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REF 2014 latest news

Equality and diversity in the REF

Details of an inclusive approach to encouraging research submissions.

REF timetable

Timetable of key stages for the new framework.

Weighting of research impact confirmed

Key decisions about the assessment of impact.

Research Excellence Framework

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs). It will replace the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) and will be completed in 2014. The REF will be undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies. The exercise will be managed by the REF team based at HEFCE and overseen by the REF Steering Group, consisting of representatives of the four funding bodies.

The REF will:

  • inform the selective allocation of research funding to HEIs
  • provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks
  • provide accountability for public investment in research and demonstrate its benefits.

Through the REF, the UK funding bodies aim to develop and sustain a dynamic and internationally competitive research sector that makes a major contribution to economic prosperity, national wellbeing and the expansion and dissemination of knowledge.

Key features

The REF will be a process of expert review, informed by indicators where appropriate. Expert sub-panels for each of 36 units of assessment (UOAs) will carry out the assessment, working under the guidance of four broad main panels. Institutions will be invited to make submissions to each UOA, to be assessed in terms of:

  • The quality of research outputs
    This will continue to be the primary factor in the assessment. The quality of research outputs will be assessed by the expert panels against international standards of excellence. We expect that some of the panels will make use of citation information to inform their review of outputs.
  • The wider impact of research
    The four UK funding bodies have now set out the features and weighting for this area of assessment, following a pilot exercise.
  • The vitality of the research environment

The outcomes of the overall assessment will be fine-grained enough to identify excellence wherever this may be found. Panels will produce a sub-profile for each element (outputs, impact and environment), to be combined into an overall excellence profile. The profiles will show the proportion of submitted work at each point on a five-point scale (1* to 4* plus Unclassified).

Development and implementation

During 2009 we consulted on proposals for the new framework.

In March 2010 we published a summary of responses and announced the initial decisions and next steps in the design and implementation of the framework.

We then undertook an impact pilot exercise to test and develop the approach to assessing the impact of research. The UK higher education funding bodies have now set out the broad features of the impact assessment and its weighting within the overall REF.

Chairs Designate for the four REF main panels, sub-panel chairs, and panel members have now been appointed.

Panel members were appointed to the panels by the four UK higher education funding bodies following an open nominations process. Subject associations and other organisations with an interest in research conducted by UK higher education institutions were invited to nominate candidates.

An equality and diversity expert group (Adobe PDF) has been established to advise on ways to strengthen the equalities and diversity measures in the REF.

Detailed guidance on submissions and assessment criteria will be published during 2011. Institutions will be invited to make submissions during 2013 and the assessment will take place during 2014.

Research Excellence Framework timetable

Sector impact assessment of the REF

In the course beginning to implement the REF, we have assessed its impact on the higher education sector in terms of regulatory burden, equality and diversity, sustainable development and privacy.

Sector impact assessment of the REF

[ Download Sector impact assessment of the REF as Adobe PDF 70K | Download Sector impact assessment of the REF as MS Word 64K ]

Further information

Last updated 13 May 2011