Research excellence confirmed at Aston University

Aston University

18 December 2008
The quality and depth of Aston University’s research has been confirmed in the latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) results, with all four subject areas submitted ranked in the top 12 in the UK.

The results, published today, reveal that research in Allied Health Professions and Studies at Aston has been rated 3rd best out of 63 higher education institutions in the UK in terms of volume of internationally excellent and world leading research. This is an outstanding achievement for the University’s School of Life & Health Sciences.

Business and Management Studies is ranked 9th in the UK out of 90 institutions, European Studies is 11th out of 27 institutions and General Engineering is ranked 12th out of 49 institutions for the quality of research. 
45% of the research submitted for assessment has been evaluated as being excellent or world-leading (based on 4* and 3* ratings). This compares favourably to other universities in the region, particularly given Aston’s percentage of staff submitted – 88% overall.

Aston’s quality profiles are:


Unit of assessment

 4*  3*  2*  1*  U/C  % of staff submitted

Business and Management Studies

 15  45  35 5
 0  95%

Allied Health Professions and Studies

 15  35  35  15  0  76%

European Studies

 5  15  45  30  5  94%

General Engineering

 10  25  50  15  0  86%

These results represent an improvement on Aston’s performance in the previous RAE. Although the rating methodology has changed considerably since 2001, it is possible to correlate the 2008 data with 2001  to show how Aston would have scored under the old 5* rating system:

Unit of assessment

 2001  2008

Business and Management Studies

 5B 5*A

Allied Health Professions and Studies

 5C & 3C

European Studies

 5C  5A

General Engineering

 5C  5B

Professor Julia King:

Professor Julia King, Vice-Chancellor, is delighted with the results: ‘I am thrilled that the hard work of our academics and support colleagues has paid off. To improve on our strong performance in 2001 is an excellent achievement, and it is all the more pleasing that we have done so whilst increasing the percentage of staff submitted from around 70% to 88%. The total number of staff submitted has gone up by 30%. We are an inclusive community here at Aston and we believe that it was right to submit as many staff as possible, including many early career researchers. ’

Professor Graham Hooley:

Professor Graham Hooley, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, who led the RAE submission, agrees: ‘The quality profiles do not take volume into consideration, so universities could legitimately submit a relatively small percentage of staff – only those who are international or world leading, for example – to somewhat skew their profiles, and indeed we believe that some leading universities may have done that. At Aston we took the view that it was more important to foster a culture where all researchers’ contributions were equally valuable, so the results you see from Aston are a genuine reflection of our strengths. I am particularly proud that 29% of our staff submitted were early career researchers. We are strongly committed to fostering the next generation of world class academics and submitting our younger colleagues for the RAE gives them useful experience and engenders a cohesive research community.’

Research strengths

Aston has broad research strengths in each of its four Schools of Study. For example, The School of Life & Health Sciences has an interdisciplinary approach to Allied Health Professions. The goal is to develop a translational framework that supports the application of new knowledge and technology to clinical products, policy and practice across the age-span. Research focuses include: cellular and clinical imaging; chronic diseases; clinical vision sciences; cognitive and perceptual systems; and communicable diseases.

Aston Business School (ABS) has strengths in Work & Organisational Psychology, Operations and Information Management, Marketing, Finance, Accounting and Law, and Economics and Strategy. Amongst its most recent successes is the launch of the INDEX Voucher Scheme, which links academic expertise with SMEs. ABS also leads research into staff satisfaction in the National Health Service.  

The School of Languages & Social Sciences at Aston is renowned for its interdisciplinary, cutting-edge research which includes European Languages and Translation Studies; Politics and International Relations; Sociology and Public Policy; Forensic- Linguistics. The desire to deepen our understanding of the relationship between language and society is a key feature of the School’s research. 

The School of Engineering & Applied Science’s world- leading research focuses on biomedical, bioenergy, communications, complexity and sustainability research. The work of the School’s scientists includes advances in photonics producing the world’s longest laser pulse; developing carbon-neutral and carbon-negative biomass conversion systems for heat, power and transport as an alternative to fossil fuels and chemicals; and precision technology, which has produced the world’s first robotic micro-drill for use in surgical operations.

For further press information, or to arrange interviews with academics, please contact the Press Office on 0121 204 4552.

Notes to editors:


  1. The Quality Profiles for each Unit of Assessment assign the research submitted by an institution into one of five categories, ranging from 4* to unclassified, where 4* is world-leading, 3* is internationally excellent, 2* is internationally recognised and 1* is nationally recognised. For more details on quality profiles, please visit http://www.rae.ac.uk/aboutus/quality.asp
  2. The subject rankings given for Aston University are based on the volume of research in 4*and 3* ratings.
  3. The 2001 system assigned ratings from 5* to 1, where 5* meant that more than 50% of research was internationally excellent and that the majority of the rest of the research was at least of national quality. The letters next to each score denote the percentage of staff submitted, with A relating to the highest category (above 95%).
  4. The Research Assessment Exercise is run jointly by the four Higher Education Funding Councils for the UK. The results of the RAE are used to calculate the amount of research funding each university receives from their Funding Councils. The funding allocations will be made in 2009.