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The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 assessed the quality of research submitted by higher education institution (HEIs) in the UK through a process of expert review. HEIs were able to select which academic staff were included in their submissions. This study assesses the staff selected in terms of various characteristics to assess whether the process of selecting staff resulted in an unbiased outcome from an equality and diversity perspective [Note 1].

The study found that:

  • A more selective submission policy does not necessarily indicate a greater bias in gender selection rates. Although the majority of HEIs do not have equal selection rates for male and female staff, there is little evidence of a relationship between these rates and the overall percentage of staff submitted to the REF by an HEI [Note 2].
  • The proportion of women submitted has increased to 51 per cent of the eligible pool of female staff (from 48 per cent in RAE 2008), but there is a marked difference between the selection of men and women, with men more likely to be submitted (67 per cent of the eligible pool of men were selected).
  • Early career researchers (ECRs) had a selection rate of 80 per cent, with a smaller difference in gender selection rates than non-ECRs, suggesting that the gender disparity in selection rates is less for individuals at the start of their research careers.
  • The proportion of staff selected with a declared disability is lower than for staff with no declared disability.
  • Black and Asian UK and non-EU nationals had statistically significant lower selection rates than staff from other ethnicity groups.

Progress has been made in addressing equality and diversity issues since RAE 2008 but there are still issues to be addressed in developing future REF exercises.

The strengthened measures to promote equality and diversity in the REF 2014 were widely welcomed by the sector and have been recognised as having an overwhelmingly positive impact. This impact extends beyond the results of staff selection, to establishing equality and diversity as important considerations in universities’ everyday activities.

This study forms part of a number of projects that together are intended to provide a comprehensive evaluation of REF 2014, and inform policy development for future exercise [Note 3].

The detailed analysis in this study will inform wider equality and diversity work in the sector, as well as being taken into account in preparations for any future REF.

Notes

1. Read the report online at www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/Year/2015/201517/.

2. Selection rates by HEI and gender will be published later this year, once corrected Higher Education Statistics Agency data is available.

3. See www.hefce.ac.uk/rsrch/REFreview/ for further information.