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Research Excellence Framework

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The Research Excellence Framework (REF) shows that research undertaken at The Open University is both world-leading and has an impact in the real world.

What is the REF?

The Research Excellence Framework is the method used to assess the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. These assessment outcomes are used to inform the research grant allocations from the four Higher Education funding bodies, with effect from 2022–23. HEFCE et al allocate approximately £2 billion per year of quality-related (QR) research funding to UK universities with the aim of supporting a dynamic and internationally competitive UK research sector.

Beyond its primary use for informing the allocation of QR funds to each HEI, the REF provides accountability for public investment in research, demonstrates its benefits, and provides important reputational yardsticks and benchmarking information about the research performance of each UK university (both at an institutional and discipline level).

The REF also provides a rich evidence base to inform strategic decisions about national research priorities, creates a strong performance incentive for HEIs and individual researchers and informs decisions on resource allocation by individual HEIs and other bodies.

In short, the REF matters to The Open University (OU) because it affects QR income; determines our eligibility to apply for research project funding from some funders; and reputation (which in turn affects our ability to attract partners, new staff and student talent).

The REF exercise is run every several years with each successive REF covering the period since the previous exercise, providing a longitudinal picture of our research landscape, environment and quality. In each exercise, the OU is asked to submit examples of its strongest research outputs and resultant impact.

The OU submitted to 21 Units of Assessment in REF 2021.

View the headlines of the results

Contact the REF team

The OU’s REF 2021 submission was coordinated by the Research, Enterprise & Scholarship (RES) Unit. The PVC Research and Innovation, Professor Kevin Shakesheff, is accountable for the OU’s REF submission.