The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. It replaced the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).
The REF first took place in 2014, hence the name REF 2021. The next exercise will be conducted in 2021.
Through this research assessment, the REF upholds a threefold purpose:
- To provide accountability for public investment in research and produce evidence of the benefits of this investment.
- To provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks, for use within the HE sector and for public information.
- To inform the selective allocation of funding for research.
How is the REF carried out?
The REF goes through a process of expert review, carried out by expert panels for each of the 34 subject-based units of assessment (UOAs), under the guidance of four main panels. The expert panels comprise of senior academics, international members, and research users. For each submission, three distinct elements are assessed:
- The quality of outputs (e.g. publications, performances and exhibitions)
- Their impact beyond academia
- The environment that supports the research
To find out more, please visit the REF 2021 website at: www.ref.ac.uk
The assessment is for research work only. While good quality research departments will attract the highest-level experts in that particular field, this does not necessarily result in the highest excellence in teaching quality at the undergraduate level.
Bear in mind that even departments with modest ratings have been recognised as having research of national excellence in up to half of the sub-areas. Use such statistics carefully; be sure that you understand exactly what they are aiming to show.
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