Innovation & Enterprise


Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF)

The Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) is an annual assessment of how English universities carry out knowledge exchange.

KEF is a key element of Research England’s benchmarking of universities, alongside the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and Research Excellence Framework (REF).

Its aim is to allow institutions to understand and improve their performance in knowledge exchange.

About KEF

KEF seeks to quantify and celebrate the many different ways universities in England interact with the wider world. 

It’s measured by Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), who provide funding and support to English higher education providers to help them play a central role in society and the economy.

Seven perspectives, or areas of activity, are measured:

  • Research partnerships
  • Working with business
  • Working with the public and third sector
  • Continuing professional development (CPD) and graduate startups
  • Local growth and regeneration
  • Intellectual property (IP) and commercialisation
  • Public and community engagement

KEF was first introduced in 2021.

KEF 2023 results

For the third year running UCL has performed strongly in KEF, retaining its position as a leading university for knowledge exchange.

In particular, UCL scored top marks in:

  • Research partnerships
  • Working with the public and third sector
  • Intellectual property (IP) and commercialisation

The 2023 KEF covers knowledge exchange activity recorded between August 2019 and July 2022.

More detail about UCL's KEF results can be found in our KEF news story.

More about KEF and results for all institutions can be found on the Knowledge Exchange Framework website.

How knowledge exchange activity is measured

Unlike REF, there is no KEF submission. KEF is mostly based on data which is already collected by universities for other purposes. The primary data source used is the annual Higher Education Business & Community Interaction survey (HE-BCI).

In addition, universities supply a short narrative to cover areas where there are no suitable metrics, such as for public and community engagement, and local growth and regeneration.

Activity is measured for the university as a whole. There are no faculty-level or subject-specific results.

Most of the metrics used are adjusted for the size of the institution, for example by dividing by income, number of students or other relevant measure.

Universities are also grouped into ‘clusters’ of similar institutions, to make comparisons with peers easier. UCL is in cluster V. This group includes 18 very large, very research-intensive universities.

KEF results are based on data from a 3-year period. As data is collected annually, the KEF results will also be updated annually.

Transforming lives through knowledge exchange

This video explores some examples of how UCL staff and students are transforming lives through knowledge exchange.

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Find out more about how we're transforming lives through knowledge exchange >