Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a periodic peer assessment of the quality of research in UK Higher Education Institutions across all disciplines.

This assessment:

  • informs research funding allocations by UK funding councils to HEIs (what is known as QR funding)
  • provides accountability for public funding of research and demonstrate its benefits
  • provides benchmarks and reputational yardsticks
  • provides comprehensible ratings of research excellence in all disciplines in HEIs across the UK

In the last assessment, REF 2014, the University was among the most improved Universities for research in the United Kingdom. We submitted 112 staff to 11 subject areas (compared to just 4 in the previous exercise RAE 2008) and saw a third of our research classified as “world-leading” or “internationally excellent”, with just under three quarters identified as at least “internationally recognised”.

There were particular successes for History where 56% of its research was recognised as “world-leading” or “internationally excellent”; for Art & Design where more than 40% met this categorisation; and for Sport & Exercise Science where 86% of its research was at least “internationally recognised”.

REF 2014 saw, for the first time, an assessment of the “impact” of research on society, economy, culture and environment. The results show that 44% of the University’s impact was rated as “outstanding” or “very considerable” in terms of reach and significance with 85% being classified as at least “considerable”.

For more details, see our full REF 2014 results.

The next assessment, REF 2021, covers the period from the beginning of 2014 to the end of 2020. The University is expecting to increase again the size of its submission, both in terms of staff numbers and the number of Units of Assessment to which it will submit.

It is a requirement that each institution submitting to REF 2021 develops a Code of Practice in consultation with academic staff and that this code must be approved by the funding council. This Code sets out the institutional approach to ensuring equality of opportunity in REF 2021 decision-making processes.

Our Code of Practice for Research Excellence Framework 2021 has been approved by Research England.