Impact case studies

We are a civic university, and it is important to us that as well as being excellent in its own right, our research benefits the communities and stakeholders we serve.

This benefit, or impact, which takes many forms, can be defined as:

“the effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia” (Research England definition for Research Excellence Framework - REF).

87% of Staffordshire University’s research impact has been rated as “very considerable” or “outstanding”, the two highest categories within the REF 2021 assessment exercise.  

Our impact case studies for REF 2021 included the following: 

Case studies

‘Healthy Individuals and Healthy Workplaces’: Enhancing psychological health in the workplace

This research, led by Dr Matthew Slater, focusses on enhancing individual and workplace psychological health. Psychological stress is a leading public health problem that can affect all individuals to varying degrees and can lead to severe disease and chronic conditions.

This impact case study is underpinned by multidisciplinary research on psychological health. We focus on three cross-cutting areas: (1) Challenge Responses to Stress; (2) Leadership and Belonging Development; and (3) Rational Emotive Behaviour Coaching (REBC).

Addressing inequalities through creative, place-based participatory action research

Get Talking is an approach to community-led participatory action research, designed and developed by Staffordshire University's Creative Communities Unit. It uses creative and artistic consultation techniques (often developed with artists) to engage with people who might be sceptical or afraid of formal academic research. The programme includes training and support for a wide range of people with lived experience of the research subject as community researchers. It empowers them to influence projects which affect their lives.

There is an established process for involving the community researchers for the length of each project. This approach is founded on five key principles: Participation, Action driven, Inclusion, Honesty and Flexibility.

Empowering Patients and Challenging Health Professionals

Since 2012, Colette Dobson has undertaken collaborative research seeking to improve communication between patients and health care professionals about the sexual consequences of treatments for cancer. Working in partnership with psychosexual consultant Dr Josie Butcher, Cheshire Wirral Partnership NHS Trust, they found that patients express feelings of guilt and disempowerment and are unable to raise the subject, while health professionals report feeling anxious and inadequately skilled to handle questions on sexuality and relationships. For both groups, this leads to poor assessment and treatment, impacting on patients’ broader long-term wellbeing. Dobson developed a novel approach of using design activism to allow these marginalised issues to be discussed and addressed.

Global impacts of Holocaust archaeology

International law defines knowing the fate of missing persons and the right to a marked burial place as a ‘basic dignity’. However, little is known about the fate of millions of people who died as a result of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution or what happened to their remains. Professor Caroline Sturdy Colls responded to this unmet need with research that uses forensic archaeological methods to identify, study and protect Holocaust sites.

Since its formation in September 2013, the Centre of Archaeology at Staffordshire University has developed a non and minimally invasive methodology to investigate and record Holocaust sites whilst accounting for key ethical concerns.

Improving spiritual care in healthcare settings

The United Kingdom’s nursing/midwifery regulator, Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), expects registrants to be competent in assessing and delivering spiritual care at the point of registration (Future Nurse Standards (NMC, 2018)). However, there is contradiction between these standards and the NMC Code (2018), where there is no reference to the word ‘spiritual’.

Since 2009, several high-profile cases have ensued where nurses have addressed the NMC professional conduct committee due to inappropriate personal, religious, and spiritual care. These cases further illustrate the need for strengthening understanding, education, and practice in addressing spirituality in healthcare. Since 2008, Professor Wilfred McSherry and Dr Adam Boughey have undertaken research in this area at Staffordshire University in collaboration with Professor Linda Ross at the University of South Wales.

Reducing the burden of diabetic foot disease by utilising biomechanical knowledge for evidence-based foot assessment and insole prescription

Diabetic foot ulcers are the world’s most common cause of lower-limb amputations. They lead to around one million amputations annually worldwide. Between 19% and 34% of people with diabetes develop foot ulcers, and these ulcers increase the risk of death after 5 years to 70%. This risk is 2.5 times the risk of death for a non-ulcerous patient with diabetes. Centre for Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Technologies (CBRT) research, led by Professor Roozbeh Naemi, focused on new ways to address these problems.

Searching for Shakespeare – impact of archaeology on local, regional and global communities

William Shakespeare is a uniquely important and influential writer. However, apart from his works, few documentary sources provide evidence of his lifestyle. Much of his early life in Stratford-upon-Avon remains unknown to scholarship. So, too, his later life there after he returned from London. We have used new archaeological methods to pursue this important information. Since 2013, researchers from the Centre of Archaeology, led by Associate Professor Kevin Colls, have been at the forefront of research into the archaeology of Shakespeare through the ‘Searching for Shakespeare’ project. The key research aim of the project was to use cutting-edge archaeological and forensic methodologies to increase our understanding of Shakespeare’s domestic life, his social status, his death and burial, and the burial of his immediate family.

Shaping practice and policy of stakeholders working to improve health in Stoke-on-Trent

Stoke-on-Trent faces considerable health challenges and inequalities. Researchers in the Centre for Health and Development (CHAD), led by Professor Chris Gidlow, developed a strong, research evidence base, using collaborative and participatory approaches. Research projects focused on natural environments, physical activity/neighbourhood environments, asset-based community development, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention. The findings led to better understandings of health issues in deprived communities at individual, community, and environmental levels, resulting in impacts in Stoke-on-Trent and beyond.

Tackling austerity, welfare and work in contemporary Britain

‘Austerity’ policies have had a disproportionately negative and deep impact on Midlands and Northern cities, which have also been seriously impacted by the COVID crisis. Staffordshire University research, led by Professor Martin Jones, has examined recovery strategies and policies for employment and social responses. New strategies and policies under study include income safety nets, expanded access to health and safety at work, job and training guarantee programmes, and compensation schemes for Northern cities.

Building on their earlier research on local and regional economic development, Professor David Etherington and Jones have researched economic and social restructuring in cities. They have focused on how austerity policies affect social inequality.

Tackling environmental inequality: reducing risk in deprived areas

Since 2003, Staffordshire University has worked with a range of government agencies, including the Environment Agency in England and Wales (EA), Scottish Natural Heritage and government departments, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), to provide research and outputs on environmental inequalities and sustainability.

Professor Jon Fairburn’s research demonstrated that people living in deprived areas disproportionately experience poor air quality and are at greater risk of their homes being flooded. Using new analysis and methods, it has developed a more detailed understanding of the distribution of environmental quality as measured against socio-economic groups in the UK. Through collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Europe, the research has extended to address environmental inequalities internationally.

The Philip Astley Project – Using heritage for town regeneration

Philip Astley (1742-1814) is known internationally as the ‘father of the modern-day circus’, but his roots in Newcastle-under-Lyme are less recognised, both in the circus world and in his hometown. Previous efforts to harness this connection to anchor tourism and business development were difficult to sustain. In preparing for the 250th anniversary of the modern circus in 2018, efforts redoubled. A Steering Group, led by Staffordshire University, and including a range of local partners initiated the Heritage Lottery (HLF) funded Philip Astley Project.

in the UK for Quality Education

Sustainable Development Goal 4, Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2023

for Career Prospects

Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023

for Facilities

Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023

for Social Inclusion

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023

of Research Impact is ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Very Considerable’

Research Excellence Framework 2021

of Research is “Internationally Excellent” or “World Leading”

Research Excellence Framework 2021

Four Star Rating

QS Star Ratings 2021