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World-leading Welsh universities

RESULTS published this week (Dec 18) by The Research Excellence Framework (REF) show that nearly a third of the research carried out by Welsh universities is of worldleading quality. The REF measured the impact of the research, its quality and the environment in which it was undertaken. Cardiff University says it is now ranked 5th in the whole of the UK for its research quality.

This will come as good news to those universities who rely on funding, as the outcomes are used to allocate monies from the four higher equation bodies. These bodies allocate some £2 billion per annum to UK universities. The Higher Education Funding council for Wales (HEFCW) will allocate £71 million to Welsh universities, along with millions of pounds worth of grants available for research via a bidding process. this represents a large rise from the figure of just £46.5 million available in 2012/13.

HEFCW chief executive Dr David Blaney said: “It’s clearly the case that we have a challenge to sustain the investment in research in Wales. One of the potential benefits of the outcomes today (Dec 18) is it helps to make the case to government in Wales about the importance of investing in the research base. “We’re the single largest investors in research in Wales and as these results show, half of that research in Wales is world-leading in its impact. So that’s making a huge difference to the lives of people in Wales and beyond.”

One beneficiary will be Swansea University which has soared up the research universities league table, going from 52nd in 2008, to 26th this year. The university is currently in the process of opening a new £450 million science and innovation Bay Campus. Professor Richard B. Davies, Swansea University’s Vice- Chancellor, said: “Swansea University is on a strong upward trajectory, so we expected to see significant improvements in REF.

But even we are surprised by the scale of our success. “It is extremely gratifying that we have doubled our world-leading research in the six years since the 2008 results, with a third of our research now classed as world-leading. This ranks us with some of the big players in UK higher education. “It also opens up greater opportunities for research funding. We have shown that we are strong across academic disciplines, from STEM subjects to arts and humanities.”