Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021

The Research Excellence Framework is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The REF is a process of expert review, carried out by expert panels for each of the 34 subject-based units of assessment (UOAs), under the guidance of four main panels.

Draft Code of Practice now available 

As part of the REF process we are publishing our draft Code of Practice, prior to submission in June2019. Please take time to read this and let us have your comments, particulalrly around equality, diversity and inclusivity. You can contact us using Qualtrics

You can view the draft using the link below.   

Research Office Intranet


Research Excellence Framework

The REF is undertaken on behalf of the Government by the funding councils for higher education. The results are used to allocate around £2 billion each year to university research.

For each submission, three distinct elements are assessed: the quality of outputs (e.g. publications, performances, and exhibitions), their impact beyond academia, and the environment that supports research. 

REF presents the results by subject area and quality is graded as follows:

4* World-leading
3* Internationally excellent
2* Recognised internationally
1* Recognised nationally
U Unclassified



Preparing for REF 2021

The University's Research Committee is leading on preparation and delivery of the REF 2021 submission. Ongoing initiatives including a REF2021 Sub-Committee, impact lead forums and a commitment to development of Early Career Researchers aim to ensure a fair, transparent and open approach to preparations. 

On 31st January 2019 - the final guidance from Research England relating to REF 2021 was published. To review:


 Guidance on submissions (2019/01)

 Panel criteria and working methods (2019/02)

 Guidance on codes of practice (2019/03)


Key dates: 

1 January 2014 

Start of the REF 2021 assessment period for outputs 

3 July 2018

Draft guidance and template for the preparation of institutional Codes of Practice (covering the institution's approach to the selection of outputs, and the identification of staff with significant responsibility for research) published.

Draft Assessment Framework and Guidance on Submissions, and draft Panel Criteria and Working Methods, for consultation.

January 2019

Final Assessment Framework and Guidance on Submissions and Panel Criteria and Working Methods published by the REF team.

7 June 2019

Deadline for submission of the Code of Practice governing output selection and staff identification for the REF, for approval by the HEFCE with the advice of the REF Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel.

31 December 2019

Publication of approved institutional Codes of Practice.

31 July 2020

End of the REF assessment period for research impacts, the research environment, and data about research income, research income-in-kind and research degree completions students.

Staff census date.

27 November 2020

Closing date for submissions

31 December 2020 

End of REF 2021 assessment period for outputs 

December 2021

REF outcomes published 


Impact case study support

The Research Excellence Framework was the first exercise to assess the impact of research outside of academia. Impact was defined as ‘an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia’.

When preparing your impact case study, it can be useful to review case studies from your area, from different institutions. Research England have a database of REF impact case studies which you can search.

Research England have confirmed that the initial threshold for impact case studies will be increased to 20 FTE (from 15 FTE). Submissions will therefore include a total of one case study, plus one further case study per up to 20 FTE staff returned for the first 20 FTE, after which one further case study will be required per up to 15 FTE. The requirement will decrease after 110 FTE, to one further case study per up to 50 FTE returned. Submissions will therefore include a minimum of two case studies. The updated requirements are illustrated below:

FTE of Category A submitted staff Number of case studies
Up to 19.99 2
20 to 34.99 3
35 to 49.99 4
50 to 65.99 5
65 to 79.99 6
80 to 94.99 7
95 to 109.99 8
110 to 159.99 9
160 or more  10,  plus one further case study per additional 50 FTE

Further support

Impact Leads forum - 24th January 2019

These forums are designed for the YSJ impact leads to meet and discuss their preparations, seek clarifications and support. In time this forum will feed into the wider REF submission at a university level. 

REF2021 Impact Training - with Prof Mark Reed - 16th May 2018

Prof Reed from Fast Track Impact will be running a day's workshop on identifying impact, preparing evidence and articulating your case. If you are unable to attend, the Fast Track Impact website contains invaluable resources for approaching impact for REF and beyond. 


Results in the REF 2014

York St John results from 2014

The institutional results are available on the REF 2014 website - institutional REF results.

World-leading research by York St John University - 18/12/14 

Thirty per cent of York St John University’s research is ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ according to data published today.

York St John University has made a major leap forwards in its research performance since the last time it was evaluated in 2008 with significantly higher ratings across all subject areas that were assessed.

The results of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), released today by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), rate research across all UK universities.

Six years ago York St John University submitted work in seven subject areas to the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), the predecessor to the REF. This time nine subject areas were represented and the number of staff submitted has increased by 50 per cent.

Thirty per cent of research was rated three star (internationally excellent) or four star (world-leading), compared to eight per cent in 2008.

Twenty-four per cent of the material submitted was rated as three star, meaning it is regarded as ‘internationally excellent’ and six per cent scored four stars, the highest tier, which reflects ‘world-leading’ research.

Seventy-three per cent was awarded at least a two star rating which means almost three quarters of York St John’s output is regarded as ‘internationally recognised’.

Professor David Fleming, Vice Chancellor, said: “These results are excellent news for the University and provide the foundation for further success. As a young university we are proud of the progress that has been made.

“We now have a research profile that places York St John ahead of many of its competitors and gives the University a platform upon which to achieve even greater success in the future.”


REF 2014 Impact Case Studies

York St John 2014 impact case studies

The submitted impact case studies are available on the REF 2014 website - YSJ 2014 impact case studies



What REF Means For Me (Simple Guide for Academics & Researchers)

There is a one page summary for REF2021 and what this means to academics & researchers. 

What REF Means For Me (PDF, 149kB) 

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