Research Excellence Framework

Deaf studies student

The 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the process for assessing the quality of research in UK Higher Education institutions. The REF uses a process of expert review with sub-panels for each of 34 Units of Assessment (UOAs) working under the guidance of four broad main panels.

The REF assess:

  • The quality of research outputs
  • The wider impact of research
  • The vitality of the research environment

The governance for UCLan’s REF2021 submission is outlined in our Code of Practice, which was agreed with staff in April 2019, and approved by the UK funder, Research England, in late 2019. This document outlines the processes UCLan will use to prepare the submission, and the criteria for which staff will be returned.

You can find the Code of Practice here.

As the document is quite long we’ve put together a key points document, which covers all the main information. This document can be found here.


In November 2013, UCLan submitted to 16 UoAs and the results were published in December 2014. They comprised of an Overall Quality Profile for each UoA showing the percentage of research assessed as being at the following ‘Star Levels’:

Overall quality profile: Definitions of starred 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.

In addition, separate Sub-Profiles were provided for Research Outputs, Impact and Environment.

UCLan’s REF 2014 results are now available.

View our Impact Case Studies here.

Other Universities’ results along with key REF 2014 guidance documents can be found at:


Queries regarding the Research Excellence Framework should be directed to the REF Project Managers in the first instance: