The Research Excellence Framework (“REF”) is the mechanism used to assess the quality of research in UK higher education institutions, and its results are used to inform research funding.


The Research Excellent Framework (REF) is the national exercise for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs). A block of funding (known as 'quality related' or QR funds) is allocated to individual institutions on the basis of their results in the assessment. The first REF took place during 2014, and it replaced the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).

The assessment covers research outputs, the non-academic impact of research, and the research environment in a given unit.

The assessment provides accountability for public investment in research and produces evidence of the benefits of this investment. The assessment outcomes provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks, as well as determining the allocation of QR funds.

The REF is a process of expert review, using primarily academic, but also some non-academic, assessors, divided into discipline-based panels.  

REF 2021

HEFCE have recently made several announcements regarding their plans for the next REF, scheduled for 2021.

Following these announcements, the University is actively preparing for its submission to the 2021 exercise. Preparations are co-ordinated by the Research Quality and Impact Team, based within Research and Enterprise Services - contact

REF 2014 Outcomes 

The outcomes of  REF2014 have now been published.

The University made its submission to REF2014 on 29th November 2013.

REF Code of Practice 

The University's REF2014 Code of Practice governed the University's preparation of the submission and the selection of eligible staff, following its approval by the HEFCE.

Sussex REF 2014 Code of Practice (pdf) 

An Equalities Impact Assessment (pdf) sets out how the University's REF2014 process paid due regard to Equalities legislation and policy.

A new Code of Practice is currently under preparation (as of Spring 2019) for the REF2021 submission.


The Research Quality and Impact Team

(01273) 873 297