REF 2021

The Research Excellence Framework (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.

According to REF 2021, more than 88% of research carried out by the University of St Andrews is world-leading or internationally excellent. The overall quality of research at St Andrews has also increased by 5.7% since the last assessment exercise in 2014.

Overall under GPA, the University of St Andrews ranked 3rd in Scotland and 28th in the UK.


REF 2021 found that St Andrews particularly excelled in a number of key research areas. Using the method of Grade Point Average (GPA), St Andrews was top in Scotland for:

  • Physics
  • Earth Sciences
  • Modern Languages
  • Art History
  • Anthropology
  • Chemistry (joint submission with the University of Edinburgh).

St Andrews’ partnership with the University of Edinburgh for Chemistry was first in the UK based on the quality and breadth of its combined research, using the Power Index methodology published in the Times Higher Education (THE) with their combined weight.

Also performing strongly in St Andrews were Medicine, Psychology and Neuroscience, History, and Mathematics and Statistics.

GPA benchmarking source:  Times Higher Education REF 2021 results

Power Index methodology:  REF 2021 Times Higher Educations methodology


REF2021 Research Highlights at St Andrews include:

  • Medicine

  • Chemistry

  • Psychology and Neuroscience

  • Earth and Environmental Sciences

  • Mathematics and Statistics

  • Modern Languages

  • Art History

  • Social Anthropology and Divinity


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