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About the REF

The REF is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. It replaced the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), last conducted in 2008.

The 2014 REF was conducted jointly by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland (DEL). The REF was managed by the REF team, based at HEFCE, on behalf of the four UK higher education funding bodies, and was overseen by the REF Steering Group, consisting of representatives of the four funding bodies.

The primary purpose of REF 2014 was to assess the quality of research and produce outcomes for each submission made by institutions:

  • The four higher education funding bodies will use the assessment outcomes to inform the selective allocation of their grant for research to the institutions which they fund, with effect from 2015-16.
  • The assessment provides accountability for public investment in research and produces evidence of the benefits of this investment.
  • The assessment outcomes provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks, for use within the higher education (HE) sector and for public information.
Guidance and criteria A record of the guidance provided to institutions on the process and criteria for making submissions to the REF 2014.
Research users Information on the REF 2014 for research users.
Timetable Timetable of the key events of the REF 2014.

The REF was developed through evaluations of the 2008 RAE, pilot exercises and consultations with the sector. Further information about the development of the 2014 REF can be found in the background section.