The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. Taking place roughly every six or seven years, the results are used to provide information about the quality of a university's research for external benchmarking and the allocation of research funding.

The REF is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies: Research England, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE).

The funding bodies’ shared policy aim for research assessment is to secure the continuation of a world-class, dynamic and responsive research base across the full academic spectrum within UK higher education.

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.

A series of QMU REF 2021 Staff Briefing events will take place over the academic year to update staff on  REF 2021 at QMU, the implementation of the REF 2021 Code of Practice and to offer an opportunity for Q and As.

REF 2021 Code of Practice

For the REF 2021 submission, all institutions are required to submit a Code of Practice to the Scottish Funding Council for approval.

The code covers important aspects of submission preparation, such as such as identifying staff with Significant Responsibility for Research and Research Independence, proposed processes for selecting and attribution of outputs, and taking account of individual staff circumstances in a fair and transparent manner.

Before submitting our Code of Practice we are seeking comments and feedback from staff on the current draft available on the REF 2021 staff intranet. Alternatively, hard copies are available from:- Research and Knowledge Exchange Development Unit (RKEDU), University Drive, Edinburgh, EH21 6UU

Responses, comments or questions about the Code of Practice can be sent to REF 2021 Project.

Please see our REF 2021 Code of Practice.



REF 2021 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

REF 2021 Units of Assessment (UoAs)

The REF is a process of expert review. Institutions are invited to make submissions in 34 units of assessment (UOAs). The submissions are assessed by an expert sub-panel for each UOA, working under the guidance of four main panels.

The members of the REF panels are appointed by the four UK funding bodies. See detailed information on the roles and recruitment of panels.

 Main panels

The main panels oversee the assessment, ensuring the assessment criteria and standards are consistently applied. They are responsible for signing-off the results recommended by the sub-panels. The main panels include international members to provide assurance about the international benchmarking of standards.

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).

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