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Executive summary


1. In December 2016, the UK higher education funding bodies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland published a joint ‘Consultation on the second Research Excellence Framework’ (HEFCE 2016/36). This document summarises our analysis of the 388 formal responses we received.

2. The consultation set out issues and proposals relating to particular aspects of the next REF and sought views on the following aspects of the assessment framework:

• overall approach

• unit of assessment structure

• expert panels

• staff

• collaboration

• outputs

• impact

• environment

• institutional-level assessment

• outcomes and weighting

• proposed timetable.

3. The consultation responses informed the initial decisions taken on a number of high-level aspects of the framework (which was published recently as REF 2017/01). There are some areas (including the eligibility of institutions to participate in the exercise, submission of staff, and output portability) where we are undertaking further engagement before finalising arrangements (see Annex A of HEFCE Circular letter 33/2017). The second set of decisions will be published in autumn 2017.

Key points

4. Consultation responses welcomed an overall continuity of approach with REF 2014 and recognised that this would reduce the burden on institutions and panels. Broad support was expressed for the principles behind Lord Stern’s recommendations. There were mixed responses to some of the proposed approaches to implementing the changes, in particular:

• all-staff submission

• non-portability of outputs

• institutional-level assessment

• open access and data sharing.

5. Feedback on these areas included concern about their effects on different disciplines or types of institution, their impact on specific groups, in particular early career researchers and those with protected characteristics1, and the burden of implementation.

Action required

6. This publication is for information.


1 ‘Protected characteristics’ identify groups that are protected under the Equality Act 2010. They are arranged under the following headings: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity.

Date: 11 September 2017

Ref: REF 2017/02

To: Heads of universities in Northern Ireland, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions
Heads of higher education institutions in Scotland Heads of higher education institutions in Wales Heads of alternative providers in England Subject associations Organisations with an interest in commissioning and using academic research including businesses, public sector bodies, charities and other third sector organisations

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Research, planning

Enquiries should be directed to:

Gina Reid, tel 0117 931 7392, email