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Assessment criteria and level definitions

The assessment criteria and the definitions of the starred levels used in the assessment are set out below. These are further explained at Annexes A and B of ‘guidance on submissions’. The ‘panel criteria’ explain how the sub-panels will apply the assessment criteria and interpret the level definitions.

The primary outcome of the assessment will be an overall quality profile awarded to each submission, showing the proportion of the submission that meets each of the following starred levels:

Overall quality profile: Definitions of starred levels

Four star Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
Three star Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
Two star Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
One star Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
Unclassified Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or work which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of this assessment.

In forming the overall quality profile, sub-panels will develop a sub-profile for each of the three elements of the assessment – outputs, impact and environment. The weighting of each element in forming the overall quality profile, and the assessment criteria and definitions of the starred levels for the sub-profiles, are set out below.

Outputs sub-profile (65%)

The criteria for assessing the quality of outputs are ‘originality, significance and rigour’.

Four star  Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour
Three star  Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
Two star  Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
One star  Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
Unclassified  Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or work which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of this assessment.

 Impact sub-profile (20%)

The criteria for assessing impacts are ‘reach’ and ‘significance’:

  • In assessing the impact described within a case study, the panel will form an overall view about its ‘reach and significance’ taken as a whole, rather than assess ‘reach and significance’ separately.
  • In assessing the impact template (REF3a) the panel will consider the extent to which the unit’s approach described in the template is conducive to achieving impacts of ‘reach and significance’.
Four star   Outstanding impacts in terms of their reach and significance.
Three star  Very considerable impacts in terms of their reach and significance.
Two star  Considerable impacts in terms of their reach and significance.
One star  Recognised but modest impacts in terms of their reach and significance.
Unclassified  The impact is of little or no reach and significance; or the impact was not eligible; or the impact was not underpinned by excellent research produced by the submitted unit.

 Environment sub-profile (15%)

The research environment will be assessed in terms of its ‘vitality and sustainability’. Panels will consider both the ‘vitality and sustainability’ of the submitted unit, and its contribution to the ‘vitality and sustainability’ of the wider research base.

Four star   An environment that is conducive to producing research of world-leading quality, in terms of its vitality and sustainability.
Three star  An environment that is conducive to producing research of internationally excellent quality, in terms of its vitality and sustainability.
Two star  An environment that is conducive to producing research of internationally recognised quality, in terms of its vitality and sustainability.
One star  An environment that is conducive to producing research of nationally recognised quality, in terms of its vitality and sustainability.
Unclassified  An environment that is not conducive to producing research of nationally recognised quality.