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REF 2021

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK universities and higher education colleges and replaces the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The first REF exercise was run in 2014, and the next one is planned for 2021. King’s will make an institutional submission to REF, which is broken down into disciplinary units known as Units of Assessment (UoAs). The key purposes of the REF are:
  • To inform HEFCE’s selective allocation of funding for research (QR Funding)
  • To provide accountability for public investment in research
  • To provide benchmarking information for use in the higher education sector and for public information

REF 2021 Assessments

REF assessments are a process of peer review, carried out by an expert sub-panel in each UoA. Every element submitted to the REF will be graded on a 5 point scale going from unclassified (did not meet REF criteria) to 4* (world leading).

REF 2021 submissions consist of three main elements:

  • Outputs. This consists of outputs produced by the Institution during the assessment period (1st January 2014-31st December 2020). It makes up 60% of the assessment.
    • 2.5 outputs are required per FTE of Category A submitted staff (further details on eligible and submitted staff can be found here)
  • Impact. This consists of case studies detailing the benefits derived from our research. It makes up 25% of the assessment.
  • Environment. This describes the environment we have to support our research. It makes up 15% of the assessment
Indicative REF timetable
Early 2018 Panel members appointed; Panels to develop criteria
Summer/Autumn 2018 Draft guidance on submissions published; Panels consult on criteria
Winter 2018/19 Final panel criteria and methods published
2020 Panels meet to prepare for assessment
Late 2020 Submission deadline
December 2021 Outcomes published
Census periods
Outputs First brought into the public domain between 01/01/2014 and 31/12/2020
Staff Have contract of employment on 31/7/2020
Impact Impact to have occurred between 1/8/2013 and 31/7/2020
Impact Underpinning research first published between 1/1/2000 and 31/12/2020

REF 2021 at King's

King’s preparations for REF 2021 are led by Professor Reza Razavi, Vice President and Vice Principal (Research and Innovation), and co-ordinated by Dr Tom Foulkes (Director of Research Strategy and Development), Jo Lakey (REF Delivery Director), and Dr Cat Mora (Director of Research Strategy Delivery).


The REF 2021 Oversight Group (chaired by Professor Reza Razavi) has strategic oversight of King’s submission to the REF and is responsible for ensuring that progress is made, and to oversee and sign off arrangements for matters related to the university’s policy for submission. The Group reports to the Senior Management Team and to the College Research Committee.

Submissions to each of the four REF Main Panels will be coordinated through a Main Panel Co-ordination group, whose responsibility will be to determine the internal policy for submissions across all the Units of Assessment related to that panel.

The Chairs of the four co-ordination groups are

  • Main Panel A: Medicine, health and life sciences – Professor Mike Curtis
  • Main Panel B: Physical sciences, engineering and mathematics – Professor David Richards
  • Main Panel C: Social sciences – Professor Frans Berkhout
  • Main Panel D: Arts and humanities: Professor Patrick Ffrench

The REF Impact taskforce will be responsible for coordinating the Impact submissions across College: it will include representatives from the Main Panel Co-ordinating groups, and its Chair will sit on the REF Oversight group.

REF Oversight Group

The university REF 2021 Oversight Group is responsible to the Senior Management Team and to the College Research Committee.

Terms of reference

  • To have strategic oversight of the university’s submission to the Research Excellence Framework.
  • To receive regular reports from the main panel groups and the Impact Taskforce regarding the progress made towards the development of the submission.
  • To ensure that progress is made and deadlines are met in accordance with the university strategy and REF timetable.
  • To receive advice on and oversee arrangements for ensuring that matters relating to diversity and inclusion are fully implemented and monitored.


  • Vice-Principal (Research): Professor Reza Razavi (Chair)
  • Senior Vice President (Arts and Sciences): Professor Evelyn Welch
  • Senior Vice President (Health): Professor Sir Robert Lechler
  • Senior Vice President (Quality, Strategy and Innovation):  Chris Mottershead
  • Chairs of the four Main Panel Co-ordination Groups:
    • Panel A: Professor Mike Curtis
    • Panel B: Professor David Richards
    • Panel C: Professor Frans Berkhout
    • Panel D: Professor Patrick Ffrench
  • Chair of the College Impact Committee: Professor Mike Goodman
  • REF Delivery Director: Jo Lakey
  • Research Management and Innovation Directorate: Martin Kirk
  • Director of Research Strategy and Development: Tom Foulkes
  • Director of Research Strategy Delivery: Cat Mora
  • Director of Diversity and Inclusion: Sarah Guerra
  • Secretariat: Research Strategy and Development

Indicative timetable for REF preparation



Winter 2017-18

Appointment of panels

Spring 2018

Panel develop criteria


Ongoing - evaluation of outputs/development of impact case studies

June 2018

Upgrade to PURE REF module

June 2018

Annual REF Review (internal only)

Summer -Autumn 2018

Draft guidance published, consultation

Winter 2018-19

Final panel guidance and guidance on submissions published


Internal summary of panel criteria and guidance on submissions

Spring 2019

Submission of Code of Practice (coming soon) to cover King’s policy for identifying submitted staff and for selecting outputs

June 2019

Annual REF review

June 2020

Annual REF review

31 July 2020

Census date (see timetable above)


Submission phase

Autumn 2020

Final REF review prior to submission

31 December 2020

End of publication period – both for underpinning outputs and outputs to be submitted


Assessment phase


Research England audit of submissions


Provision of information on workloads etc

REF 2021 website

REF 2021 website

The REF is the UK's system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education…