Introduction to the REF

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the new peer review assessment of the quality of research taking place at eligible UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).  The quality of research is periodically assessed every five to six years and the results of REF 2014 replace the outcomes of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE08).

The College submitted its REF 2014 returns by the submission deadline of 29 November 2013. The results were published on 18 December 2014. The outcomes will be used by HEFCE to determine the distribution of block grant for research, including quality-related research (QR) funding from 2015-16 onwards.

This page contains information on the following:

Background accordion

Results of REF 2014

The College's REF 2014 results are available on the results page of this website.

The results of previous Research Assessment Exercises (RAEs) are also available: 2008 RAE, 2001 RAE; 1996 RAE.

The REF 2014 outcomes are expressed similarly to those of the 2008 RAE, with a quality profile identifying the proportion of activity reaching each of four defined 'starred' quality levels. The REF 2014 quality profiles are rounded to the nearest 1%, unlike the 2008 RAE quality profiles which were rounded to the nearest 5%.

Example of a quality profile:
UoA AFTE Category A staff submittedPercentage of research activity in the submission judged to meet the standard for:
University X 50.45 18 41 25 16 0
University Y 65.2 12 32 45 10 1
Imperial College London RAE08 results

The star ratings for the 2014 REF are as follows:

Star ratings explained
Star levelDefinition
4* Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
3* Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
2* Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
1* Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
Unclassified Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or work which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of assessment.
Star ratings explanation

The results are published at sub-panel (UoA) level. The UoA quality profiles are reported as a percentage of research activity in the submission within each UoA deemed to meet each of the defined levels of quality. The overall quality profile comprises the aggregate of the weighted profiles produced for research outputs, research environment, and impact indicators.

Follow the link to view the full details of the assessment criteria for REF 2014.

Funding consequences of REF 2014

The REF 2014 outcomes will be used by the Funding Councils to distribute their block grant for research from 2015-16. The funding model using the REF 2014 results was announced in March 2015.

At present, the HEFCE research funding model provides funds on the basis of quality multiplied by volume (submitted Staff FTE).

Timelines for REF 2014 results

  • 29 November 2013 - The College submitted its REF 2014 returns
  • 18 December 2014 - Publication of REF 2014 UoA results, including sub-profiles
  • 26 March 2015 – HEFCE publish provisional recurrent research funding allocations for the academic year 2015‑16

The REF uses retrospective data to form a prospective judgement on the quality of research. The period of assessment for REF 2014 ran from 01 January 2008 to 31 December 2013.

  • Census date for staff: 31 October 2013
  • Research Output publication period: 01 January 2008 - 31 December 2013
  • Research Environment assessment period: 01 January 2008 – 31 July 2013
  • Research Student assessment period: 01 August 2008 - 31 July 2013
  • Research Income assessment period: 01 August 2008 - 31 July 2013
  • Research Impact assessment period: 01 January 2008 - 31 December 2013

Subject coverage (Units of Assessment)

For REF 2014 there were four main panels (A-D) split into thirty-six UoAs.

These differed substantially from the 2008 RAE where there were fifteen main panels and sixty-seven UoAs. For comparative purposes, a mapping of the 2008 RAE UoAs to REF 2014 UoAs has been prepared by the College for the UoAs where the College made a submission.

mapping of UoAs to College Faculties (PDF) has been prepared also for comparative purposes.

Content of submission

The content of the REF 2014 submission was comprised of the datasets, known as forms. Follow the link to view the content of the 2014 REF submission.

Equality in REF 2014

HEFCE stated that all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) submitting into the REF had to ‘develop, document and apply a Code of Practice on selecting staff to include in their REF submissions. On making submissions, the head of institution will be required to confirm adherence to this Code’.

REF 2014 review panel membership

View the complete list of panel members for REF 2014 available on the Funding Council's REF 2014 website.

Further guidance on REF 2014 is also available at the Funding Councils' REF 2014 website.