University of Salford Manchester


The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK  higher education institutions (HEIs) replacing the previous Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).

REF is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies. The purpose of the REF is to

  • Inform the selective allocation of research funding to HEIs      
  • Provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks      
  • Provide accountability for public investment in research and demonstrate its benefits.

REF 2021

The next REF exercise will be in 2021 with submission expected in late 2020.

The guidelines for REF2021 are anticipated for release in summer 2017. In the meantime, news and information can be found on the HEFCE blog, which frequently publishes articles relating to the REF.

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REF 2021 Proposed Timetable

Below you can see the proposed indicative timetable for REF 2021. It is expected that the timetable will be confirmed in late summer 2017. You can click on individual lines for HEFCE news pertaining to those items.

1st August 2013Start period for income and impacts
1st January 2014Start of period for outputs
Noon on Friday 17th March 2017Consultation deadline
Mid-2017Publish initial decisions on the next REF
Mid-2017Appoint panel chairs
2018Publish guidance on submissions and panel criteria
2019Invite HEIs to make submissions
31st July 2020End of assessment period (for research impacts, the research environment and related data)
November 2020Closing date for submissions
31st December 2020End of publication period for publication of research outputs and outputs underpinning impact case studies
2021Assessment year
December 2021Publication of outcomes
Spring 2022Publication of submissions and reports

HEFCE Consultation on the second Research Excellence Framework

In December 2016 the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) published a document that set out the proposals of the four UK higher education funding bodies for the REF. The proposals sought to build on the first REF in 2014 and to incorporate Lord Stern’s Review of the REF. Responses  were invited from higher education institutions and groups/organisations with an interest in the conduct, quality, funding or use of research and the deadline was 17th March 2017. Here you can view and download the University of Salford’s submitted response.