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Research Excellence Framework

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The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. Overall quality is assessed for outputs (65%), impact (25%) and the research environment (15%). The REF was set up with the aim of securing the continuation of a world-class, dynamic and responsive research base across the full academic spectrum within UK higher education.

The assessment outcomes provide (i) accountability for public spending on research, and help to evidence the benefits of such investment; (ii) benchmarking information and reputational yardsticks for use within the higher education sector; and (iii) information for the selective allocation of funding and for public information.

The results of REF inform the distribution of the quality-related (QR) funding from the Higher Education Funding Councils.

DMU returned work from 484 FTE academics over 13 Units of Assessment (UOAs) in 2021, more than double the FTE returned in REF2014, and representing a more diverse base, in terms of gender and ethnicity.  Academics were returned to the REF2021 if they met the criteria for significant responsibility for research, which for DMU was established on the basis of whether a researcher had a Research and Innovation Allowance (RIA). Read the DMU REF Code of Practice.

The REF assesses research excellence through a process of discipline-based expert review, informed by appropriate quantitative indicators. More than 60 per cent of research at DMU has been judged as world leading or internationally excellent. In total, 157 universities took part in the REF2021 exercise, with four discipline-based panels overseeing 34 expert sub-panels reviewing submissions.

Below is a table setting out the outcomes for each of our submissions reflecting overall scores (for outputs, impact and environment together):

UOA No.

Unit Of Assessment

Cat A FTE1

4* 

3* 

2* 

1* 

U/C

4*/3* 

GPA

QI

3

Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy

60.10

8

51

38

3

0

59

2.64

46

4

Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

42.40

11

38

34

17

0

49

2.43

42

11

Computer Science and Informatics

53.30

14

44

32

5

5

58

2.57

47

12

Engineering

27.00

4

71

18

7

0

75

2.72

49

13

Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

31.20

26

58

10

5

1

84

3.03

61

17

Business and Management Studies

109.50

10

36

45

7

2

46

2.45

42

18

Law

23.40

6

30

44

10

10

36

2.12

35

20

Social Work and Social Policy

33.59

27

65

7

1

0

92

3.18

65

27

English Language and Literature

17.50

44

42

13

1

0

86

3.29

71

28

History

15.30

26

46

28

0

0

72

2.98

59

32

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

21.40

17

60

20

2

1

77

2.90

56

33

Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies

34.85

36

36

25

3

0

72

3.05

63

34

Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library

16.00

12

48

34

6

0

60

2.66

48

1 Category A FTE refers to full-time equivalent staff (rather than headcount), who were working at DMU at the REF census date.

2Unclassified – not meeting criteria or disqualified and therefore not assessed.

3Grade Point Average calculated as a simple measure of the overall or average quality of research, which takes no account of the FTE submitted. It is calculated by multiplying the percentage of research in each grade by its rating, adding them all together and dividing by 100. 

4 Quality Index calculated as ([% at 4* x 16) + (% at 3* x 9) + (% at 2* x 4) + (% at 1* x 1) ] / 16

A number of submissions have shown improvements compared to REF2014. UOA 20 has moved its GPA up by 25%. There are also over 5% increases for UOAs 27, 12, 28 and 33.

Frequently asked questions

  1. Is it possible to see which outputs were listed against each individual that was submitted to the REF?

    No, details of the staff and outputs submitted to the REF are provided as separate lists. The information is published in this way in order to maintain the confidentiality of staff submitted with individual staff circumstances. This decision was taken prior to submissions being made, in response to concerns that some staff might be unwilling to disclose their individual circumstances if the published submissions would clearly identify their outputs.
  2. If there are no results listed for an HEI in a particular unit of assessment, what were the results?

    HEIs could decide which units of assessment (UOAs) they wished to make submissions in. If there are no results for an HEI in a particular UOA, it did not make a submission to that UOA.
  3. Will the assessment results for individual outputs or impact case studies be published?

    No, the REF results are published only at whole submission level.
  4. Can you provide the scores for my outputs that were submitted to the REF?

    Individual outputs were assessed in order to produce the output sub-profiles for each submission. Once the sub-profiles were complete, the scores for individual outputs were no longer required and have been destroyed. In accordance with data protection principles, Research England no longer hold the scores for individual outputs as they constitute personal data, which should not be held for longer than required to fulfil their purpose. Universities are never given access to individual scores.
  5. Can you tell me how my impact case study did?

    As for individual outputs, assessments are done at the unit level, and scores pertain to elements of the total submission that were 4* to 1* or unclassified. No individual scores are made available to institutions on particular impact case studies.
  6. Could you provide definitions of some of the key terms in the REF?

    Output: The judgement of the quality of research by the REF panel, accounting for 65% of the overall profile. Researchers had to provide the equivalent of four outputs, or individual pieces of research, except where there were either mitigating circumstances or the research was so large in scope it could be “double-weighted”.

    Impact: Some 20% of the overall quality profile is determined by “research impact”, defined as the effect that research has had on the economy, policy, culture, the environment or quality of life outside the academic sphere. Of this, 20% comes from an “impact template” showing how the submitting unit enables its research to have maximum impact. The other 80% is comprised of impact case studies.

    Environment: The final 15% comes from an assessment of the research environment, based on the number of research doctoral degrees awarded, research grant income and research grant income in kind. This is supported by a template statement explaining the research activities and strengths of the submitting unit.

    GPA: Grade point average – a simple measure of the overall or average quality of research, which takes no account of the FTE submitted. It is calculated by multiplying the percentage of research in each grade by its rating, adding them all together and dividing by 100.  An institutional FTE-weighted GPA is calculated by multiplying the GPA for each UOA to which the institution made a submission by the FTE submitted to that UOA, adding them all together and dividing by the total number of FTEs submitted by the institution.

    UOA: Units of assessment – or subject.

    Research power: This method is used by institutions and league tables and gives a measure of volume of research multiplied by quality. It can be calculated in a number of ways but its simplest form is grade point average x full time equivalent number of staff and this is the calculation used in the power ranking.

    Category A staff: Academic staff whose contracts list research and/or teaching as their primary function and who are employed by the institution on the census date.

    Census date: The date on which research staff affiliation is recorded; in this case 31 October 2013.

    FTE: Full-time equivalent – in which part time staff are ‘added together’ to obtain an equivalent number of fulltime jobs.