Research Excellence Framework 2021

Information about the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 and the methods of assessment


The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the current system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The deadline for submissions to REF2021 will be in November 2020 and results will be published in December 2021. The results of REF2021 will provide information about the quality of universities’ research and are expected to inform QR (quality-related) research funding from 2022 onwards.

REF2021, the next REF exercise, is considered by the UK's four funding bodies for Higher Education to have a threefold purpose:

  • 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 within the HE sector and for public information
  • To inform the selective allocation of funding for research

REF2014 analysis

You can access “deep dive” analyses for all Units of Assessment to which Leicester submitted in REF2014, plus analysis of performance on outputs 2014-17. These documents are for internal use only; please do not share them outside the University.

All analysis has been based on the structure of the REF2014 submission and the UoAs where we made submissions, so does not reflect our current College, School and departmental structures.


Early in 2017 the four Higher Education Funding Bodies set out proposals for the second REF (the first was REF2014) and invited views from Higher Education Institutes and other organisations with an interest in the conduct, quality, funding or use of research. The proposals were set out in a consultation document seeking to build on the structure of REF2014 and to incorporate the principles identified in Lord Stern's Independent Review of the REF.

Read Lord Stern's review of the REF 'Building on success and learning from experience'

Download the joint funding bodies' consultation document

You can read Leicester’s response to the Consultation


In accordance with HEFCE’s current timetable, initial decisions on REF2021 were published in September 2017. Further guidance is expected before the end of the year.

Note that the outcome of Higher Education and Research Bill 2017 will see HEFCE replaced by Research England as a Council of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) in 2018. Research England will undertake England- only research and knowledge exchange functions including Research Excellence Framework exercises under the leadership of David Sweeney.

Proposed indicative timetable for REF 2021

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

Leicester REF updates

If you would like to be kept up to date with items of interest regarding REF2021, you can sign up for REF Alerts.

All back copies of the REFocus newsletters are also available.

Latest News

The official REF2021 website is now up and running.

A call for nominations for REF2021 panelists is now open (closing date 20 December) – find out about the process for recruitment of REF panel members.

REF Main Panel Chairs announced

HEFCE publishes initial decisions on the Research Excellence Framework 2021 more information is expected later in the autumn.

Further information

At Leicester REF preparations are being led by Professor Iain Gillespie, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise and Chair of the REF Steering Group, and coordinated by the Research Strategy and Policy team in the Research and Enterprise Division. Contact details can be found to the right.

More can be found on the management of our REF 2021 submission here.

Further detail on our preparations will be shared in our quarterly REF newsletters.

October 2017: In depth analysis on the University’s performance by UoA in REF2014, and the outcomes of a recent review of research outputs produced in the period 2014-2017, can be found here (log in required).

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Contacts for REF

Juliet Bailey

Head of Strategy and Policy

Jean-Marie Sherry

Research Impact Officer

Steve Loddington

Research Strategy and Policy Manager

Angharad Roberts

Research Strategy and Policy Manager (Research Analysis)

Louise Thompson

Research Strategy and Policy Assistant