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?

  • Inform the allocation of block-grant research funding to HEIs based on research quality
  • Provide accountability for public investment in research and produce evidence of the benefits of this investment
  • Provide insights into the health of research in HEIs in the UK

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.

For the purposes of the REF, research is defined as a process of investigation leading to new insights, effectively shared.

Latest news

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  • Announcement of participating institutions in the People, Culture and Environment pilot exercise

    We are pleased to confirm the institutions taking part in the People, Culture and Environment (PCE) pilot exercise. We’ve included institutions from across the whole of the UK and that give us a broad range of different:   We had originally intended to include 30 institutions in the pilot, but we’ve now decided to include 40 to widen the…

  • REF 2029 policy update – Spring 2024

    Today we are releasing three updates on our policy development for REF 2029. REF policy roadmap A policy roadmap setting out our approach to REF 2029 policy development. We are taking a different approach to policy development for REF 2029, working with the community to develop policy in modules that will be released as they…

  • Using HESA data in REF 2029

    The Initial Decisions outlined the funding bodies’ intention to calculate the volume measure for REF 2029 using data held in the HESA staff record. In today’s release we are confirming some further detail of this policy and opening the opportunity to participate in a working group with representatives from HESA/JISC and the community to co-develop…