From medicine to music - world-class research across the board at Plymouth University

Nearly two-thirds of Plymouth University’s research has been graded as world-leading or of international quality, according to the nationwide review of research standards across the higher education sector.

From agriculture to art and design, clinical medicine to mathematics, earth sciences to education, the University improved its scores across the board in the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

Overall Plymouth had more than 63 per cent of its research graded at 3 and 4-stars – nearly double the score achieved in 2008, when the previous assessment exercise was conducted. It means the University retains its place in the Research Fortnight Power League top 50. The results will be used by national funding bodies to allocate block-grant research funding to universities from 2015-16.

Professor David Coslett, Interim Chief Executive, said: “The results of the REF confirm our position as a dynamic research institution and one leading the charge for modern universities in the UK. They reveal the international quality of our research right across the spectrum of health and medicine, business, arts and social sciences; transforming lives and underpinning the quality of our research-informed approach to teaching and learning. This is a university-wide success story and is testament to the talent that permeates every area of expertise here at Plymouth.”

Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, which includes marine, environmental chemistry and geology, was the University’s highest-rated submission, with 85 per cent of its research graded at 3 or 4-stars. Computer Science and Informatics, Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience, and Clinical Medicine all registered scores of around 80 per cent – with Plymouth’s Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry ranked 13th overall, and first in the country in terms of the medical research ‘outputs’, based upon the quality of its publications and the number of citations - ahead of Oxford, Cambridge and UCL.

Each submission was also graded according to the impact of the work, and the research environment, such as the amount of funding received and the number of PhD students in each area. 

Professor Ray Playford, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Plymouth University and strategic lead for research, said: “As well as informing funding allocations, the REF provides accountability for public investment in research, demonstrates its benefits, and provides important reputational yardsticks and benchmarking information about the research performance of UK universities. As such, we can be proud of the work that Plymouth is doing. I think it is clear that when it comes to impact, modern universities are leading the way, demonstrating that they are ‘value for money’.”

The REF is the first major review of research standards at UK universities since the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. A total of 154 universities took part, with 1,911 submissions reviewed by expert panels.

The REF results follow Plymouth’s progress in the 2014 CWTS Leiden Rankings, when it was named among the top 90 universities globally (and 16th in the UK) for the quality and influence of its research, with the rankings measuring scientific impact and involvement in scientific collaboration.