REF2020 discussions identify staff needs

New upoads

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the national quality assessment process to measure research in UK universities. The assessment is reviewed every six years, the next is expected to take place in 2020. The REF results determine how much research funding is allocated to UK institutions and is key to ranking research quality in Universities. This makes the REF an important source of income and status for Staffordshire University, so it is vital to prepare well for each submission.
Nachi Chockalingam recently led a seminar to discuss what staff at the University need to enhance their submissions on the next REF. The session included Professor Ian Kitchen from the University of Surrey. University of Surreys 2014 REF ranking of 36 makes them an interesting institution to learn from. Professor Dave Billington from Liverpool John Moores, was also present. Liverpool John Moores also had a highly successful 2014 REF rank of 62, meaning there were interesting lessons to learn from both institutions. Below is a summary of the points discussed.
The percentage of time devoted to research was looked at. Current allocation of time equates to ½ a day per week. It was felt this is insufficient to produce four outputs at 3* rating over 6 years. Ian Kitchen and Dave Billington shared this view. It was felt that it should be at least 1 day per week. There was a preference for staff to have flexibility in using research time, with some individuals wanting blocks of time rather than ring-fenced weekly time.
In terms of support needed to improve research quality, the advent of the Graduate School was viewed very positively. A need was identified for a better strategy to be delivered at institutional level. Suggestions included investment in staff completing PhDs, sabbaticals, networking opportunities, teaching only contracts, reducing the internal hurdles to make external grant applications and mentoring.
The importance of research to personal career aspirations was discussed. Staff identified that they had a passion for their work, research could assist with promotion, inform teaching and provide personal job satisfaction. It was noted that research is what professors do.

Anyone interested in further information should contact Richard Gorton, Research, Policy & Governance Manager

Next REF could be delayed beyond 2020

ref-logoNext REF could be delayed beyond 2020

The UK’s next Research Excellence Framework could be delayed beyond its original 2020 date, a conference on the REF was told.

Article based on Research Professional:

The delay to the second Research Excellence Framework is being attributed in part to uncertainty over who will administer the exercise, given planned changes to the role of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

HEFCE has postponed a consultation for the next REF until after the spending review, due on 25 November. This is in response to a request from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is in the midst of a major reorganisation of the UK’s research and higher education system.

Although HEFCE has a draft consultation document ready, this needs to receive the approval of the four funding councils of the UK. HEFCE is expecting to publish the final document after Christmas, with consultation starting in the New Year. It could be delayed further if BIS reduces HEFCE’s quality-related funding remit or if it asks the council to consider using metrics in the REF, which is being actively discussed in the department. The next REF could potentially still take place in 2020, but only if the consultation does open in early January, and if the department doesn’t add further, or more complex questions to the consultation.

Staffordshire University’s response to the consultation will be led by Prof Nachi Chockalingam in his capacity as Chair of the REF Planning Group.

Research Fortnight has learnt that the consultation will examine:

  • the frequency of REF exercises,
  • the appropriate number of panels and
  • whether impact case studies that continue to deliver impact could be resubmitted.

HEFCE is also understood to be considering allowing existing case studies with added value to be submitted again. The council is believed to be going to allow institutions to submit materials dated from 1 January 2014.

The Russell Group of research-intensive universities has publicly advocated a decadal REF, saying that this would significantly reduce costs. However, some smaller institutions regard a longer gap as detrimental to their interests, as they may have to wait longer for increased funding.

Revised timetable for consultation on next Research Excellence Framework


Revised timetable for consultation on next Research Excellence Framework

Following a request from the Minister for Universities and Science HEFCE, in partnership with the other UK funding bodies, has agreed to delay publishing a consultation on the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) until the conclusion of the spending review.

HEFCE says:

We know that institutions are keen for the arrangements for a future REF to be confirmed and communicated in a timely fashion. Early clarity on a future framework will alleviate uncertainty in the sector, enable institutions to focus preparatory activity efficiently, and allow wise investment decisions to be made.

However, the short delay will enable the sector to provide responses to the REF consultation document that are informed by the outcomes of the spending review which will be announced in late November.

We have therefore agreed with the HEFCE Board and the other UK funding bodies to postpone the consultation until the spending review reports.

We welcome the Government’s ongoing commitment to the dual support system and look forward to working with the sector, the research community and research users to develop the most appropriate framework for the next REF.


Data published on REF submissions


29th November 2013 was the deadline for submission to the Research Excellence Framework (REF), the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs). Consolidated information has recently been published to provide an overview of the responses from the 155 HEIs that submitted to the REF exercise. Further information on this aggregate data can be found at


Internal Staffordshire University information on our submission can be found at

Vitae offers REF guidance for careers staff

Vitae, the research careers organisation, has published a briefing for those involved in the career development of researchers on how to make submissions to the Research Excellence Framework.

This, along with a shorter summary of the main points, aims to help those responsible for preparing submissions and to highlight the importance of evidence of careers development activities to meet certain REF criteria.

Further details:

The Social Impact of Academic Research

The Westminster Higher Education Forum are hosting a seminar to discuss the challenges, opportunities and implications resulting from the inclusion of social and cultural impacts in the Research Excellence Framework (REF). In addition to discussing the implications on REF, the challenges of quantifying social research output and potential impact for Open Access policy will also be raised.

Dr David Halpern, Director, Behavioural Insight Team, Cabinet Office; Andrew Miller MP, Chair, House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and Dr Graeme Rosenberg, REF Manager, HEFCE will be delivering keynote addresses at this seminar. The seminar is on the 10th October and is £190 plus VAT to attend. Further details can be found at