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Research Excellence Framework

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a critical and strategic component of the university’s research activities as it benchmarks our research efforts against peer institutions at both a subject and institutional level. The REF is a periodic expert-led research assessment exercise, taking place approximately every seven years which is used to distribute £2 billion worth of public funding annually to support research activities in higher education institutions.

REF consists of the assessment of 34 subject-based units of assessment (UoAs) under four main panels. These represent the broad range of research carried out across the sector. Each institution will make a submission to each of the UoAs; which match their subject areas – and in that way the subject areas are able to be assessed against their peer groupings in other institutions.

Each submission is composed of an assessment of outputs (e.g. publications, practice-based outputs such as performances, etc.), their impact beyond academia (e.g. policy changes, industrial changes, etc.), and the environment that supports research in that area.

These are weighted as follows:




Each submission is peer reviewed by expert panels made up of senior academics, international experts, and end users of research, with their scores of all the elements combining to give an overall score for the individual UoAs.

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 HE sectors and for public information
  • To inform the selective allocation of funding for research

Find out more about research impact and our REF Code of practice.

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