What is the Research Excellence Framework (REF)?
The REF is the UK’s national assessment, conducted in cycles by UKRI. It evaluates the quality of research undertaken by higher education institutions (HEIs) across the UK, and is responsible for allocating £2billion of funding to these institutions based each year based on their performance.
The first REF to include an impact component – worth 20% – was conducted in 2014, with impact growing to account for 25% of the total score for the 2021 REF.
What Does the REF Delay Mean for UK Universities and other Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)?
Primarily the update provides an extension for submissions to the next iteration of the REF. Given previous deadlines, it is likely this will mean that submissions to the REF will now be due in 2028, rather than the expected 2027. The initial decisions on the REF were published in June 2023, and further details are scheduled to be released in January 2024 following large volumes of feedback from the academic community.
What Has Changed from REF 2021 to REF 2029 in Terms of Impact Assessment?
Although discussions are ongoing, some important areas of change are as follows:
- The impact component has evolved to cover engagement and impact, and will still account for 25% of the total score;
- This has been designed to assess broader engagement “between the research system and actors in the rest of society” (Dr Steven Hill, November 2023, see video below);
- The threshold for research underpinning the impact to be at least of 2* quality has been removed, based on feedback from the community.
Learn more about some of the updates from Dr Steven Hill, Director of Research at Research England, during the 2023 Impact Symposium:
What Are the Next Steps?
Further information will be published by UKRI in January 2024.
If your institution is working towards the next REF, then it is never too early to start optimising processes and preparing your teams to ensure maximum success and increased efficiency. You can learn more on our dedicated impact assessments page.