What is the REF?

The four UK higher education funding bodies allocate about £2 billion per year of research funding to UK universities. 

They aim to support a dynamic and internationally competitive UK research sector that makes a major contribution to economic prosperity, national well-being and the expansion and dissemination of knowledge.

To distribute funds selectively on the basis of quality (QR), the funding bodies assess universities’ research through a periodic exercise. 

The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) assessed the quality and impact of UK universities’ research in all disciplines and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015–16.

How it works

The REF2014 was a process of expert review, carried out in 36 subject-based units of assessment (UoAs).

These expert sub-panels - comprising 898 academics and 259 research users - carried out the assessment, working under the guidance of four main panels, producing a sub-profile for each element (outputs, impact and environment) combined into an overall quality profile.

Three key elements

  • The quality of research outputs is the main element of assessment (65%).
  • The impact of research considers the effect of the research on the economy, society, public policy, culture and quality of life (20%).
  • The vitality of the research environment considers the research strategy, infrastructure and environment, including research income and research degrees awarded (15%).

HE results

The results of the Research Excellence Framework 2014 (REF2014), carried out by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), were published on 18 December 2014.

They highlighted that all areas submitted by the University of Plymouth included world-leading research, achieving the highest rating possible - scoring four stars.

Classification Overall quality profile description
4* World-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour
3* Internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which nonetheless falls short of the highest standards of excellence
2* Recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour
1* Recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour
U/C Unclassified Work not meeting published definition of research for the purposes of the REF or which falls below national standards