The Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise closed in March 2021.

The REF exercise:

  • informs the selective allocation of the four Higher Education (HE) funding bodies grant for research, with effect from 2022-23
  • provides accountability for public investment in research and produces evidence of the impact and benefits arising from this investment
  • provides benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks for each discipline, for use within the HE sector and for public information

Units of Assessment

Key changes from REF 2014

  • REF 2021 is not a selective exercise; every eligible member of staff must be included
  • The weightings of the three elements of REF have been revised to: outputs - 60%; impact - 25%; environment - 15%
  • Every eligible member of staff must be attributed between one and five outputs. The total number of outputs must equal 2.5 times the total FTE of the unit's submitted staff.

Units of assessment (UoA's)

In REF 2021, there are 34 Units of Assessment organised in four main panels. The UoAs the College submitted to are in italics below.

Main panel A

1. Clinical Medicine
2. Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care
3. Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy
4. Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience
5. Biological Sciences
6. Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science

Main panel B

7. Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences
8. Chemistry
9. Physics
10. Mathematical Sciences
11. Computer Science and Informatics
12. Engineering

Main panel C

13. Architecture, Built Environment and Planning
14. Geography and Environmental Studies
15. Archaeology
16. Economics and Econometrics
17. Business and Management Studies
18. Law
19. Politics and International Studies
20. Social Work and Social Policy
21. Sociology
22. Anthropology and Development Studies
23. Education
24. Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

Main panel D

25. Area Studies
26. Modern Languages and Linguistics
27. English Language and Literature
28. History
29. Classics
30. Philosophy
31. Theology and Religious Studies
32. Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory
33. Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies
34. Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management

Elements of REF


The environment element of REF 2021 describes the environment the institutions have to support research activity.

Will an evironment statement be necessary for each Unit of Assessment the College submits to?

Yes - every submission will contain an institutional-level environment statement and a completed template describing the submitted unit’s research and impact environment.

What period will the environment statement cover?

The institutional-level environment statement will be a description of the research and impact environment related to the period 1 August 2013 - 31 July 2020.

How much is the environment element worth in REF 2021?

Environment makes up 15% of the assessment.


Impact is the element of REF that explains the benefits of our research. 

How will impact be demonstrated?

The impact the College research is having will be demonstrated through case studies.

What is the census date for impact case studies?

To be REF eligible, the impact must have occurred between 1 August 2013 and 31 December 2020, with the underpinning research being first published between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2020.

How much is impact worth in REF 2021?

The impact element of REF 2021 is worth 25% of the assessment.


One of the elements of the REF 2021 submission is represented by research outputs.

What is the census period for outputs?

Only outputs that were produced by the College between 1 January 2014 and 31 December 2020 are REF eligible.

How will the College decide which outputs to submit?

As stated in the College Code of Practice, those outputs which are considered to be of the highest quality will be submitted. To find out more about the process for selecting outputs, please consult the .

How much are the outputs worth in REF 2021?

The pool of outputs submitted makes up 60% of the assessment.

Code of Practice

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing research in UK HEIs. Every institution must have a Code of Practice which ensures that staff and those making decisions are aware of the context in which REF decisions are made. The Code of Practice frames the College's decision-making processes in relation to REF 2021 in the context of the principles of equality and diversity, and all relevant legislation. 

Intention of the Code of Practice

  • Provide transparency on all aspects and stages of the processes involved in determining research independence of staff and selecting outputs for submission into REF2021;
  • Provide accountability by defining the bodies and individuals that are accountable for, or involved in, the determination of research independence of staff, and the selection of research outputs for the REF;
  • Be inclusive, by ensuring that research by all eligible staff are considered for submission;
  • Ensure that all decisions are, consistent, justifiable and are not discriminatory;
  • Ensures that these REF decisions comply with current equalities legislation;
  • Takes place at various levels and stages – a multi-layered approach;
  • Reflects the College’s mission for high-quality research and research excellence.