Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014

Edinburgh’s position as one of Britain’s leading research universities has been reaffirmed by the results of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework.

The REF also placed the University as Scotland’s top-ranked research institution.

Photo of the Golden Boy statue

Quality and breadth

The results reveal that 83% of the University’s research activity is in the highest categories - 4* and 3*- which are classified as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.

Based on the quality and breadth of its research, Edinburgh has been rated fourth in the UK and by far the most successful university in Scotland. Its submission was one of the largest and most comprehensive in the UK.

World-leading research

Each of the University’s three Colleges has at least one research area ranked top in the UK.

Edinburgh research in Sociology, in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences (including geography) and in Computer Science and Informatics was rated the best in the UK, based on breadth and quality of research.

Also coming top were joint submissions in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC); and in General Engineering with Heriot-Watt University.

Edinburgh is also one of a select group of British universities to achieve outstanding results when demonstrating the impact of its research on wider society. More than half of its research in this category has been classed as 'world leading'.


The Principal of the University, Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, described the results as "an exceptionally strong performance across the whole of the University’s research activity".

He also praised the University’s strong performance in six joint REF submissions.



Strong performance

The outcomes reinforce Edinburgh’s position as one of the world’s top universities, building on recent strong showings in the Times Higher Education, QS and Shanghai global rankings.

A total of 1,852 individuals - 83% of the institution’s academic workforce - had their research assessed across 31 disciplines, with more than two thirds of those in top five-rated subject areas.

The results also indicate that the University is home to more than 35% of Scotland’s 4* research.

Research at the University is constantly expanding the depth of human knowledge and making an impact on the wider world – whether it be improving the effectiveness of youth justice policy and practice, or shaping the technologies used to manage the world’s data. Our outstanding researchers enable us to forge links with charities, businesses, policy makers and other universities, so that together we can tackle long-standing challenges at home and overseas.

Professor Sir Timothy O’SheaPrincipal of the University of Edinburgh

In addition to the top-rated joint submissions in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science and General Engineering, there were further outstanding returns, based on the volumes of internationally and world-leading research.

Forging links

The longstanding collaboration between Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University in Mathematics has resulted in the combined joint submission to Mathematical Sciences being fifth in the UK.

The joint submission in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning saw the two institutions placed second on the basis of volume of world-leading and internationally excellent research.

Edinburgh and the University of St Andrews have been placed second for a joint submission in Chemistry, and fourth for a submission in Physics.

Research impact

Discover the impact our research has had at local, national and global levels.

Research impact

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