Higher education research excellence framework

The research excellence framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs).The next exercise is 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) which builds on the previous exercise carried out in 2014 and the recommendations of the independent review of REF 2014.

Research excellence framework

Research assessment in the UK is achieved by means of the research excellence framework (REF) exercise. It is managed by the REF team based at Research England and overseen by a Steering Group comprised of representatives of the four higher education funding bodies, including the Department for the Economy. Further information is available on the REF website.

The purposes of the REF are to:

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

News item



(Note: this page includes the RAND impact indicators report, environment indicators advice, the fellowships list, and the information requirements for outputs.)


information can be found on contingency measures developed in response to the increasing effects of COVID-19 on instituitions in preparing submissions to REF 2021:

Back to top