Research taking place at Welsh universities has doubled in the past six years

The proportion of world-class research taking place at Welsh universities has doubled in the past six years, according to a major new study published Dec 18, 2014.

Results of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (Ref) – a UK-wide peer review of the quality of university research – show that almost a third of research submitted by Welsh higher education institutions was considered “world-leading”.

It means the proportion of 4* quality university research – the highest grade awarded by Ref – produced in Wales has doubled to 30%, from just 14% during the last such assessment in 2008.

Welsh universities have also improved their 3* output – that deemed “internationally-excellent” – from 35% six years ago to 47% in 2014.

This year’s Ref figures suggest Wales’ higher education system is holding its own, despite its smaller number of contributing universities, and performing well against UK averages of 30% (4*) and 46% (3*) respectively.

But in a real coup for the Welsh sector, the nation’s universities are impacting more outside of academia than any of the home nations – its research said to be benefiting the economy, society, culture and wider public policy.

Overall, Wales lays claim to the highest proportion of 4* impact departments (49%), which were assessed by academics in partnership with business leaders and other key stakeholders. At an institutional level, all Wales’ universities reported progress in certain disciplines, although it was Cardiff and Swansea – two of the nation’s so-called research-intensive institutions – that made the biggest impression.

Cardiff University said it had broken into the “Golden Triangle” of Oxford, Cambridge and London by landing a place in the top five universities based on research quality, while Swansea hailed its rise into the top 30.

Professor Colin Riordan, Cardiff’s vice-chancellor, said this year’s Ref results mark the city-based institution out as a “world leader”.

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