Hartpury University recognised for ‘world-leading’ research in REF 2021 debut


Research carried out by Hartpury University, submitted as part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 process, has been recognised as ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’, placing Hartpury amongst a prestigious group of well-established institutions.

The REF is a UK-wide assessment of the quality of research in universities undertaken by expert review panels and is undertaken on behalf of Government by the funding councils for higher education.

Hartpury submitted research to the Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism Unit of Assessment (UoA) reflecting the institution’s commitment to create knowledge in areas including sport and equine that has a positive impact on areas including health, wellbeing, and performance.

Three main areas were independently assessed by UoA Panels; analysis of outputs (60%), impact (25%) and research environment (15%). Each component is assessed using a star-rating with 3* research regarded as ‘internationally excellent’ and 4* research recognised as ‘world-leading’.

Research in the submission included ground-breaking work investigating the use of drumming to improve the quality of life of children with autism spectrum disorder. Other research submitted included the development of evidence-informed guidelines to support the use of water treadmills in horses, which have been adopted around the world.  Hartpury’s own water treadmill is used by multiple Olympic medal-winning horses, illustrating the benefits of this type of activity.

The results are particularly striking considering that Hartpury was only awarded university status in 2018.  They establish Hartpury as a leading research centre for sport and exercise sciences, and in particular for equestrian sport.

Prof Stephen Draper, Academic Dean at Hartpury University, said: “This is an impressive set of results that demonstrates the strength of our research outputs even at this early stage in our university journey. Having our research assessed as both world-leading and internationally excellent shows how our collaborative efforts; working with colleagues from across the globe to address real-world problems, are already paying off.”

“Looking ahead to the future, we have ambitious plans and aim to show research excellence in agricultural science. Our burgeoning portfolio of agriculture research is supported by significant investment in our facilities. This includes our 10-year vision to transform our commercial Home Farm – already home to our new £2million Agri-Tech Centre and £2 million Tech Box Park – into a Digital Innovation Farm. Other new facilities include a new £730,000 Equine and Animal Assisted Activity Area (EAAAA) that opened this spring, a new £500,000 hydrotherapy centre for equine excellence, and a multi-use student hub that will house catering facilities and modern classrooms for lectures and research conferences, due to launch in September. Plus, more investment into student learning facilities for 2023-24.

“We aim to continue producing research of the highest quality, applying theoretical perspectives to real world scenarios, using innovative methodologies, critical examination of practice and policy, public engagement and effective knowledge exchange.”

Russell Marchant, Vice-Chancellor of Hartpury University, said: “Achieving this outstanding result so soon after becoming a university is testament to the commitment, dedication, and passion of all our staff. I’m so very proud of the entire team who’ve worked hard to return several striking performance results.

“The REF provides an independent confirmation of the strong foundation we’ve laid for research that can make a real difference both nationally and internationally.

“As part of our ambitious long-term strategy, we’ll continue to invest further in excellent research, facilities and academic appointments to build the mutually beneficial relationship between research and student education.”

Edward Keene, Chair of Governors at Hartpury, said: “I’m immensely proud of everyone at Hartpury whose hard work and dedication to building our research portfolio has been rewarded in this way. Most importantly, this highly collaborative environment can only benefit students at all levels of study, fostering a culture of exploration and change that has an impact in the land-based industries in which we specialise.”

“This is yet another extraordinary achievement for our young university, following on from our exceptional performance in a number of student surveys, including ranking number one for satisfaction in the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey 2021. We also made a solid league table debut in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021, featuring in the top 20% for “teaching quality”.