The page contains key information relating to the REF2014.

What is the REF2014?

The REF2014 is a sector-wide assessment exercise of publicly funded research in the UK. The REF2014 replaces the Research Assessment Exercise, which last took place in 2008 (RAE2008). All Universities that receive funding from any of the Higher Education Funding Councils are invited to present selected research for assessment in to the REF2014 exercise. The assessment is carried out by panels of peers and research users in 36 subject areas, referred to in the REF2014 as Units of Assessment. In total there are four Main Panels and 36 sub-Panels. The exercise is selective, with the expectation that institutions will select only excellent work for submission, and not all research. At the end of the assessment, each institution will receive a quality profile for each Unit of Assessment to which it submitted.

The University REF2014 Steering Group

The University’s REF2014 submission will be coordinated at both College level and centrally, and will be overseen by the institutional REF2014 Steering Group.

Download details of the institutional REF2014 Steering Group

Defining Research in a REF2014 Context

The definition of research within a REF2014 context, as given by HEFCE in the Assessment Framework and Guidance on Submissions document, is as follows:

For the purposes of the REF, research is defined as a process of investigation leading to new insights, effectively shared.

It includes work of direct relevance to the needs of commerce, industry, and to the public and voluntary sectors; scholarship; the invention and generation of ideas, images, performances, artefacts including design, where these lead to new or substantially improved insights; and the use of existing knowledge in experimental development to produce new or substantially improved materials, devices, products and processes, including design and construction. It excludes routine testing and routine analysis of materials, components and processes such as for the maintenance of national standards, as distinct from the development of new analytical techniques. It also excludes the development of teaching materials that do not embody original research.

It includes research that is published, disseminated or made publicly available in the form of assessable research outputs, and confidential reports

Why is the REF2014 Important?

The REF2014 is hugely important for a number of reasons. First, it allows for benchmarking standards of research against other institutions across the sector within the UK. This brings with it a reputational issue, and should be seen as an opportunity for research Units within the University to demonstrate their research excellence. The quality profile achieved by the University in the REF2014 will also inform the block research grant allocation it receives from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) from 2015 onwards.

For any additional information on the REF2014, please visit the HEFCE REF2014 website.


REF 2014 Results

The results of the Research Excellence Framework will be published by the REF team on 18 December 2014. More information about the publication arrangements.


What will be Assessed?

The REF2014 will assess three key research areas, as follows:

  1. Research Outputs (65%)
  2. Research Impact (20%)
  3. Research Environment (15%)

The most important of these is the assessment of research outputs. Each academic member of staff who is selected for submission will normally have to provide four research outputs for inclusion. These will be assessed by the sub-Panels. Approximately half of the sub-Panels (mainly in the STEM subjects) will take into account the citation counts of the submitted research outputs to inform their decisions. Assessment of research outputs will account for 65% of each submission’s overall quality rating. The citation counts will be provided to the REF panels via Scopus, and will refer to the research outputs submitted.

After the research output element of the assessment exercise, the non-academic impact of research is the next most significant area to be assessed. This will also be assessed by Unit of Assessment, via submission of a pre-determined number of “impact case studies” (number of case studies varying dependant on FTE per Unit) and by assessing how the research environment and research strategy within each Unit supports and facilitates non-academic research impact. The assessment of research impact is new to the REF2014 and will account for 20% of the overall quality profile within each Unit.

The research output and impact elements of each submission will be accompanied by a narrative which describes the research environment of each Unit of Assessment. The “research environment” element of the assessment accounts for 15% of each submission. The research environment element assesses research facilities, research strategy, research metrics, career development opportunities, with particular emphasis on early career researchers and postgraduate students, and on equality and diversity issues.

For further information on how submissions will be assessed, please access;

Alternatively, these documents are available on the HEFCE website.


What do the Quality Ratings Mean?

For the overall quality profile for each Unit of Assessment the quality ratings are as follows:




Quality that is world leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour


Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence


Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour


Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour


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

For each of the three elements of the assessment – outputs, impact and environment – sub-panels will develop a sub-profile, showing the proportion of the submission that meets each of four starred quality levels. 

  • View the assessment criteria and the definitions of the starred levels for the sub-profiles


How will the University Select Staff for Submission?

Final decisions on the selection of staff for submission to the exercise will be made by the institutional REF2014 Steering Group, in consultation with the Colleges. The REF2014 Steering Group has overarching responsibility for managing and coordinating the University’s submission to the REF2014. Decisions on inclusion for submission will be based entirely on research quality.

In making decisions on inclusion, the University, via the REF2014 Steering Group, will adhere to its internal REF2014 Equality and Diversity Code of Practice, as required by the Funding Councils. The University's REF2014 Equality and Diversity Code of Practice was approved via the University Court at its meeting on 6 December 2011 and has now been submitted to the national REF2014 Team (HEFCE) for formal approval.


Key Documentation

Please find a number of documents key REF2014 below.

Impact Related Links:

In order to access the additional documentation on Impact listed below, as released by HEFCE following the Impact Pilot Exercise (2010);

  • HEFCE Impact Pilot Exercise Expert Panel Findings.
  • Feedback from the Higher Education Institutions Involved in the Pilot.
  • Examples of impact case studies best practice, as submitted to the pilot exercise

Please visit the following link: