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REF 2021

The Research Excellence Framework 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 second one was run in 2021.

King’s made 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


King's College London's REF2021 Submission

King's achieved excellent results in REF 2021, sustaining the College's position amongst the world’s best universities for research excellence and power.

King’s Ranking Summary

6 – 2021 Power1 Rank

8 – 2021 4* Rank

6 – 2021 Quality Index2 Rank

9 – 2021 GPA3 Rank


Some of the key data is highlighted below:

  • Overall, 55.1% of the work submitted was rated 4* (world leading).
  • On Power1 rankings (weighted quality multiplied by the size of the submission), King's maintained its position at 6th.
  • On Impact, King's ranked 3rd amongst multi-faculty universities.

Achievements by individual Units of Assessment:

  • Allied Health (including the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care, the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences, as well as the School of Life Course Sciences and the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine) is 1st in the country for quality of research and has 100 percent 4* ranking for research environment;
  • Business and Management are 9th in the country for quality of research;
  • Chemistry has 100 percent 4* ranking for impact, and is 5th in the country for quality of research;
  • Classics (part of the Faculty of Arts & Humanities) is 1st in the country for quality of research;
  • Clinical Medicine has 100 percent 4* ranking for research environment;
  • Engineering are 12th in the country for quality of research;
  • Modern Languages has 100 percent 4* ranking for research environment;
  • Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience is 2nd in the country for power and achieved 100 percent 4* ranking for research ‘environment’;
  • Politics and International Studies is 1st for power*;
  • Sport and Exercise Science has 100% 4* ranking for impact;
  • Theology and Religious Studies has 100 percent 4* ranking for research environment

The full REF results can be accessed at and examples of our impact case studies can be seen at


1 The Power score takes into account both the quality and the quantity of research activity, with a weighting applied only to research at 4* and 3*.

2 The Quality Index is similar to the GPA but gives an additional weighting to the proportion of research at the higher star level. The index that the College has used is % 4* x 9, % 3* x 3, divided by 9. Different league tables may use different proportions for this.

3 GPA (Grade Point Average) represents an average score (out of four) for the submission to a unit of assessment and is derived by multiplying the percentage of the submission at each of the levels (4*, 3*, 2*, 1*) by the number of the star ranking and dividing by 100.

How does REF2021 assess Higher Education Institutions?

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 research outputs produced by the College during the assessment period (01/01/2014- 31/12/2020).
    • The output assessment contributes to 60% of the overall 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 Impact Case Studies evidencing the benefits derived from our research. 
    • Impact contributes to 25% of the overall assessment.
  • Environment: 
    • Each UOA produces an environment statement describing how each Unit supports research. 
    • The environment statement contributes to 15% of the overall assessment.


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

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

College Impact Committee

The College Impact Committee (CIC) brings together the expertise of academic and professional services staff across the College to support the development of research impact activities and to share best practice for impact development and evaluation in all research carried out at the College.

The Chair of the CIC is the Dean of Research Impact, Professor Mike Goodman. Membership of the CIC includes Academic Impact Leads  for each faculty and the Professional Services Impact Leads.


Preparing the REF Submission

King's preparations for REF 2021 were led by Professor Reza Razavi, Vice President and Vice Principal (Research), and co-ordinated by Jo Lakey (REF and Research Impact Director) and Adelah Bilal (REF Policy Officer).


REF 2021 Data Collection

King's will submit Impact Case Studies for assessment in REF 2021, including any data provided as corroborating evidence. 

To find out more about how we will be collecting and using personal data, or to review our data collection statement, please click here

Find out more

REF 2021 website

REF 2021 website

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