REF 2021 Ready

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions, and is run by the four funding bodies in the UK (led by HEFCE for England). It replaces the Research Assessment Exercise, and first took place in 2014. The next exercise will be conducted in 2021.

The funding bodies’ statement on the purpose of REF is that their 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. We expect that this will be achieved through the threefold purpose of the REF:

  • to inform the selective allocation of funding for research
  • 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 in the higher education sector and for public information.

More information including the REF 2021 timeline can found here.

 The Social Sciences review period will be: 

  • Income and impacts 1st August 2013 – 31st July 2020
  • Outputs 1st January 2014 – 31st December 2020


Output 60%

  • Staff are required to submit between 1 and 5 outputs, with a UoA FTE average of 2.5
  • The University can also submit research outputs by staff who have left or have retired etc. if we can show that their research was demonstrably generated at Oxford
  • Likewise, we can submit research by staff who joined recently and have a contract with the University on the census date, even if their research was published before joining.

Impact 25%

Environment 15%


Act on Acceptance

In order for your research outputs to qualify for the REF 2021 return, you must follow HEFCE policy and deposit all research outputs in the Open Access archive, within 3 months of acceptance.

If you have not deposited your publications within the 3 month period, please deposit your publications as soon as possible and let the Research Support Team know.