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November 2007/34
Policy development

Responses should be e-mailed to HEFCE by Thursday 14 February 2008 using the response form below.

Research Excellence Framework
Consultation on the assessment and funding of higher education research post-2008

This document sets out proposals for a new research assessment and funding framework.

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions
Heads of universities in Northern Ireland
Of interest to those responsible for: Research funding and management, Planning
Reference: 2007/34
Publication date: November 2007
Enquiries to:

Victoria Waite
tel 0117 931 7254

Executive summary (read online)


Main report and Annexes B and C

[ MS Word 206K | Zipped Word 51K | Adobe PDF 122K | Zipped PDF 110K ]

Annex A - response form

[ MS Word 68K | Zipped Word 10K | Adobe PDF 31K | Zipped PDF 21K ]

Supporting research

Executive summary


1.   This document sets out proposals for the future research assessment and funding framework - the Research Excellence Framework (REF) - that will be introduced after 2008.

Key points

2.   The Government has asked HEFCE to develop a new framework for research assessment and funding that makes greater use of quantitative information - 'metrics' - than the current arrangements. This will be introduced gradually between 2010 and 2014 following the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). Some key elements in the new framework have already been decided; this publication presents initial proposals on how they should be delivered. In summary, this consultation covers the following issues:

  • Subject divisions: within an overarching framework for the assessment and funding of research, there will be distinct approaches for the science-based disciplines (in this context, the sciences, technology, engineering and medicine with the exception of mathematics and statistics) and for the other disciplines. This publication proposes where the boundary should be drawn between these two groups and proposes a subdivision of science-based disciplines into six broad subject groups for assessment and funding purposes.
  • Assessment and funding for the science-based disciplines will be driven by quantitative indicators. We will develop a new bibliometric indicator of research quality. This document builds on expert advice to set out our proposed approach to generating a quality profile using bibliometric data, and invites comments on this.
  • Assessment and funding for the other disciplines: a new light touch peer review process informed by metrics will operate for the other disciplines (the arts, humanities, social sciences and mathematics and statistics) in 2013. We have not undertaken significant development work on this to date. This publication identifies some key issues and invites preliminary views on how we should approach these.
  • Range and use of quantitative indicators: the new funding and assessment framework will also make use of indicators of research income and numbers of research students. This publication invites views on whether additional indicators should be used, for example to capture user value, and if so on what basis.
  • Role of the expert panels: panels made up of eminent UK and international practising researchers in each of the proposed subject groups, together with some research users, will be convened to advise on the selection and use of indicators within the framework for all disciplines, and to conduct the light touch peer review process in non science-based disciplines. This document invites proposals for how their role should be defined within this context.
  • Next steps: the paper identifies a number of areas for further work and sets out our proposed workplan and timetable for developing and introducing the new framework, including further consultations and a pilot exercise to help develop a method for producing bibliometric quality indicators.
  • Sector impact: a key aim in developing the framework will be to reduce the burden on researchers and higher education institutions (HEIs) created by the current arrangements. We also aim for the framework to promote equal opportunities. This publication invites comments on where we need to pay particular attention to these issues in developing the framework and what more can be done.
  • Territorial coverage of the proposals: this publication launches a HEFCE consultation on a new funding and assessment framework for England. The higher education funding councils for Wales and Scotland are conducting parallel consultations with the aim of developing with us a single framework for research quality assessment that could operate across the UK; they will bring forward their own proposals for research funding in due course. While Northern Ireland is also participating in the HEFCE consultation, it too will be developing its own proposals for research funding.
  • Responding to the consultations: responses are invited by e-mail by 14 February 2008 from HEIs and all other interested bodies. HEIs in Scotland and Wales, and other stakeholders based in a particular territory within the UK, should respond directly to the appropriate funding council. HEIs in Northern Ireland are invited to reply to HEFCE and to send a copy of their reply to the Department for Employment and Learning.

3.   We are planning (and in some cases already undertaking) further work which will inform the implementation of the new framework following these consultations.

Action required

4.   Responses to HEFCE are invited by e-mail, using the response form at Annex A, by Thursday 14 February 2008.

5.   Institutions interested in taking part in the pilot exercise during 2008 should contact the appropriate funding council by 31 January 2008. Institutions in England and Northern Ireland should contact Victoria Waite, tel 0117 931 7254, e-mail