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Research Excellence Framework (REF)

What is REF?

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

The purpose of the REF is:

  • 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 Higher Education sector and for public information.
  • To inform the selective allocation of funding for research. 

The REF is 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. Expert panels are made up 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, and the environment that supports research. 

REF 2014

The previous REF was carried out in 2014.

Key outcomes for Queen’s included:

  • Ranking eighth in the UK for research intensity
  • Over 75% of research activity at Queen’s was judged to be internationally-excellent or world-leading.
  • 14 of the individual areas of research assessed were ranked in the top 20 in the UK, with six of these in the top ten and two in the top five.
  • Over 88% of impact activity at Queen’s was judged to be internationally-excellent or world-leading, highlighting the important work that Queen’s researchers are doing to ensure their research reaches beyond academia into the wider world.

Queen’s University Submission to REF 2021

The University finalised its submission to REF 2021 in March 2021. This encompassed 22 of the 34 UoAs. Across the submission, 2,267 research outputs were submitted from 1,084 submitted staff, along with 84 impact case studies.

Queen’s submitted returns to the following UoAs in the REF 2021 exercise:

  • 02 - Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care
  • 03 – Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy
  • 04 – Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience
  • 06 – Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Sciences
  • 08 – Chemistry
  • 09 – Physics
  • 10 – Mathematical Sciences
  • 12 – Engineering
  • 13 – Architecture, Built Environment and Planning
  • 14 – Geography and Environmental Studies
  • 15 – Archaeology
  • 17 – Business and Management Studies
  • 18 – Law
  • 19 – Politics and International Studies
  • 20 - Social Work & Social Policy
  • 22 – Anthropology and Development Studies
  • 23 – Education
  • 26 - Modern Languages and Linguistics
  • 27 – English Language and Literature
  • 28 – History
  • 30 – Philosophy
  • 33 – Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies
Research project
The results of REF 2021 will be published on 12th May 2022.

Publication will include the overall quality profile awarded to each submission, by unit of assessment (UOA).

The overall quality profiles will show the proportions of research activity judged to meet each of four starred quality levels (1*-4*), in steps of one per cent.

Alongside the overall quality profile, the output, impact and environment sub-profiles that were combined to produce the overall quality profile for each submission will also be published.

Find out more about REF 2021