18 December 2014
Embargo: 00.01 18 December 2014
REF Success for Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities’ Strategic Alliance
Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities are celebrating their collective successes following the results of their joint research submission to the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.
The Aber-Bangor Strategic Alliance, which was established in 2006, has seen the Universities collaborate on a number of research projects, policies, and service developments in a partnership that draws upon the complementary research strengths and expertise of both Universities. Following Investment from HEFCW, BBSRC and both Universities in the Research and Enterprise Partnership (£10.9M) and the Bioscience, Environment and Agriculture Alliance (£50M), the Alliance presented two joint Units of Assessment for considerations by REF. Today, Thursday 18 December, both Universities are celebrating the success of the partnership, and the joint REF submissions.
The joint submissions were made in two Units of Assessment namely, Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science; and Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences and included nearly 25% of the total number of staff submitted to the REF from all disciplines across both Universities.
For Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science, 32% of the Strategic Alliance’s research is now rated as world leading (4*) and a further 46% as internationally excellent (3*). In the Environment submission, 68% of the research is considered to be internationally excellent, with 21% being world leading.
Commenting on the success, Professor Chris Thomas, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research at Aberystwyth University said: “I am delighted that our joint submission has received such a fantastic result, which demonstrates a significant improvement on the previous RAE submission in 2008, and is testament to both Universities’ research excellence. I congratulate colleagues at Aber and Bangor and look forward to many more years of joint research that makes a real difference to the world, through the Strategic Alliance.”
Professor David Shepherd, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Bangor University, added: “It is extremely pleasing to learn that the vast majority of the research at both Universities, within the areas of the joint submissions, is at a level that is considered to be internationally excellent. Our research has been found to have a huge impact on the economy, society and the environment locally and world-wide. Across both submissions, more than 60% of our impact is considered to be world leading, with over 90% being internationally excellent - something both Universities should be very proud of.”
The impact of the research at the two Universities was deemed to be particularly strong. Projects include the breeding of new varieties of pasture grasses, oats, rice, maize and pearl millet; improving the livelihoods of farmers and food security of the wider population in Wales, UK, India and Nepal; biotechnology to improve the production of food ingredients and brewing; conservation and sustainable management across a wide range of systems from marine fisheries, peatlands, upland grazing and grassland fungi; predicting and combating climate change through improved ocean forecasting, marine energy production, biomass crop production and carbon footprinting of food products.
Both submissions include the work of the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University and the College of Natural Sciences at Bangor, and is representative of the research work of an equivalent to 128.06 full-time members of staff from across the two institutions.
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Aberystwyth and Bangor Strategic Alliance
The Strategic Alliance between Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities builds on a history of collaborative activities between the two institutions and on the successful HEFCW funded £10.9m Research and Enterprise Partnership which was established by the two universities in 2006.
The Universities are collaborating across a broad range of their activities to oversee the development, delivery and growth in the Alliance. Recent developments include joint strategies in Teaching and Learning, Innovation and Engagement, Widening access and regional planning process.
Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014
The four UK higher education funding bodies [Note] allocate about £2 billion per year of research funding to UK universities, based on the quality and volume of each university’s research. They aim to support a dynamic and internationally competitive UK research sector that makes a major contribution to economic prosperity, national wellbeing and the expansion and dissemination of knowledge. The REF (and its predecessor, the Research Assessment Exercise, RAE) are undertaken once every 5 years) and assesses the quality of research outputs, the impact of research and the environment in which research is undertaken.
Aims of the Research Excellence Framework
To distribute funds selectively on the basis of quality, the funding bodies assess universities’ research through a periodic exercise. This was previously known as the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), and was last conducted in 2008.
The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) replaced the RAE. It assessed the quality and impact of research submitted by UK universities across all disciplines. The results will be published in December 2014 and will be used by the funding bodies to allocate block-grant research funding to universities from 2015-16.
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.
REF 2014 key facts
- 154 UK universities took part. They made 1,911 submissions for:
- 52,077 academic staff
- 191,232 research outputs
- 6,975 impact case studies.
- 36 expert sub-panels reviewed the submissions, overseen by four main panels
- around £2 billion per year of research funding will be allocated on the basis of the results.
The four UK funding bodies are: the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Scottish Funding Council, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and Department for Education, Northern Ireland.