Governance & Strategic Planning


The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system used to assess the quality of research in UK HEIs. The updated submission date (due to COVID-19) is 31 March 2021 and the results are now expected in April 2022. The results of REF2021 will provide information about the quality of a university's research and are expected to inform research funding.

Regular research quality assessment


Results used in funding and reputation

UK universities take part in a UK-wide assessment of the quality of their research roughly every 6 years. This exercise is carried out by panels of experts working on behalf of the UK Higher Education Funding Bodies and the results are used to provide information about the quality of a university's research for internal and external benchmarking and the allocation of research funding. All Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in receipt of public funding are expected to take part.


Currently, the university receives funding based on REF results from the Scottish Funding Council worth over £75 million each year. The results are also a major contributor to the University’s reputation, appearing in league tables, and influencing our ability to secure research grants and recruit high performing staff and research students.


We will submit all eligible academic staff, and some of the other rules of the submission are changing from REF2014.

We will make submission for REF2021 by 31 March 2021 and the results will be known in April 2022.

Outputs, impact and environment assessed


The portfolio of information assessed is associated with research active academic staff, focussed on three elements: outputs (mostly publications), impact (benefit of research to society) and environment (the structures and strategy that support research).  Academic disciplines are grouped into Units of Assessments (UoAs), with HEIs deciding which Units of Assessment they submit to.

This information is assessed by expert panels of academics and research users, and the results of the assessment are presented as a ‘quality profile’ showing the percentage of research at five quality ratings: 4* (world-leading), 3* (internationally excellent), 2* (internationally recognised), 1* (nationally recognised) to unclassified. The results are in the format below:



 FTE submitted  

 Percentage of the submission at:






University X  











Last REF: REF2014

The last assessment exercise was the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.  The university submitted information to the exercise in November 2013, the assessment took place throughout 2014 and the results were published in December 2014.

REF2014 at Edinburgh

Different college approaches

Results for REF2014

The university submitted over 1850 staff, (over 1750 FTEs) to REF2014 across 31 Units of Assessment.

The College of Science and Engineering submitted in seven UoAs, corresponding to the seven schools. College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine staff were submitted to one of three UoAs, without a one-to-one relationship between Centres and UoAs. The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences submission was the largest in terms of staff numbers and number of UoAs, with submissions to 22 UoAs, and several schools made a submission to more than one UoA.

The University performed well in REF2014, improving to 4th place in power in the main league tables produced using REF results (Times Higher and Research Fortnight). We scored well across the three elements of the exercise – outputs, impact and environment, with 83% of our eligible staff submitted.


University of Edinburgh REF2021 Code of Practice

The Code of Practice covers the process for determining research independence for the purposes of REF 2021, and on the selection of outputs for the submission (including disclosure of staff circumstances).

Following publication of the final REF documents on 31 January 2019, some significant changes were made to the version of the Code that was presented for the open consultation in January. In particular, there are significant changes to the sections on staff circumstances and UOA output reductions. It was approved for implementation by University Executive at their 23 April 2019 meeting. The Code was submitted to the Scottish Finance Council (SFC) and was approved by them pending minor suggested amendments, which have been made.  In October 2020 we amended our Code to reflect the changes to the REF timetable arising from the Covid pandemic. If you have any questions, comments or concerns please don't hesitate to contact us ( but please cc in your College REF Officer.

REF2021 Code of Practice October 2020

Voluntary Declaration of Staff Circumstances

All REF eligible staff were invited to voluntarily declare any circumstances to us that may have affected their ability to conduct or produce research since 1st January 2014. The deadline for completing the Voluntary Declaration of Staff Circumstances form was 13th September 2020.


University of Edinburgh REF2021 Privacy Notice

The University's REF2021 privacy notice explains what personal information the University holds about you in relation to the REF 2021 exercise, detailing why we hold this information, what we do with it, how long we keep it for and if we share it with third parties.

This covers current University employees, former employees, users of research who have provided testimonials for REF2021 impact case studies, and individuals who are not employed by the University but whose contract or job role includesthe undertaking of research primarily focused at the University during the REF assessment period.

UoE REF2021 Privacy Notice

University of Edinburgh REF2021 Sharepoint

The University's REF2021 intranet provides advice and support to help staff preparing the Univesity's REF2021 submission. 

UoE REF2021 Sharepoint

You will need to login using your Staff Username and password to view the UoE REF2021 Sharepoint.

REF2021 publications and consultation documents

The four Higher Education Funding Bodies established a REF team which is responsible for the conduct of REF2021 and the assessment of the submitted material. REF2021 publications and consultation documents are available from the REF2021 team's website. 

REF2021 home page

Lord Stern's Review of the REF 'Building on success and learning from experience'