Research strategy 2016 - 2020

Delivering the Research Strategy successfully will mean continuing to improve research performance across the whole University.  

Keele University’s strategic plan, Our Vision 2020, aims to deliver international excellence and impact in focused areas of research, and our overall aim is to be a top quartile research University by REF2021. To achieve this we will continue to provide a high quality, dynamic research-led environment in the Natural Sciences, Humanities, the Social Sciences, and Medicine and Health Sciences.

Keele’s performance in REF2014, when 97% of our research classified as world-leading or of international importance, demonstrated elements of world-leading research in all three faculties; in particular in key areas of its medical and health sciences.

Keele’s research mission is reinforced by a reputation for high-quality teaching. Keele’s distinctive contribution to the UK and international higher education landscape is as a leading research University, which also offers high-quality teaching and research training, generating high-levels of student satisfaction and employability.

As the pioneer, post-1945 UK university, Keele’s innovative, multi-disciplinary approach to education has always created opportunities for interdisciplinary approaches to research challenges and problem-solving. As a University established from a vision to transform and enhance opportunities in its regional home, it continues to be committed to forms of knowledge exchange and impactful research including through its extensive Science and Innovation Park, which is one of the largest of its kind in the UK and a key component of the University’s overall impact in the local economy, which is projected to near £0.4 billion by 2023.

Delivering the Research Strategy successfully will mean continuing to improve research performance across the whole University. This is vital to our wider mission and ambition to attract leading researchers at all career levels and high quality student applicants; and, thereby, increasing our impact and reputation nationally and internationally. Research is the critical component in the next phase of the University’s growth, and our performance will be followed closely by Senate and Council. The strategy includes, where appropriate, the expected outcomes (EO, in bold) that will inform assessment of our performance.

The Research Strategy that aims to deliver this ambition is articulated on this page through the following five substantive, high-level aims and priorities. More detailed work streams to deliver the aims will be produced by Schools, Research Institutes, Faculties and Directorates.


Set an ambitious and aspirational research atmosphere in all disciplines, evidenced through the strategic placement of high quality research outputs in leading journals and sources of publication

  • EO: to produce high quality published outputs at a rate consistent with benchmarked standards for the discipline (as a minimum per year and per research active fte).

Achieve external and international recognition for the excellence of our research through strategically placed outputs

  • EO: 80% of outputs should be of world-leading or international significance, 30% world leading

Achieve increased research income from a range of sources, including RCUK funding

  • EO: target research income for 2020/21 (26.5m) requires 10% growth per year

Continue to grow PGR numbers through high quality recruitment and prestigious DTP opportunities (targets for growth)

  • EO: at least 5% growth per year in PGR student intake: at least two new DTP opportunities to build on AHRC/ESRC successes

Create a supportive yet ambitious research environment in which all researchers can reach their potential

  • EO: ensure that all researchers have the opportunity to benefit from mentoring arrangements appropriate to career stage

Foster a culture to maintain the highest standards of rigour and integrity in research, ensuring adherence to appropriate ethical, legal and professional frameworks, obligations and standards

  • EO: Develop a set of metrics to monitor and support the development of a robust culture of research integrity within the University


Deliver quality research which is recognised for its substantial impact on society at local, national and international levels

  • EO: in line with the Knowledge Exchange Strategy, over 400 KT/E partnerships to be established and in progress by 2020

Expand the University’s activity to encourage greater levels of pubic engagement, recognising the transformative effect that this can have on communities, while measuring the quality and outcomes of public engagement through appropriate outputs

  • EO: Support researchers in accessing professional development, training and informal learning to develop their skills and knowledge of public engagement

Advance knowledge by demonstrating impact across health-led, economic, cultural, civic and policy capacities in society

  • EO: maintain and further develop a portfolio of compelling impact case studies, including those with interdisciplinary ambitions, at the ratio of at least two per school or RI, through IAF investment and other sources
  • Realise over £40m of external investment in new posts and facilities to underpin our engagement with the business community and a clear pathway to impact, guided by the University Strategy for Knowledge Exchange.


Develop pan-institutional centres for research excellence as engines of collaboration and innovation

  • EO: development of 4-5 new, cross-faculty interdisciplinary research centres, to include Energy and Sustainability (SEND), CASIC, K-Pac, Ageing, Global Health, Social Inclusion

Foster a culture of interdisciplinarity (ID) which is alert to the production of innovation at the interface between disciplines

  • EO: with Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences, develop the range of seed-corn opportunities and platforms for growing ID research

Create a globally-aware environment that is ‘without borders’, providing opportunities for meaningful international research partnerships

  • EO: taking 2015 publications as baseline, increase publications with international collaborators from 35% to 45%; increase rate of grant applications with international partners by 10% pa; monitor and increase the participation in and leadership of international research networks


Ensure that PGR students and early career researchers are supported in the most effective way for them to realise their potential through, for example, high quality and prestigious DTPs and training opportunities

  • EO: with Learning and Professional Development Centre give higher prominence to and support for, Excellence in Research framework; increase the range of opportunities for research support (for instance, Writing Retreats and grant writing workshops)

Develop the next generation of research leaders at the University enabling colleagues to transition throughout their research careers

  • EO: with Learning and Professional Development Centre continue to enhance the University’s Research Leadership programme to give it sector-leading prominence

Create an environment where research expertise and excellence is celebrated and the successes contribute to the enhanced quality of our learning and teaching experience

  • EO: development of initiatives to address research-led teaching and pedagogic research to address the REF/TEF interface.

Promote among colleagues recognition of and support for the diverse routes to a research career, including among colleagues from professional backgrounds

  • EO: through the Excellence in Research framework, increase recognition of and support for a variety of professional and other backgrounds in journeys to research careers


Ensure that research-active colleagues are supported in pursuing research activity through consistent, pro-active, knowledgeable and flexible support services underpinned by a single cohesive research support process at School, Research Institute, Faculty and Institutional levels.

  • EO: work through the findings of Audit of Research Support in 2016-17 through change management workshops, process review, and detailed analysis involving central Research Support, Schools, Research Institute and Faculty levels

Ensure that research income is funded through a balance of diverse income streams, recognising the strategic importance of the recovery of overheads and staff costs

  • EO: attain research recovery rate of at least 73.5% (current rate 68.1%, sector average 73.2%)

Deliver technical and management tools that can flexibly adapt and respond to the changing external context

  • EO: successful implementation and full integration of new Research Management System