Research Strategy

Research lies at the heart of a university’s life and its contribution to society. It informs and underpins our teaching thereby helping to produce skilled, intellectually adept and employable graduates. The transfer of the knowledge we produce through research, aids economic growth and wealth creation, helps develop innovative technologies and practice based interventions, contributes to better public policy, social and cultural understanding and the advancement of social justice. The pursuit and dissemination of research connects us internationally and enables the University to be a conduit of global knowledge into Scotland as well as a contributor to the international community.

For these reasons a research strategy is vital in providing the University with a clear direction for the range of its research activities and the development of its academic staff. It allows us: to focus on our strengths, to develop intellectual capacity and innovative approaches, to allocate resources strategically and, by informing the planning process, to help ensure the staffing, infrastructural support and achievement of targets required for a self-sustaining research base.

Our research is important because it:

  • Contributes to the development of intellectual and social capital, generating economic, cultural, social, public policy and quality of life benefits and impacts.
  • Enhances our reputation as an international centre of knowledge and expertise.
  • Provides a basis for collaboration with other organisations in the UK and internationally across the public, voluntary and private sectors.
  • Attracts high quality staff and students from all over the world.
  • Shapes the content of all curricula.
  • Enhances the student experience helping to produce skilled, intellectually adept and employable graduates.
  • Informs the professional development of all staff.

This strategy proposes that GCU addresses three societal challenges (i) Inclusive Societies (ii) Healthy Lives (iii) Sustainable Environments by focusing on two broad research themes for each challenge: (i) Social Innovation & Equalities and Justice (ii) Public Health & Long-term Conditions (iii) Urban Environments & Efficient Systems.

These themes were identified following due consideration of the University’s mission ‘For the Common Weal’, our areas of academic strength (in critical mass) that the university is likely to have; the competitive environment; and the themes put forward by large funders.

Research Impact is “the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy(by)... fostering global economic performance, ... the economic competitiveness of the UK, increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy, enhancing quality of life, health and creative output”. In REF2014, impact assessment accounted for 20% of the total grade profile. This is likely to increase in REF2020 e.g. the Witty Review recommended 25%.

There are several reasons for sharpening the focus of our research and having a greater commitment to demonstrable impact:

  • It will play well to our business and innovation strategy to exploit our key strengths, permit access to opportunities of scale, build sustainable strategic partnerships, and drive revenues.
  • A strong international academic profile and reputation is built on a continuous stream of successful impact stories on a few broad themes sustained over a period of time.
  • The competitive research funding environment will remain flat due to broader constraints on public funding giving rise to (i) greater selectivity in HE research policy and practice (ii) greater concentration of resources to larger units with critical mass and a strong reputation (iii) a focus on larger interdisciplinary projects involving many partners.
  • We need to ensure our resources are used effectively and efficiently, so whilst acknowledging individuals may pursue curiosity driven research, support will be targeted at efforts that are aligned with the research themes.
  • The recruitment of high quality research staff is increasingly difficult: most new staff want to be reassured that they are joining a university that has a clear strategy, ambition, scale, a strong reputation and a vibrant research environment.

This University Research Strategy is aligned with the GCU 2020 vision, values and strategic goals and is consistent with the University’s Outcome Agreement with SFC. It sits squarely alongside the University’s other principal academic strategies for learning, internationalisation and social innovation. It sets out a set of strategic objectives and an operational plan to deliver the objectives. The strategy and operational plan shall be reviewed annually by Senate and updated as required to adapt to changing external circumstances in the research landscape.

For each societal challenge our work will focus on two broad research themes. The broad themes we will focus on are: Public Health, Long-term Conditions, Social Innovation, Equalities & Justice, Urban Environments, and Efficient Systems. Clearly there are deep connections between these societal challenges and the interdisciplinary work needed to solve them.


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