Research Excellence Framework

The Research Excellence Framework (often called the ‘REF’) is the system for assessing the quality of research in higher education institutions in the United Kingdom.

The REF is carried out every six or seven years. The first REF took place in 2014, replacing the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). We are currently in the assessment phase of REF 2021. The REF assesses the activities of research-active academic staff, and it is focused on three elements:

  • outputs (publications and practice-based outputs),
  • impact (the demonstrable benefit of research to society) and;
  • environment (the structures and strategy that support research).

The information that we submit is assessed by experts from academia and research users.  The results of the assessment are presented as a ‘quality profile’ showing the percentage of research at five quality ratings, with 4* or world-leading research being the highest score.

Why is the Research Excellence Framework important?

With substantial amounts of public funding being invested in research in universities, the Research Excellence Framework provides accountability and helps us to demonstrate the economic and social contribution of our research to society. The REF also informs the allocation of funds on the basis of research quality. It can measure the development of our researchers and has a positive link to student experience, due to the relationship between research and teaching.

Overview for 2021

We are currently awaiting the outcome of our submission for 2021. You can find full details of the upcoming assessment at the Research Excellence Framework website.

Code of Practice

Following a consultation process, our Code of Practice has been approved by Research England. It sets out our approach to ensuring equality of opportunity for all eligible staff in REF 2021.

Overview for 2014

Our results for REF 2014 demonstrate that 78% of our research is world leading or of international importance. Our full list of entries from the 2014 REF can be found at the REF Impact Case Studies website. Some of our most notable submissions from 2014 were:

University of the Year

Edufuturist Awards 2021

Top 15 for Teaching Quality

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021

Top 15 for Student Satisfaction

Complete University Guide 2022

Top 20 for Job Prospects

Student Crowd Universities Awards 2021

6th for Social Inclusion

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022


QS Star Ratings 2021