHS Scotland to forecast how many critical care hospital beds would be needed at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic using data modelling
  • Research carried out by academics has informed entrepreneurial policy and through collaboration with the Scottish Government and other bodies, the research has helped accelerate Scotland's entrepreneurial ecosystem
  • 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 modeling tools
  • Tackling in-work poverty in the UK by demonstrating the business case for a real Living Wage
  • By evidencing the nature of poor performance management practice, Strathclyde’s research has equipped UK trade unions to campaign effectively for HRM reform to improve employment relations.

More than 750 staff were directly involved across the University 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.

The REF is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. It first took place in 2014, replacing the previous Research Assessment Exercise. The REF is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies: Research England, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE).

The funding bodies’ shared policy aim for research assessment is to secure the continuation of a world-class, dynamic and responsive research base across the full academic spectrum within UK higher education. The REF is a process of expert review, carried out by expert panels for each of the 34 subject-based units of assessment, under the guidance of four main panels. Expert panels are made up of senior academics, international members and research users.

For each submission, three distinct elements are assessed: the quality of outputs such as publications, performances, and exhibitions: their impact beyond academia; and the environment that supports research. The Stern review underlined the ‘essential role of interdisciplinary research in addressing complex problems and research questions posed by global social, economic, ecological and political challenges’.