The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system used for assessing the quality of research in UK Universities and Higher Education Colleges.

Further details on the REF can be found on the HEFCE REF 2021 website.

What is the REF's Purpose?

• To inform the selective allocation of funding for research
• To provide accountability for public investment in research and produce evidence of the benefits of this investment
• To provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks, for use in the higher education sector and for public information

Units of Assessment (UoA's)

The REF assessment will be carried out by expert sub-panels for each of the 34 units of assessment. These sub-panels will be working under the leadership and guidance of four main panels (A-D). Further details of the expert panel membership are available at HEFCE about REF.

How is it Assessed?

The sub-panels will assess the submitted work, with the overall quality profiles comprising three sub-profile areas:

  • Research outputs - 60% of the overall quality profile
  • Impact - 25%
  • Environment - 15%

The overall quality profile as well as each sub-profile will be based on a 5-point scale (1*-4* and Unclassified).

REF2021 Timetable

  • 1 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2020: Publication period
  • 1 Aug 2013 to 31 July 2020: Assessment period for impact(s)
  • 31 July 2020: Census date for staff in post
  • 27 November 2020: Closing Date for Submissions
  • 2021: Assessment by panels


Preparing for REF 2021 at QMU

QMU has appointed a REF Strategy Group, chaired by the Deputy Principal, to oversee its submission to REF 2021.

If you have any queries regarding the REF 2021 processes at the QMU, please contact Kim Stuart,

For questions on Open Access and REF 2021, please refer to our Learning Resource Centre.

You can also find further information from HEFCE at REF 2021 FAQs



Research and Knowledge Exchange Development Unit

Show Contacts

Research and Knowledge Exchange Development Unit

Kim Stuart Head of Research and Knowledge Exchange Development Unit
0131 474 0000
Vivian Rutherford Research and Knowledge Exchange Officer
0131 474 0000