REF 2021

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. As a successor to the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), it first took place in 2014, with submission to the most recent REF exercise being completed by HEIs in 2021.

REF 2021

Results Highlights

Our REF 2021 results demonstrate the excellence of the research carried out at Salford, with 78% of our research rated as world-leading or internationally excellent.

Furthermore, five of our impact submissions were regarded as 100% outstanding or having very considerable impact, in particular:

  • Social Work and Social Policy (75% 4*; 25% 3*)
  • Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences (50% 4*; 50% 3*)
  • Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies (50% 4*; 50% 3*)
  • Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management (50% 4*; 50% 3*)
  • Engineering (33% 4*; 67% 3*)

The quality of our research outputs has also been recognised in REF2021. Highlights include:

  • Area Studies (44% 4*; 50% 3*);
  • Communication, Culture and Media Studies, Library and Information Management (42% 4*; 35% 3*);
  • Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences (23% 4*; 63* 3*).

The University endeavours to provide an inspiring, collaborative and innovative environment for research. The quality of our research environment has been rated highly in REF2021, with five submissions in particular receiving notable scores:

  • Architecture, Built Environment and Planning (62.5% 4*; 37.5% 3*);
  • Allied Health, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy (37.5% 4*; 62.5% 3*);
  • Area Studies (12.5% 4*; 87.5% 3*);
  • Social Work and Social Policy (12.5% 4*; 75% 3*);
  • Communication, Culture and Media Studies, Library and Information Management (12.5% 4*; 60% 3*).
Inclusive practices

Committed to equality

We are deeply committed to embedding equality and diversity in everything we do. Our approach to REF is therefore aligned fully with our institutional strategy and policy for inclusion and diversity, the purpose of which is: ‘to create an inspirational, inclusive learning and working environment, celebrating the diversity of our University community in our everyday conversations’.

The development of our Code of Practice has been a joint effort by our REF Team, Inclusion & Diversity Team, HR and our academic community and we are committed to addressing inequalities in our research environment particularly within research leadership roles.

Responsible Research Assessment

Integrity and transparency

We value an approach to research assessment founded on integrity and transparency and have designed our REF processes accordingly. Getting it right means we recognise, celebrate and foster research excellence; and we evaluate our researchers in fair, accurate and transparent ways, including through the responsible use of research metrics in decision-making.

As part of our institutional commitment to the responsible use of research metrics, in 2019 the University of Salford became a signatory to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). However, signing DORA is just the first step. Our academic-led Responsible Research Assessment task group has produced a set of complementary institutional principles and guidance, and the University is putting in place a roadmap to drive the changes needed to make sure we live by these principles.

Contact us

REF Contacts

Our REF preparations are led by the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Professor Karl Dayson. The preparation of our submission is managed primarily through the REF Steering Group with formal governance of the process overseen by the Research and Enterprise Committee (a committee of Senate).

The REF Team at Salford includes a central team in the Division of Research and Knowledge Exchange, supported by leads/co-leads and deputy leads for each Unit of Assessment submission.

For any initial queries, please contact the REF Team ( or email one of our named contacts: