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What is REF?

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. It takes place every seven years and the most recent exercise was conducted in 2021.

REF 2021 was undertaken by the UK higher education funding bodies: Research England, the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland.

What is the purpose of REF?

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. The purpose of the REF is:

  • 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 Higher Education sector and for public information
  • to inform the selective allocation of funding for research.

REF will assess the quality of outputs (e.g. publications), their impact beyond academia, and the environment that supports research.

REF has published all key documents to guide the REF submission available at

The REF replaces the previous Research Assessment Exercise.

REF 2021

St George's research excellence score for REF 2021:

  • joint 8th in the country for research impact out of 129 institutions, according to scores calculated by Times Higher Education 
  • 36% of St George’s research assessed as “world-leading” (4*) – an increase compared to the REF 2014 score of 30%.
  • 100% of St George’s impact cases were judged as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*).

Find out more about REF 2021.

Impact case studies for REF 2021

REF 2014

St George’s was assessed in the areas of Clinical Medicine and Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care. St George’s research excellence score for REF 2014:

  • St George’s ranked 4th in the UK for impact for REF 2014
  • St George’s ranked joint 42nd in the UK, which was a rise of 24 places from the Research Assessment Exercise 2008
  • at St George’s the percentage of research rated as internationally excellent or world leading rose to 70 per cent (from 44 per cent in RAE 2008)
  • almost 30 per cent of our research was ranked at the top (internationally leading at 4*), compared to 5.4 per cent in RAE 2008.

Impact case studies for REF 2014


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