The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK-wide system for assessing research in higher education institutions. It is conducted jointly by all four UK higher education funding bodies, and is managed on their behalf by the REF Team, based at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
Panels of experts in individual academic subject areas assess institutions’ research submissions under three broad headings:
Following an independent review of the REF in 2016, led by Lord Nicholas Stern, the funding bodies consulted on the implementation of the next REF, which will run in 2021. The funding bodies published initial decisions on arrangements for the 2021 REF in September 2017.
The first REF ran in 2014. The outcomes were published in December 2014. Further information is available on the REF website.
The UK higher education funding bodies have introduced a requirement for open-access publication in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework. Further information is available on the HEFCE website.
Research was previously assessed through the UK-wide Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The last RAE was undertaken in 2008. The outcomes of the 2008 RAE, and further information about the exercise, are available on the RAE 2008 website. Circular W09/07HE provides an analysis of the outcomes for Wales.