The Research Excellence Framework is a UK-wide assessment of the quality of research in universities, undertaken by expert review panels.

Each subject area was assessed under ‘units of assessment’. The REF is undertaken on behalf of Government by the funding councils for higher education. 

REF 2014 - how it works

  • There are 36 ‘Units of assessment’ (UOAs)
  • HEIs decided which UOAs to submit in
  • Each submission contained a standard set of data
  • The submissions made in each UOA were assessed by an expert ‘sub-panel’, against a common set of criteria
  • The 36 sub-panels worked under the guidance of4 main panels, who were responsible for signing off the results
  • The overall assessment of each is submission is split into three areas
    Outputs - "Originality, significance and rigour" 65%
    Impact - "reach and significance" 20%
    Environment - "vitality and sustainability" 15%

Each REF submission includes: details of selected staff, research outputs (up to 4 per member of staff), an impact strategy and impact case studies, data about research income and PGR degrees awarded and a completed template to describe the research environment.

Overall quality profile 

Results for REF are provided in the form of starred levels, which equate to the following performance levels:

  • Four star: Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • Three star: Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
  • Two star: Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • One star: Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • Unclassified: Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or work which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of this assessment.

York's results