Staff Services Student Enterprise

Research rankings confirm Edinburgh’s world-leading reputation

12 May 2022

Edinburgh’s position as one of the UK’s leading research universities has been reaffirmed by the results of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework.

The University of Edinburgh is fourth in the UK based on the quality and breadth of its research, known as research power, and is Scotland’s top-ranked institution.

The results reveal that nearly 90 per cent of the University’s research activity is in the highest categories – 4 star and 3 star – which are classified respectively as ‘world leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’, a growth of 10 percentage points since the previous Research Excellence Framework (REF) in 2014.

No 1 in five subject areas

The University's research in five subject areas – including Computer Science and Informatics, Sociology, and Anthropology and Developmental Studies – is ranked as the best in the UK based on quality and breadth.

Three quarters of the research areas in which Edinburgh was assessed – 21 disciplines out of 28 – were judged to be in the top five in the UK.

The REF is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. Universities are evaluated on the standard of their research, the environment in which it is conducted, and the positive impact it has on the world.

The outcomes reinforce Edinburgh’s position as one of the world’s top universities, building on its current position of 16th in the QS rankings of the top universities globally.

Collaborative and interdisciplinary

Collaboration with other institutions and partners is key to the global success of Edinburgh’s research. The REF submission featured joint publications and projects with colleagues in 115 countries.

Some 919 outputs from Edinburgh’s REF 2021 entry were classified as interdisciplinary – academics collaborating between traditional subject areas to tackle complex problems – an increase of nearly nine per cent since 2014.

Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, said:

This fantastic result is a testament to the talent, ingenuity and sheer hard work of our staff. It shows that our world-class research is playing its part in making the world a better place in a way that few places – with a combination of the brightest minds, the most cutting edge facilities, powerful partnerships, and a commitment to tackling sticky problems from all angles - can do in the way that Edinburgh can.

This success is shared with our industrial, charity and philanthropic supporters with whom we have collaborated to maximise the impact of our work locally and globally.

Professor Jonathan Seckl, Senior Vice Principal, said:

I am highly delighted that my colleagues have further improved the already world-class quality of our research and its application to drive improvements in health, wealth creation and our society. I am particularly proud of our attention to our research culture, notably addressing successfully the precarious status of early research careers with sector-leading fellowships for more than 400 colleagues and targeted support for our splendid technicians.

Societal impact

Edinburgh is one of a select group of British universities to achieve outstanding results when demonstrating the impact of its research on wider society. Nearly half – 49 per cent – of its research in this category received the highest classification by REF.

The University’s results were informed by more than 180 examples of how its research and data-driven approach has made a global difference in helping societies to become more sustainable, equitable and healthy.

The results show the University to be in a strong position to continue to apply its research power in addressing significant issues, such as recovering from Covid-19 and preparing for future pandemics, adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change, and ensuring data is working for the good of societies.

Related links

Research Excellence Framework

Discover how we can help you develop innovative ideas and deliver solutions for People Places Planet.

Making ideas work for a better world

People Places Planet

Join us and discover the University of Edinburgh’s world-leading circular economy expertise. Discover how you can work with us as we invite you to a campus that gives you full access to our academic researchers, projects, partners and data-driven innovation.
Discover more