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Research Excellence Framework (REF)

REF is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. 

It first took place in 2014, replacing the previous Research Assessment Exercises. The next REF exercise will be conducted in 2020–21.  The REF is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies, and is intended to: 
  • provide accountability for public investment in research, and evidence of the benefits of that investment
  • provide benchmarking information for use the HE sector and for public information
  • inform the allocation of 'quality-related' (QR) funding for research.

REF assessment is by a process of peer review, carried out by expert panels made up of senior academics, international representatives, and research users from business, industry and the public and third sectors. 

More information about the RCA's preparations for REF2021 (submission deadline 27 November 2020) can be found in the College’s  Code of Practice on the Selection of Staff for REF2021, which sets out the steps the RCA will take to ensure that fairness, transparency, equality and diversity are at the heart both of the way we deliver our strategic objectives for research and knowledge exchange, and of the way we prepare our submission for REF2021.

REF 2014 Results

In REF 2014, the RCA was assessed as the highest ranking UK specialist art and design institution in terms of 4* research overall, at 37 per cent.

A further 40 per cent of Royal College of Art research was rated as 3*, meaning that in total, 77 per cent of the College’s research was assessed as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. This represents a 12 point increase on the College’s RAE 2008 results.

At 65 per cent of eligible staff, the RCA also submitted the highest proportion of staff by far, significantly more than any other multidisciplinary university of art and design.

The College’s REF 2014 submission also embraced the work of researchers at all levels of their career, from world-class professors to early-career researchers. As befits a mature research culture, 100 per cent of the College’s  was assessed as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. 

For more information, see Royal College of Art Consolidates Position as Britain's Leading Specialist Art and Design University

The College’s Code of Practice on the Selection of Staff for REF 2014 sets out the steps the College took to achieve equality in the selection of academic staff for inclusion within the RCA REF2014 submission.

The College’s submission to REF2014 was overseen by the REF Working Group, which reports to the Research Committee, and is managed by the Research Office.

REF 2014 Impact Case Studies