2021 REF results released

12 May 2022

Over 91% of research carried out by the School of English is world-leading or internationally excellent, according to the results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) published on Thursday May 12 2022.

The REF – a detailed analysis of the research strengths of all UK universities – found that St Andrews excelled in a number of key research areas – including English.

REF 2021 found that 91% of the School of English's overall research performance - including 87% of research outputs and 100% of research Impact - was world-leading or internationally excellent.

Head of the School of English, Professor Ian Johnson commented:

“The REF 2021 results recognise the excellent research produced in the School of English. Our REF submission stated that ‘intellectual breadth and collegiality are our most treasured assets’ and we continue to support these principles. The School welcomes the REF2021 results and looks forward to many exciting ongoing and new research initiatives.”

Research at the School of English which REF judged to be world-leading include:

  • The creation (and re-creation) of contemporary female heroines at the centre of new plays for the theatre
  • ‘Making it New’: Medieval Poetry in Modernity
  • Hearing the Music of Virginia Woolf's Writing

The School's research reaches public audiences in the UK and internationally. With our partners our research has catalysed new creative writing, music and drama and has informed broadcasts and public lectures. Our recent work with public audiences engages diverse communities by:

  • Fostering understanding of the experience of refugees and displaced people via school workshops and the publication of fiction, creative non-fiction and children’s literature
  • Producing educational resources and new creative work on Samoan music and on music’s role in colonial history in collaboration with indigenous Polynesian musicians, creative writers and teachers, funded by SFC ‘Global Challenges Research Fund’
  • Development of pedagogical and other public resources on: Older Scots; the monuments of the American Civil War; and on the literary sources of Anglo-Saxon writing

The School is also delighted to have won research funding to support the following projects:

  • Histories of Mercian and medieval Scots literature, supported by the British Academy and Leverhulme Trust respectively
  • A Symposium on the literary culture of Scotland before the union of the parliaments in 1707, sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library
  • Sounding Scotland’s Waters 1800-1900, an interdisciplinary research workshop bringing together scientists and blue humanities scholars, funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh

REF 2021 found that the overall quality of research at St Andrews had increased by 5.7 % since the last assessment exercise 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 explicitly does not rank universities according to research strengths, the metrics it produces are widely used in the higher education sector and in the media to benchmark research performance.

According to these figures, using the method of Grade Point Average (GPA), St Andrews was ranked 3rd in Scotland and 28th in the UK, one of six Scottish universities ranked amongst the top 50 research institutions in the UK.

Full details of the Research Excellence Framework 2021

University of St Andrews REF 2021 results