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Research Excellence Framework (REF): What is REF's purpose?

What is REF's purpose?

The funding bodies' shared policy aim for research assessment is to secure the continuation of a world-class, dynamic and responsive research base across the full academic spectrum within UK higher education. We expect that this will be achieved through the threefold purpose of the REF:

  • 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 sector and for public information
  • To inform the selective allocation of funding for research. 

How is REF carried out?

The REF is a process of expert review, carried out by expert panels for each of the 34 subject based units of assessment (UOAs), under the guidance of four main panels. Expert panels are made up of senior academics, international members, and research users.

For each submission, three distinct elements are assessed: the quality of outputs (e.g. publications, performances, and exhibitions), their impact beyond academia, and the environment that supports research. 

In order for an Institution to submit to the REF, each Institution is required to write and have approved a code of practice that sets out their approaches to ensuring equality and transparency in REF 2021 decision-making processes, specifically in relation to:

  • the determination of staff that have a significant responsibility for research & are independent researchers

  • the process by which research outputs will be selected for inclusion in the REF, taking into account individual circumstances in a fair and transparent manner.

The University of Northampton's code of practice REF2021​ has now been approved by Research England, and is now available for all staff.

If you need any further information please email the REF team.