Research Excellence Framework

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is carried out every six or seven years. It is the system for assessing the activities of research-active academic staff. 

The REF focuses on three elements: 


Publications and practice-based outputs


The demonstrable benefit of research to society


The structures and strategy that support research

The information that Staffordshire University submits is assessed by experts from academics and research users. Results are presented as a ‘quality profile’, showing the percentage of research at five ratings – 4* (world-leading) being the highest score.

Why is the REF important?

With substantial public funding being invested in research in universities, the REF provides accountability and helps us demonstrate the economic and social contribution of our research to society.

It also informs the allocation of funds based on research quality. The REF can measure the development of our researchers and has a positive link to the student experience due to the relationship between research and teaching.

REF 2021 performance

We have major plans to grow our world-class research after making substantial improvements in the latest Research Excellence Framework. 

The assessment process, often called the REF, looks at the quality of research at higher education institutions across the UK. 

In the 2021 exercise, 68% our research was recognised as either “world-leading” (4*) or “internationally excellent” (3*). 

This was up from 37% in 2014 when the last REF results were announced. Overall, we were the fourth most improved institution in the country for our impact performance.

87% of our research impact judged to be “very considerable” (3*) or “outstanding” (4*) – the two top categories.

This reflected our collaborative and innovative approaches, with many of the research projects involving public engagement and place-making.                                                                                               


Now we aim to significantly expand our community of research-active academics so we can build on our existing strengths and cover a wider range of research areas.  

This will also have lots of benefits for students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. There will be more opportunity to undertake PhD research, become involved in other research projects, draw on our international connections and work with staff at the cutting edge of their specialism. Staff are also using their research knowledge to inform their teaching and ensure it remains up-to-date and relevant. 

In total, 109 members of staff and 244 research outputs were submitted for REF 2021. Staffordshire University entered seven units of assessment: Allied Health, Engineering, Archaeology, Business and Management, Social Work and Social Policy, Art and Design, and Communication and Cultural Studies. 

Each unit included research recognised as world-leading. The full results can be accessed via the REF website.  

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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 the Research Excellence Framework.

The Research, Innovation and Impact Services team can provide information about all aspects of research at Staffordshire University.

in the UK for Quality Education

Sustainable Development Goal 4, Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2023

for Career Prospects

Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023

for Facilities

Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023

for Social Inclusion

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023

of Research Impact is ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Very Considerable’

Research Excellence Framework 2021

of Research is “Internationally Excellent” or “World Leading”

Research Excellence Framework 2021

Four Star Rating

QS Star Ratings 2021