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Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Sleat on Skye, which has stood aside from the black-and-white corporate rebranding which has swept through the University of the Highlands and Islands, has reaffirmed its international reputation for research in the latest review of the quality of scholarly work across Britain’s higher education establishments. 

The academic team at the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture submitted to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) whose latest results are published today (12 May 2022).

The four UK higher education funding bodies undertake REF assessments to evaluate the quality of research produced at universities, assessing publications, research impact, and research environment. These outcomes are used as the basis for allocating research funding to higher education institutions over the coming years.

The Gaelic research was part of the submission put forward by the University of the Highlands and Islands to the Modern Languages and Linguistics category. It consisted of nine Gaelic researchers, eight from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s research team and one based in the Language Sciences Institute in Inverness. Their work covered an extensive range of subjects including Gaelic language, literature, music, history, philosophy and art, education, and the use of Gaelic in present-day communities.

Overall, the Modern Languages and Linguistics submission achieved a markedly improved rating compared to its previous submission in 2014. This time, 77% of its research has been judged to be in the highest categories—world leading or internationally excellent—contrasting with the 61% secured in 2014. 

The team’s published work was placed in the two highest ratings securing 86.7%, with 20% assessed as world-leading, and 66.7% internationally excellent. The remaining 13.3% was rated very good. 

College principal Dr. Gillian Munro welcomed the results and praised the quality of work. She said: “I am delighted with these results and it is further proof that we excel in the fields of academic research with world leading researchers. They are incredibly passionate about the subjects they study, they are detailed in the execution and contribute a huge amount to the Gaelic community locally, national and internationally. 

“I am proud of the immense energy and enthusiasm they commit to these submissions on our behalf and I’m proud of they impact they make to the Sabhal Mor’s standing and the Gaelic community.”

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s head of research Abigail Burnyeat said: “These excellent results are well deserved and very welcome. They recognise the wonderful work that our researchers are doing, and demonstrate the quality, significance, and impact of our research.

“The REF might seem like an academic exercise, but it’s a really important recognition of the value of our work on Gaelic language and culture, the impact that it has on the world of research, and its relevance for Gaelic communities and Gaelic’s place in Scotland. Today’s announcement will give us a firm foundation from which to work to strengthen the quality of our research, to build on our research partnerships and collaborations, and to support new generations of Gaelic researchers at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.”

Overall nearly 75% of UHI research has been classified as ‘world leading' or ‘internationally excellent' in a new expert review undertaken to assess the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

Research in health and nursing, earth systems and environmental and marine sciences, archaeology, education, area studies, Gaelic and history were all recognised by the Research Excellence Framework published on Thursday 12 May.

This latest assessment looked at a range of aspects of the work of 117 researchers across the UHI partnership. It examined the impact of their research, demonstrating how targeted research at UHI can support sustainable and inclusive economic prosperity in our communities, as well as addressing some of Scotland's biggest challenges.

UHI principal and vice-chancellor, Professor Todd Walker said: "This is a great result for UHI and recognises we can more than hold our own in a very competitive research environment. We have achieved and exceeded our expectations, building on our success in 2014. Our staff, students and communities should be very proud of UHI which is delivering a high standard of research locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

"UHI has a unique place and deep roots in our communities. Our research is more connected to their needs and that helps us excel in areas which are important to them, including their future development. We use our local expertise to collaborate and engage with researchers and projects across the world – that's quite some achievement for such a young institution."

The Research Excellence Framework provides accountability for public investment in research, demonstrating its benefits and impact. Results are also used to inform future allocation of research funding.

"UHI has now firmly established our presence in the Scottish standings," added Professor Donna Heddle, UHI acting vice-principal (research). "This result continues to show strong evidence of developing research capacity across a broad range of areas. It demonstrates exactly how UHI should, and continues to, underpin economic activity in our region. We are making a real difference to our environment, to the business community and to people's lives – not just in our communities, but across the world."