Bayes Centre

Bayes Centre News: Edinburgh’s World Leading Ranking Confirmed

Recent results from the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) has solidified Edinburgh’s position as one of the UK’s leading research universities.

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, according to Times Higher Education's REF power ratings.

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 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 REF in 2014.


This fantastic result is a testament to the talent, ingenuity and sheer hard work of colleagues. 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 Peter MathiesonPrincipal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh

Power of Partnership

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. 

 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.

Five areas of assessment were entered in partnership with St Andrews and Heriot-Watt universities and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) – the most joint submissions of any one institution assessed by REF.


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.

Professor Jonathan SecklSenior Vice Principal

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.

Edinburgh’s REF success also illustrates the benefits to students of studying in the University’s world-class research-led teaching environment.

Related links

Edinburgh Impact

REF 2021

Times Higher Education results table

Research Professional results table