UK produces world-leading research

9 February 2018
​UK produces world-leading research

Figures released today by Universities UK shows that research from UK universities is highly respected across the world and brings in billions of pounds to the economy. 

Higher education research in facts and figures​ provides an overview of the quality of research, impact, international collaboration, students and staff, and finance at UK universities.

Key points from the report:

  • UK universities excel at producing world-class research – despite representing only 4.7% of researchers and a small global share of research investment, UK research accounted for 10% of global downloads, 11% of citations and 15% of the world's most highly-cited articles.

  • International research collaboration is vital for the UK – in 1981, about 90%​ of UK research output was completely domestic, however this is now the case for less than half of the UK's research output. Six of the UK's top 10 international collaboration partners are from Europe.

  • Universities are increasingly reliant on non-UK academic staff – the proportion of non-UK staff in research roles has increased considerably since 2004-05 in UK higher education institutions, from 34% in 2004−05 to 47% in 2015−16.

  • More than £1 billion of UK research income is from overseas – in 2015−16, UK universities received £7.8 billion in research income. £840 million came from EU sources outside of the UK and £440 million came from non-EU sources.

  • Knowledge-exchange activities provide high levels of income for the UK – overall, university income from these knowledge-exchange activities have increased above GDP growth across most indicators, and amounted to £4.2 billion in income during 2015−16. The government has increased investment in research and committed to meeting the OECD average for investment in research & development within ten years. 

Paul Boyle, Chair of Universities UK's Research Policy Network and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, said:​

"This new publication makes it clear that research from UK universities is internationally leading, changes lives and brings in billions of pounds to the UK economy. To ensure that the UK's research success continues, we must continue to increase investment in research and development, as many of our international competitors are doing. The UK must develop a post-Brexit immigration system that encourages talented international staff and students to work and study in the UK, and negotiating access to the next European research and innovation programme (FP9) and to the Erasmus+ mobility scheme must also be a priority for the UK."​

Key Contacts

Steven Jefferies

Steven Jefferies

Head of Media
Universities UK

Eloise Phillips

Eloise Phillips

Media Officer
Universities UK

Clara Plackett

Clara Plackett

Senior Media Officer
Universities UK


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