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Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions and is conducted jointly by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland (DEL).


Over 75% of research activity at Queen’s was judged to be internationally-excellent or world-leading.

In food security, education, pharmacy, health, modern languages, astrophysics, engineering, cyber security, English and history, Queen’s research impacts right across society.


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.

Our performance has underlined the breadth and depth of research excellence at Queen’s, with 95% of academic staff returned - the fifth largest percentage of staff returned across universities.

Food safety researcher removing cooled samples from a fridge in the global food security lab

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.

2014 intensity weighted GPA rank order


Number of UoAs entered

Percentage of eligible staff submitted

Intensity-weighted GPA

1 Institute of Cancer Research 2 95 3.25 
2 University of Cambridge 32 95 3.17 
3 Imperial College London 14 92 3.09 
4 University College London 36 91 2.94 
=5 University of Bristol 31 91 2.90 
=5 University of Oxford 31 87 2.90 
7 London School of Economics and Political Science 14 85 2.84 
=8 Queen’s University Belfast 28 95 2.83 
=8 University of Southampton 26 90 2.83 
10 University of the Highlands and Islands 6 100 2.76 
female student in lab coat examining a beaker filled with a pink liquid
REF 2021

The next REF exercise will take place in 2021. Further information on the process can be accessed via HEFCE’s REF webpage ( Internal information on Queen’s REF preparations can be accessed by Queen’s academics at the ‘Support for Researchers’ section of this website.

Explore Our Research