An overview of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and REF2021.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a nationwide system which assesses the quality of research conducted at UK higher education institutions (HEI).

Previously evaluated under the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), the first REF took place in 2014. The exercise is undertaken by the UK's higher education funding bodies: Research England, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE).


The aim of the research councils and the purpose of the REF is three-fold, as summarised below (from

  • 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. 


The REF is structured around 34 subject-based units of assessment (UOAs) which in turn belong to one of four main panels (A-D). Informatics and EPCC will submit to UOA 11 (Computer Science and Informatics) which sits under main panel B.  Submissions are evaluated by expert panels in each of the UOAs under guidance of the main panels. The expert panels consist of senior academics, international members and research users, which are defined as people outside of academia, e.g. from private, public or third sectors. 

More information on what REF entails from the REF2021 website

Information on panel membership from the REF2021 website

Each submission is evaluated on the quality of research outputs, the impact of research and the environment that supports research, with each component weighted as below. Summaries and further details on each submission element can be found on the respective webpages from the left-hand side panel, also linked below. In July 2018, the REF team published the Draft guidance of submissions (2018/01) and the Consultation on the panel criteria and working methods (2018/02). Following consultation on these documents, the final Guidance on submissions (REF 2019/01) (GoS) and Panel criteria and working methods (REF 2019_02) (PCWM) were published as Key documents by the REF team in January 2019. These guidance pages have been updated with reference to the final documents.

Draft guidance on submissions (2018/01) from the REF2021 website

Consultation on the panel criteria and working methods (2018/02) from the REF2021 website

Key documents from the REF2021 website

Guidance on submissions (REF 2019/01) from the REF2021 website

Panel criteria and working methods (REF 2019/02) from the REF2021 website

  Weighting Reference
Outputs 60% GoS 26.a
Impact 25% GoS 26.b
Environment 15% GoS 26.c