Research Excellence Framework
REF at UCL
The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in higher education institutions in the UK.
REF2021 will be the 8th assessment exercise of its kind since a national research assessment process was initiated in the mid-1980s. The first two assessments, in 1986 and 1989, were known as the ‘Research Selectivity Exercise’. The process was renamed as RAE for the third assessment in 1992 and that name was retained (although the RAE methodology continued to evolve) for the next three exercises – RAE 1996, RAE 2001 and RAE 2008. The REF was the replacement exercise for the RAE and the results of the first REF were published in 2014.
The primary purpose of the REF is to produce quality ratings for research across all disciplines, ratings that are calculated by peer-assessment panels according to how much of the submitted work is judged to reach international levels of excellence. These outcomes are used by the UK Higher Education Funding Councils to inform allocation of grant funding for research (QR funding), to provide accountability for public investment in research, to provide benchmarking information and to establish reputational yardsticks, which can be used within HE sector and for public information.
UCL’s performance in RAE was consistently excellent and confirmed its standing as among the top multi-faculty universities in the UK. For REF2014 UCL was the top-rated university in the UK for research strength by a measure of average research score multiplied by staff numbers submitted. UCL researchers received a ‘grade point average’ of 3.22 (out of 4) and submitted over 2,500 staff to be assessed in REF2014, giving UCL an overall research power greater than both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. In REF2021, outcomes will be crucially important to UCL in providing funding to maintain its internationally excellent research activity.
Strategic planning and governance for the REF is led by UCL’s Vice-Provost (Research), Professor David Price, and a REF Strategy Group, populated by Deans and other key stakeholders. Staff from the Office of the Vice Provost (Research) are responsible for supporting the Vice-Provost (Research) in REF operations notably co-ordinating the planning and preparation of UCL's REF submissions and the management of REF data collection processes.
REF administration is overseen by Andrew Cooper, Director of Research Evaluation and by the REF Team based in the OVPR and is managed by Adam Cresswell, Research Assessment Support Manager. Nicholas Tyndale, Director of Research Strategy & Impact, oversees impact support, also based in in the OVPR, and Jo Lovell, Head of Research Impact Curation & Support, manages the Impact Curation Team. Open Access is coordinated by the Library and is managed by Catherine Sharp, Open Access Manager.
Submissions are led and supported at Department and Faculty level within Units of Assessment by an appointed UoA Lead.
UCL was rated the top university in the UK for research strength in REF2014 that was published on 18 December 2014, by a measure of average research score multiplied by staff numbers submitted.
UCL researchers received a ‘grade point average’ of 3.22 (out of 4) and submitted over 2,500 staff to be assessed in REF2014, giving UCL an overall research power greater than both Oxford and Cambridge.
Other highlights of REF2014 for UCL include:
- UCL enjoys the greatest amount of 4* (“world leading”) research in Panel A, covering medicine and biological sciences, much of which is conducted in collaboration with our partner hospitals
- UCL has the largest amount of academic research activity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics);
- UCL has the strongest research power and share of 4* research in Panel C, covering social sciences, and overtaking both Oxford University and the LSE for the first time;
- UCL Economics, UCL Psychology & Language Sciences, UCL Neuroscience, the UCL Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, the UCL Institute of Education, UCL Chemistry and UCL Computer Science are among the university’s top research performers;
- UCL received a ‘grade point average’ of 3.54 (out of 4) regarding the real-world impact of its research, placing it among the top comprehensive universities rated
Impact Case Studies
The case studies submitted to REF2014 are available on the UCL impact website