Academic recognised for contribution to research community

An academic who has played a key role in developing research activity at the University of the Highlands and Islands has been recognised for his contribution. Michael Rayner has been awarded the title of Professor for his work to embed a strong research culture across the university and to support higher education research, research assessment and researcher development across Scotland.

Originally from Kent, Professor Rayner joined the university as Dean of Research in 2010. He has helped to oversee a number of developments, including the introduction of staff mentoring and sabbatical schemes, a significant increase in the number of research students and the attainment of research degree awarding powers which allows the university to award its own doctoral degrees.

Professor Rayner’s work has contributed to the university’s growing reputation for research. The university was named as the best performing young university in Scotland by Times Higher Education following its results in a 2014 UK-assessment of research quality. Professor Rayner led the institutional submission to the Research Excellence Framework exercise, which rated 69% of the university’s research as world leading or internationally excellent. In 2019, the university was ranked fourteenth out of 103 institutions across the UK for the satisfaction of its research students and was ranked first for the satisfaction of students researching science, technology, engineering and maths topics.

As well as his work within the University of the Highlands and Islands, Professor Rayner has also supported research across national and international settings. He was, until recently, chair of Universities Scotland’s researcher development and training committee, and is a panel member for the 2021 UK Research Excellence Framework exercise. He was recognised as a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2016.

Professor Rayner’s personal academic interests focus on researcher development, and on the links between teaching and research. He is an ordained minister and an active participant in his local church. He is also helping to lead a programme to develop research capacity at two South African universities. The £264,000 project, funded by the British Council and the South African Department of Higher Education and Training, has a particular focus on increasing the number of young, female and black researchers at the University of the Free State and the University of Venda.

Speaking about his new title, Professor Rayner said:

“I am delighted to have been recognised for the award of a personal chair by the University of the Highlands and Islands, which is a wonderful institution and like no other that I know. I look forward to continuing my work in supporting and developing the research talent that exists here, in our excellent staff and research student communities, and to continuing my own research in the days ahead.”

Professor Crichton Lang, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands, said:

“The title of professor is the highest level of academic achievement which can be awarded. It is reserved for individuals who are recognised as leaders in their field and who have demonstrated excellence in their work. Michael is a worthy recipient of our professor title. He has dedicated his career to supporting and developing research in higher education institutions and his leadership and insight have made an invaluable contribution to research across the University of the Highlands and Partnership.”