The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing research in UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The University will make its submission to the next REF (REF 2021) in November 2020. The assessment phase will take place in 2021 with the outcomes of the REF published in December 2021.

The outcomes of the REF:

  • Inform the selective allocation of funding for research by the four UK higher education funding bodies with effect from 2022-23; in Scotland this grant is made annually by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and is called the Research Excellence Grant (REG) – for 2019/20 the University will receive over £19M in REG funding; of which over £11M is based on the results from REF 2014.
  • Provide accountability for public investment in research and produce evidence of the benefits of this investment; and
  • Provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks for use within the HE sector and for public information.

The REF is a process of expert review. Discipline-based expert sub-panels for each of the 34 Units of Assessment (UOAs), working under the leadership and guidance of four Main Panels (A, B, C and D), will assess three distinct elements of submissions:

  • Outputs: The quality of submitted research outputs in terms of their ‘originality, significance and rigour’ with reference to international research quality standards;
  • Impact: The ‘reach and significance’ of impacts on the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life that were underpinned by excellent research conducted in the submitted unit;
  • Environment: The ‘vitality and sustainability’ of the research environment of the unit, including the approach to enabling impact.

The sub-panels will produce a 'sub-profile' for each element showing the proportion of research activity at each point on a 5 point scale:

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 this assessment

The three sub-profiles will then be combined into an overall quality profile using the following weightings:

Outputs Impact Environment
60% 25% 15%

The overall quality profile awarded to each submission is the primary outcome of the REF.

The last REF took place in 2014 and the University of Dundee results can be found here.