Research Excellence Framework (REF)

In REF2021 91% of Loughborough's research was classed as world-leading or internationally excellent.

What is the REF?

The Research Excellence Framework assesses the quality of research in UK Higher Education Institutions. The REF was assessed in 2021, across 34 subject based Units of Assessment (UoA). The REF informs the selective annual allocation of funding for the period between exercises (c. 6 years), awarded by the four UK higher education bodies. The assessment provides accountability for public investment in research and produces evidence of the benefits of this research in the form of case studies.

In REF2021 three main areas were independently assessed by UoA Panels; analysis of outputs (60%), impact (25%) and research environment (15%). 

REF Code of Practice

All higher education institutions making a submission to the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) were required to develop, document and apply a Code of Practice on the fair and transparent identification of staff and selection of outputs for REF submission.

Loughborough University’s Code of Practice was drafted by a working group chaired by the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research) and consisting of academic staff, Human Resources, Loughborough UCU, the Planning Team. A consultation on the content of the Code of Practice ran between 27 March and 1 May 2019 and a summary of the main feedback and actions taken are available. Our Code of Practice was approved by Research England on 16 August 2019 without changes. Our approach to REF was regularly refined in line with its broad principles and in response to REF FAQs and further guidance.  Where the details of processes changed, they were communicated to staff via both existing channels as outlined in the Code of Practice itself, but also updated on the Code of Practice using track-changes to clearly highlight the changes made.

Please see our Data Collection Statements for both Loughborough University staff and non-staff.


Following the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, Lord Stern performed an independent review of the exercise to which Loughborough University responded. Following Lord Stern’s report, HEFCE published a consultation on some proposed changes to the REF.

Some initial guidance on REF2021 was subsequently published in September 2017, followed by some key decisions on staff and outputs in November 2017 (updated April 2018). 

In July 2018, Research England published the Guidance to Panels.  In January, 2019 the REF 2021 Guidance on submissions; and the Panel criteria and working methods were published.   

Sub-panel Chairs were announced in December 2017. The selection of sub-panel members for the assessment phase was made in March 2018 and December 2020.

All UK HEIs have now received the outcomes of their submissions to the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF).

We have responded to the consultation on the Future Research Assessment Programme (FRAP) which will oversee the design of the next 'REF'. 


Loughborough University Staff can view Loughborough's submissions to REF 2021 here.

Self-help resources for Impact Case Study authors

This section contains a range of detailed self-help resources for Impact Case Study authors, and those supporting them, offering practical guidance and tips in relation to defining and articulating your impact; evidencing and measuring your impact; writing your Impact Case Study; and reviewing your Impact Case Study.

Further Information

Further information about the REF is available from the REF2021 website.

Loughborough University’s REF submission is overseen by the Research Quality & Visibility team. Email: