REF2028: what we know so far

June 28th, 2023

Decisions on the high-level design of the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) have been published by the UK’s higher education funding bodies. 

The next REF will conclude in 2028 and will assess research and impact between 2021 and 2027. 

Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Executive Chair at Research England (who led the university’s REF2021 submission), said: 

“This is a once-in-a-generation moment for change as we shift national research assessment away from a focus on individuals to how institutions and disciplines contribute to healthy, dynamic and inclusive research environments, and as we shift from a focus on published research outputs towards a broader view of what constitutes research excellence and how it can be demonstrated.” 

UKRI is inviting higher education providers and other stakeholders to share their views on a number of specific policy areas through a short consultation, ending in October 2023. 

Some of the proposed changes include: 

  • Research outputs will contribute to 50% of a Unit of Assessment, down from 60% in REF 2021. This element has been renamed to ‘contribution to knowledge and understanding’ and, while assessment will continue to largely be based on assessment of submitted outputs, at least 10% of the score will be based on evidence of broader contributions to the advancement of the discipline. 
  • ‘People and Culture’ will replace the environment element of REF 2021 and will be assessed at both a disciplinary and institutional level. This element will make up 25% of the overall score, up from 15% in REF 2021, and will be expanded to include an assessment of research culture.
  • An ‘engagement and impact’ element, weighted at 25%, will replace the impact element of REF 2021. Submissions will consist of both impact case studies and an accompanying statement to evidence engagement and activity beyond case studies. 
  • The work of all researchers and research-enabling staff will be eligible for submission to REF 2028. Research volume will be determined from average staff volumes over multiple years and there will not be any minimum or maximum contributions of any individuals. 

Pip Peakman, Director of Research and Innovation at the University of Nottingham, commenting on the initial decisions of the Future Research Assessment Programme, said: 

“We are reviewing the outline for REF2028 and welcome the opportunity to consult on its broader and more holistic approach to research assessment, including the proposed ‘People and Culture’ elements, which align with our own commitment to sustaining a dynamic, inclusive research culture where our people can achieve their potential.” 

The university’s REF Strategy Committee is beginning strategic discussions and preparations for 2028 and further updates will follow. 

The Research Excellence Framework drives research excellence across the UK, provides accountability for public investment in research, and informs the allocation of around £2bn of block-grant research funding each year. In REF2021, the University of Nottingham was placed seventh in the UK for research power according to analysis by Times Higher Education. 


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