What is the REF?

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK-wide assessment of the strength and quality of research environment, outputs and impacts conducted and overseen by the four higher education funding bodies for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is run as a comprehensive expert review every 6-7 years and underpins the allocation of an annual QR (Quality-related) public funding grant to universities.

Essentially the REF is an inventory of our:

  • good research practice
  • healthy research culture
  • attention to and application of the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion in all our practices
  • how well our researchers flourish and achieve in a strong, supportive environment

When is the next REF?

On 7 December 2023, it was announced that the dates for the next REF submission have been pushed back. Institutions will now submit in late 2028 with results expected in December 2029.

 

What do we know so far about the next REF?

Initial decisions on the next REF were released by the funding bodies on 15 June 2023. An update was published on 07 December 2023, in summary:

  • The next REF will be REF2029, with results published in December 2029

  • HESA data will be used to determine volume measure, with no fundamental change to the plans detailed in the Initial Decisions document.​

  • The link will be broken between individual staff and submission, including the removal of the min/max output requirements. Further work is needed to ensure unintended consequences are minimised. ​

  • Any output may be submitted where there is a demonstrable and substantive link to the submitting institution. Further work is needed to develop guidance on how to demonstrate that link.​

  • Outputs sole-authored by PGR students, including PhD theses, will not be eligible for submission, nor will those produced by authors on contracts with ‘no research-related expectations’.​

  • The minimum impact case study requirement is reduced to one and the removal of the 2* threshold for quality is confirmed. Further decisions to be made on the thresholds for case study numbers and the weighting of the disciplinary impact statement. ​

  • The overall Unit of Assessment structure will remain the same as REF2021.​

  • There will be no fundamental changes to the Covid-19 mitigations.​

 

What are we doing to prepare for the next REF?

Preparing for submission to the REF can be challenging and the University of Glasgow is always seeking to improve its processes and support for this exercise. This is important not only in terms of our reputation, income and accountability for public funding, but also in providing a peer reviewed ‘health check’ of our research environment, practice and outcomes.

Strategic preparations for REF2029 are overseen by the REF Project Board, led by the Vice Principal for Research and Knowledge Exchange, in consultation with Senior Management Group (SMG).

The Research Enhancement Team in the Research Services Directorate (RSD) are coordinating the delivery of the REF2029 submission on behalf of the University. They are collaborating with the broader REF team which includes the Colleges and University Services (RSD, Library Services, HR, Finance, IT Services, Planning Insights and Analytics), with the aim to facilitate preparation through improved processes and resources.

While the guidance and criteria for the next REF is not yet known, we know that early reflection and planning leads to success. Integral to this is the continued support and growth of the University’s underpinning research, research impact, and research culture; as such, we aim to recognise and build on our successes while learning from our experiences.

More information on the REF and the University’s preparations for REF2029 can be found on our REF2029 Sharepoint Site (UofG access only).