Stirling’s 330-acre campus, centred on a loch beneath the Ochil hills, is arguably the UK’s most beautiful. The 1960s Pathfoot Building, an architectural masterpiece by John Richards, sits among modern buildings that include the £23 million Campus Central. A three-storey extension to the refurbished atrium at the heart of the campus the development has increased study and social spaces. It also houses the student services hub, the Macrobert Art Centre’s box office and the Institute for Advanced Studies. A pedestrianised and landscaped Queen’s Court has provided a tranquil setting in the middle of the action on campus.
Such investment in the student experience should help to boost scores for Stirling in future National Student Surveys, after its 2022 outcomes that have triggered declines in our NSS-derived measures for teaching quality and the wider experience. But improved completion rates at Stirling and the 16th-highest entry standards in the UK have helped propel the university three places up into the top 40 of our main academic ranking.
Stirling’s significant investment to innovate on teaching practice and learning infrastructure helped see it through the pandemic with less of a downturn in student satisfaction than felt at most other universities. Stirling has new software, a library of digital books and resources and has developed new platforms so students can interact with tutors and their student peers to complete coursework. Taking advantage of these developments Stirling is providing a “digital-ready and flexible learning experience”, it tells us, in which in-person teaching delivery is supported by aspects of online learning.
The first institution in the UK to pioneer an academic year of two 15-week semesters, Stirling places ninth in our Scottish social inclusion ranking. It works with local schools in low-participation areas and has a joint degree programme with Forth Valley College, whose students can enter Stirling’s second or third year in programmes such as adult or mental health nursing.
A contextual approach to admissions assesses Ucas applications in conjunction with personal and educational circumstances, resulting in the university dropping a grade in offers to eligible students. Of 2021’s 2,227 entrants 100 received a contextual offer, a proportion which may change as sixth form exams have returned to pre-pandemic methods of assessment.
A widening-participation officer is on hand to offer support during the admissions process and for those who gain a place, the university has a facility where students can borrow a laptop in the short term, free of charge. Improving completion rates show evidence that such supports are paying off, with significantly less students predicted to drop out of their degrees than the benchmark rate based on the social and educational mix.
Stirling offers one graduate apprenticeship, in data science, and expects student apprentice numbers to reach around 80 by September 2023. Applications were up 7 per cent in 2021.
Stirling’s proud research record was upheld in the new 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) assessment, in which almost 80 per cent of the work submitted was judged to be world-leading or internationally excellent (up from almost three-quarters in the previous 2014 REF). Against even bigger uplifts in research quality across UK universities the university slips eight places to rank 50th in our research index this year however. Some of the best results were in agriculture, veterinary and food science; geography and environmental science; and social work and social policy.
Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2019 for its pioneering work in the world’s fastest-growing food production sector in a bid to tackle global hunger. The university is now targeting its research on the government’s “grand challenges” such as Scotland’s aim to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.
Stirling has a global network for students, staff and alumni to share advice and seek mentorship, while the University of Stirling Innovation Park is a key hub for start-ups and established businesses, research collaboration and potential jobs. Academic faculties work alongside the university’s careers service to engage with employers and offer internships, academic placements and volunteering experiences to students. With almost three-quarters of graduates in high-skilled jobs or further study 15 months after their degrees Stirling ranks in the upper half of UK universities in our graduate prospects measure.
As well as the new sports complex Scotland’s designated university for sporting excellence also has facilities including fitness studios, a gym, three-court sports hall, indoor cycling studio, strength and conditioning areas and a high-performance suite, which opened in 2020.
There are also artificial pitches for hockey, football, rugby, Gaelic football, lacrosse and American football and an all-weather athletics track. The National Tennis Centre includes six indoor, two outdoor clay and two synthetic courts.