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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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HEFCE commissioned the Career Development Organisation (CRAC) to seek evidence of equality and diversity (E&D) activity contributing to the development of research cultures and environments at Unit of Assessment level in REF 2014 research environment submissions.

Experimental text mining and contextual analysis were carried out on the ‘people’ sections of the environment statements to explore participation in known E&D initiatives and reveal trends between reporting and REF2014 outcomes.

Key findings

The findings highlight a key focus on gender in submissions, compared with the other protected characteristics. A strong link was found between those reporting Athena SWAN awards (or the intention to obtain them) and the attention given to E&D in statements.  The report recommends that in addition to the welcome focus on gender, institutions should seek to widen their efforts and activities in relation to the other protected characteristics.

The report notes a positive relationship between REF research environment scores and reference to key E&D terms in submissions.

REF 2021

To facilitate better the inclusion of E&D in the environment, the report suggests that a clear environment template should be developed for REF2021. It recommends that a combination of quantitative and narrative approaches should be used and that careful consideration will need to be given to representativeness across different characteristics where quantitative data is used.  

The report found that many of the E&D initiatives reported in REF2014 were at institution level, and recommends that these would be more robustly reported on in REF2021 using an institution-level environment template. This was recommended in addition to an environment assessment at Unit of Assessment level, which can focus on the local activities.


Read the full report.