Research Excellence Framework (REF)

About the REF

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) assesses the quality of research in UK Higher Education Institutions, with the aim of providing accountability for public research funding, making available benchmarking information, and driving the allocation of quality-related funding to support UK research. REF will next be held in 2021; the deadline for submissions is 27th November 2020.

REF assesses the quality of research outputs, from journal papers to art exhibitions and everything in between, the impact of research on industry, public services, the environment and society more broadly, and the environment created by each university to support research.

Submissions to REF are peer-assessed by panels for thirty-four subject-based Units of Assessment (UoAs), working under four main panels. Further information can be found on the REF 2021 website.

REF 2014

REF was held for the first time in 2014 and replaced the previous Research Assessment Exercises (RAE). The University submitted to eight Units of Assessment in 2014: Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy; Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory; Business and Management Studies; Computer Science and Informatics; English Language and Literature; General Engineering; History; and Social Work and Social Policy.

The majority of the work submitted was rated in the top two categories, world leading and internationally excellent; the submissions and outcomes can be found on the REF 2014 website.

REF 2021

One of the main changes introduced for REF 2021 is that all staff with significant responsibility for research must be submitted. For those on research-only contracts, only independent researchers should be submitted to REF. Each member of staff will as standard contribute between one and five outputs to the output pool for each UoA.

The University is considering submissions to several new UoAs for REF 2021, as well as continuing to focus on established areas of strength. We are currently preparing our Code of Practice, which outlines the processes we will use to prepare our submissions to REF 2021. The Code details how staff with significant responsibility for research will be identified, how research independence will be determined, and how outputs will be selected for submission. Further details and the draft Code of Practice can be found on the University intranet.

Each UoA submission is overseen by a UoA Committee with the support of a REF Reading Group, reporting to the University's REF Strategy Group.

Updates on our preparations can also be found on our REF 2021 blog.