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Research Excellence Framework 2028

Research Excellence Framework (REF): initial decisions announced for REF2028

The findings of the Future Research Assessment Programme (FRAP) were published in June 2023. FRAP reviewed how research is assessed nationally within the UK.

The four UK Higher Education Funding bodies then published their key decisions for the REF. You can read their full report here.

The next REF exercise will assess research activity and related impact taking place between 2021 and 2027. Institutions will enter their submission to REF in late 2027. The purpose of REF includes assessing the quality and ‘excellence’ of research taking place across UK universities, informing the allocation of Quality Research (QR) funding and providing accountability for the public investment made in research.  A consultation of some elements of REF2028 is open until 06 October 2023. 


The three domains previously used in REF2014 and REF2021 have been retitled and have had their content and weightings adjusted to reflect their broader remits:


Contribution to knowledge and understanding (50% weighting). This domain replaces the Outputs element. It will primarily assess research outputs and will also include evidence of wider contributions to the development of a discipline.

People, culture and environment (25% weighting). This domain replaces the environment element and will be expanded to assess both institutional and disciplinary level research culture.

Engagement and impact (25% weighting). This domain replaces the impact element, to consider both engagement and impact through impact case studies and an accompanying statement at disciplinary level.

Research England graphic describing the structure of REF 2028

The below table outlines the key decisions taken by the funding bodies for REF2028:

Unit of Assessment

REF 2028 will retain the REF 2021 Unit of Assessment structure and will include advisory panels on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and Interdisciplinary research.


Institutions will not submit staff to REF 2028.

Staff data will be gathered directly from HESA to determine the volume.

REF 2021 staff eligibility criteria will be used to identify staff posts that contribute to the volume measure.


REF 2028 will fully break the link between individual staff members and unit submissions.

Institutions may submit outputs produced by any staff member where there is a demonstrable and substantive link to the submitting institution within the REF assessment period.

There will be no minimum or maximum output requirements for individual staff members. However, units will be required to explain how their submitted output pool is representative of the research undertaken within the disciplinary area.

There will be no process to account for individual equality-related circumstances.

REF 2028 will include consideration of the impact of equality-related circumstances within an overall process for determining potential reductions in output requirements at submission level. The process will not be based on the aggregation of individual equality-related circumstances.

Institutions may submit outputs produced by any staff member where there is a demonstrable and substantive link to the submitting institution within the REF assessment period.

Open access

The REF2021 Open Access Policy applies for now; new requirements are due to be published in Spring 2024.

People, culture, and environment

The focus of the environment element will be expanding to People, Culture and Environment (PCE), making up 25% of overall quality profile. PCE will be assessed at both disciplinary and institutional level.

Contribution to knowledge and understanding The assessment of outputs will be expanded to include the assessment of a unit’s contribution to knowledge and understanding and will include assessment of outputs and a structured explanatory statement.


Who at the university will coordinate our submission to REF2028?

Who can I talk to about REF2028?

Where can I find out more?