Our distinctive and innovative research will be world-leading and world-changing. We will produce the highest quality research to drive intellectual advances and address global challenges.


Priority one: Excellence

We enable and actively promote a culture of research excellence across our University community, delivering internationally recognised outputs, supported by sectorleading research income and facilities.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 confirmed that our research is changing lives and shaping the world around us but we are always looking at how we can better support research excellence for the future.

We know that excellent research requires an excellent research environment, and over the past 12 months we have increased our focus on creating an environment in which all researchers and research support colleagues can thrive and achieve research excellence.

We have developed a shared definition of research excellence that not only values high-quality outputs and outcomes but that also places equal value on rigour, integrity, openness, collaboration, generous leadership and inclusivity.

With the definition as our anchor, we are continuously listening to and learning from our community. We are also investing in dedicated research culture projects to explore new and innovative approaches to open research, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), and researcher and professional career development. To advocate for and oversee interventions and policies aimed at improvements in our research culture, we’ve established a research culture steering board.

We are using our definition of excellence to consider the achievements of our diverse range of research centres and other entities, offering improved support to those which are ambitious and productive and meet the hallmarks we expect of a university or faculty research centre.

We have also undertaken a review of our research support structures to allow us to better prioritise larger and/or interdisciplinary applications, whilst continuing to enable early career researchers to apply for funds appropriate to their career stage.

All of this work will be a key part of our REF 2028 preparations as research culture is proposed to be an increased and more significant part of the assessment for the next exercise.

Our outstanding research environment underpins our research and innovation excellence. In an environment where everyone involved in our research endeavour can thrive, we are better able to create a demonstrable impact on society, the economy, health, the environment, and on cultural life.

Transforming our research culture: Fostering cultures of open qualitative research

With funding from Research England’s Enhancing Research Culture fund, in 2022–23 we invested in 14 projects across our academic faculties, professional services and cross-faculty teams to develop our research culture. One such project is being carried out by our iHuman team who are examining the real and perceived barriers to making qualitative research open access.

Read more about how we are transforming our research culture for the better

Priority two: Postgraduate research students 

Our research excellence, innovative training, and commitment to researcher development and wellbeing makes us the institution of choice for postgraduate research students (PGRs).

Our commitment to offering an excellent research experience is our priority in relation to our PGRs. We’re continuously working to better understand their unique experiences of our research culture and to create a better future together.

This year we have continued our focus on postgraduate research student wellbeing by ensuring that they undertake a research project which they can complete during the period of their funding; we know that working without funding is the single biggest cause of poor wellbeing.

We developed a definition of Widening Participation for PGRs as part of our commitment to inclusivity and diversity. We are lead, or are partners, in three Office for Studentsfunded projects exploring how we can improve access and participation for UK students from a BAME background. We have also worked with students to undertake a project to examine the barriers to undertaking a PhD for students with a disability and will implement the findings to improve their experiences.

We worked with the University of Manchester to design a PGR Voice survey to develop a detailed understanding of what works well and less well so that we can implement actions to continuously improve.

Read more about our Research pillar and explore related case studies

Our vision

We are the University of Sheffield. And this is our vision.