How Research England supports research excellence


Research Excellence Framework

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK’s system for assessing the excellence of research in UK higher education providers (HEPs).

The REF outcomes are used to inform the allocation of around £2 billion per year of public funding for universities’ research.

The REF was first carried out in 2014, replacing the previous Research Assessment Exercise. Research England manages the REF on behalf of all the four UK higher education funding bodies:

  • Research England
  • Scottish Funding Council
  • Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
  • Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland.

The funding bodies’ shared policy aim for research assessment is to secure the continuation of a world-class, dynamic and responsive research base across the full academic spectrum within UK higher education.

REF objectives

The REF objectives are to:

  • provide accountability for public investment in research and produce evidence of the benefits of this investment
  • provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks, for use in the higher education sector and for public information
  • inform the selective allocation of funding for research.

Find out more on the REF website.

REF progress update: November 2023

REF progress update: December 2023

Last updated: 8 April 2024

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