Research Excellence Framework

Securing a world-class, dynamic and responsive research base across the full academic spectrum within UK higher education

The REF is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. It first took place in 2014 and 2021. The next exercise is planned for 2029.

What is the REF’s purpose?

  • To provide accountability for public investment in research and produce evidence of the benefits of this investment.
  • To provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks, for use within the Higher Education sector and for public information.
  • To inform the selective allocation of funding for research.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK’s system for assessing the excellence of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs). The REF outcomes are used to inform the allocation of around £2 billion per year of public funding for universities’ research. The REF is a process of expert review, carried out by sub-panels focused on subject-based units of assessment (UOAs), under the guidance of overarching main panels and advisory panels. Panels are made up of senior academics, international members, and research users.

Latest news

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  • Initial decisions next steps December 2023

    The Research Excellence Framework and its precursors have been designed by the four UK higher education funding bodies – in collaboration with the community. This REF will be no different. The consultation on the Initial Decisions, published in the summer of 2023, probed the community’s thinking on most of the major decisions. The quality and…

  • It’s time to talk about research culture and the REF

    A recent article by Research England’s executive chair, Professor Dame Jessica Corner published in Wonkhe, broaches a sector-wide debate.

  • REF 2028: Rebalancing the definition of excellence

    A recent article by Steven Hill published in Research Professional discusses the rebalancing of the definition of excellence.