Higher Education Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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

This is managed by the REF team based at Research England and overseen by a Steering Group comprised of representatives of the four UK Higher Education Funding bodies, including the Department for the Economy.

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.

Further information is available on the REF website.

Future Research Assessment Programme (FRAP)

The four UK Higher Education Funding bodies have launched the Future Research Assessment Programme (FRAP), aimed at exploring possible approaches to the assessment of UK higher education research performance. The programme seeks to understand what a healthy, thriving research system looks like and how an assessment model can best form its foundation. It will investigate possible different approaches to the evaluation of UK higher education research performance, looking to identify those that can encourage and strengthen the emphasis on delivering excellent research and impact, and support a positive research culture, while simplifying and reducing the administrative burden on the HE sector.

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