The University of Kentucky is continuing its ascent among the top research institutions in the country.

The proof is in the numbers:

  • Between 2015 and 2016, UK moved up three rankings among research institutions as measured by the National Science Foundation in the National Higher Education Research and Development Survey.
  • UK is now 41st among all public institutions with research and development expenditures totaling nearly $350 million.
  • Among all institutions — public and private — UK was 64th in 2016, up five spots in only one year.

Although research funding at the federal level has been flat, UK has seen three consecutive years of growth — an annual growth rate of 5.3 percent in federal funding between 2014 and 2017.

“These rankings reflect something far more important than simply numbers,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “They speak to our focus on the challenges most impacting Kentucky — cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other maladies that threaten our Commonwealth. And they speak to the fact that funders know our outstanding researchers are worth the investment.”

The rankings reflect the work of nearly 1,600 principal investigators at UK, most of whom receive federal funding from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, among others.

Those research dollars are spread primarily among 10 areas of study and focus, including life sciences, engineering, psychology, social sciences and computer and information sciences.

“There is a depth and breadth at UK, reflecting our distinctive position as a flagship, land-grant institution with a major academic medical center on our main campus,” said Lisa Cassis, UK’s vice president for research. “We are harnessing that depth and breadth, moreover, in a focused way on the Commonwealth’s concerns. We know that in solving Kentucky’s challenges, we attack global problems.”

In fact, UK is one of only eight institutions in the country with the full complement of liberal arts, professional, agricultural, and medical colleges and disciplines on one contiguous campus.

That depth and breadth allows researchers and investigators to work together across disciplines and also offers both undergraduate and graduate students distinctive educational and research opportunities in a multidisciplinary and collaborative setting.

At the same time, UK is in the process of investing $2.4 billion in infrastructure across the campus, including a $265 million multidisciplinary research building that opened in 2018 and the continued expansion of a $1 billion health care facility, started in 2004.


Across campus we are creating pockets of research excellence - multidisciplinary communities of top talent that address the relevant challenges of our day. The University’s sponsored research includes nationally recognized programs in aging, cancer and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disease. Our emerging areas of discovery – renewable fuels and plant-based alternatives for industrial manufacturing – are closely linked to questions relevant to the Commonwealth we serve.

UK’s patent portfolio reflects a strong and diverse research enterprise that mirrors some of Kentucky’s most vital industries: drug development and design, plant biotech and equine health, as well as innovative materials for medical devices, implants and drug delivery systems. We recently established partnerships with leaders like GE-Appliances and Alltech to strengthen the research and development pipeline – an essential driver of our state's economy.

Kentucky suffers from high rates of preventable deaths related to a number of chronic illnesses. The life expectancy of Kentuckians is below the national average, and we have higher utilization rates of health services further compounding the cost of health care. These are the relevant questions of our day that the University of Kentucky is dedicated to confronting.

Kentucky’s health maladies are further compounded by low educational attainment, low socio-economic mobility, geography and low health awareness. As a result, addressing these health disparities requires a multi-disciplinary approach. To embolden our work on health research that addresses the myriad public and clinical health issues in the Commonwealth, the University  received approval from the Kentucky General Assembly during the 2015 legislative session to build a $265 million multi-disciplinary health science research facility. The facility will be financed with $132.5 million from the state and $132.5 million from various University resources. It will house diverse teams of experts from across campus that are focused on Kentucky questions that have a global impact.

Our research and scholarly endeavors offer the brightest hope for transformation and change for our Commonwealth and the broader world we serve. Our sense of connection to those we serve and our steadfast commitment to changing lives are integral to what makes our campus community special.

Unlike any other institution, our campus is the Commonwealth. Kentucky is in our DNA. We educate students, conduct groundbreaking research and heal communities in need of our care. Though the work we do looks different today than in 1865, the heritage of our land grant and flagship mission – as well as our responsibility to communities on our campus and throughout the Commonwealth – is resolute.

Learn more about research at the University of Kentucky.