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Social Anthropology Research Excellence

12 May 2022

Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews is top in Scotland according to data from the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) published today (Thursday 12 May).

Over 92% of research carried out by the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews is world-leading or internationally excellent, according to the results of REF2021.

Professor Mark Harris, Head of the School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies said: “We are especially proud of our highly evaluated research environment, which includes our support of PhD students and activities from research grants. Alongside our research, our teaching is regularly seen by students as one of the best in anthropology in the UK according to the National Student Survey.”

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.”

In addition to publications and research environment indicators, REF also considers evidence of impact – the ability of research to impact lives and livelihoods beyond academia.

Impact case studies in Social Anthropology at St Andrews, which REF judged to be internationally excellent, included:

  • Tackling the ‘root causes’ of gender inequality and domestic violence in the Pacific: Evidencing and implementing a transformative approach. The prevalence of violence against women in the Pacific region is among the highest in the world. This research focussed on the findings of an ethnographic pilot research project into a range of gender inequality issues in the Pacific - discrimination, violence, exploitation, representation - with particular focus on gender violence and women’s presence in political and economic contexts. 
  • Decipherment and History: Recovering Peru's Andean Heritage. The importance of the Andean cultural heritage has been denigrated and understudied within Peru and globally. Local ethnic groups in Peru lack access to their own history, while the traditional Andean form of communication, "khipus", has been disparaged as not being "true writing". Research has helped to recover the cultural heritage of native Andeans by publishing the first historical ethnography of Peruvian Chanka Indians, incorporated into displays at the Chanka museum; and by advancing our understanding of the Andean system of writing with knotted cords, "khipus".