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Assessing research

Research Excellence Framework

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:

  • Research outputs – the quality of research publications and other forms of research output
  • Impact – the benefits delivered to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life
  • Research environment – the vitality and sustainability of the research environment, including the contribution to the wider discipline or research base.
  • 2021 Research Excellence Framework

    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.

    2014 Research Excellence Framework

    The first REF ran in 2014. The outcomes were published in December 2014. Further information is available on the REF website.

    Open Access Publication

    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 Assessment Exercise

    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 websiteCircular W09/07HE provides an analysis of the outcomes for Wales.

    Information on earlier RAEs, held in 2001, 1996 and 1992, is available in the RAE website.

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