Our REF21 results

REF2021 graphic

REF21 results recognise research excellence

Overall, 86.8% of the university’s research and 88.6% of its research outputs are classed as world-leading and internationally excellent. 

The REF21 results, published on 12 May 2021, recognised Heriot-Watt University for world-leading research in Physics; Mathematical Sciences; Engineering; and Architecture, Built Environment and Planning.

Physics came top in Scotland for world-leading (4*) research, top in the UK for world-leading research outputs, and 97% of its research overall was classed as world-leading and internationally excellent.

Three joint submissions between Heriot-Watt and the University of Edinburgh - in Mathematical Sciences; Engineering; and Architecture, Built Environment and Planning - were ranked in the top four in the UK, based on the quality and breadth of the combined research, as defined in the Times Higher Education REF Power rankings. .

The REF provides a robust and thorough assessment of the quality of universities’ research in all disciplines, providing accountability for public investment in research and demonstrating the benefits of that investment. It is a valuable opportunity to measure the extent to which an institution’s research strategy is working and to showcase impact on Scotland, the UK and around the world.

Our research strengths are founded on continuing collaboration with partners, industry and government, to help make the world more sustainable, equitable and healthy.

Our REF success also illustrates the benefits for students in studying in a world-class research-led teaching environment.  

Headline results

  • 86.8% of our research is classed as world-leading (4*) and internationally excellent (3*) 
  • 88.6% of our research outputs are classed as world-leading and internationally excellent 

Physics

  • 97% of our physics research is classed as world-leading and internationally excellent
  • Top in the UK for world-leading research outputs

Mathematical Sciences

  • ranked 1st in Scotland, 3rd in the UK in the Times Higher Education REF power rankings 
  • 96% classed as world-leading and internationally excellent, in the joint submission with the University of Edinburgh.

Engineering

  • ranked 1st in Scotland, 3rd in the UK in the Times Higher Education REF power rankings 
  • 96% classed as world-leading and internationally excellent, in the joint submission with the University of Edinburgh.

Architecture, Built Environment and Planning 

  • ranked 1st in Scotland, 4th in the UK in the Times Higher Education REF power rankings
  • 92% classed as world-leading and internationally excellent, in the joint submission with the University of Edinburgh.

Business & Management Studies

  • 78% of our research is classed as world-leading and internationally excellent