About the REF
The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.
It is carried out approximately every 6-7 years to:
- assess the quality of research across UK higher education institutions
- show the quality and output of research on a domestic and global stage
- show the impact research has on the academic environment and our society, and highlight its real-world benefits.
The 4 UK higher education funding bodies use the REF to inform the allocation of around £2 billion of research funding per year. The thoroughness of the exercise is designed to provide accountability for public investment in research, demonstrating its benefits and impact.
REF 2021 assessed the quality of research in participating UK universities, in all disciplines.
Overall quality profile: definitions of starred levels
|Four star||Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.|
|Three star||Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.|
|Two star||Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.|
|One star||Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.|
|Unclassified (UC)||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.|
Visit the REF website for more information.