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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 The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.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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Why did HEFCE want to publish the case studies with a commercial (rather than non-commercial) licence?

HEFCE is encouraged by the government to use the Open Government Licence (or equivalent) for its own copyrighted material. The CC BY licence is compatible with the Open Government Licence.

Applying the CC BY licence to the case studies within the database allows the database to be available in a freely accessible and flexible way, removing barriers to the use of the tool. Using a CC BY licence allows the case studies to be cited as much as possible, without restriction. Extended demonstration of the value of higher education (HE) research will provide better evidence to inform decisions about continued research funding in the sector. The licence allows anybody, including UK HEIs to exploit the whole set of case studies for commercial purposes. Commercial users of the data will still be required to attribute the HEI as the copyright owner. 

We do not wish to impose the restrictions of a non-commercial licence as commercial reuse may be of benefit to the sector. The difference between commercial and non-commercial works is often difficult to distinguish and this confusion is most easily removed by allowing both commercial and non-commercial use. Creative Commons does not recommend use of its NonCommercial (NC) or NoDerivatives (ND) licences on databases intended for scholarly or scientific use.

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What did HEIs agree to by submitting to the REF?

HEIs granted, to each of the UK higher education funding bodies individual, non-exclusive, perpetual and irrevocable licences to make use of, release and publish the material as specified in the REF Submissions confirmation text. Institutions confirmed that any such act carried out by any of the UK higher education funding bodies would not infringe the copyright (or any other intellectual property right) or other right of any third party.

The agreement that HEIs gave as part of their REF submission authorisation will allow users to search the database and undertake their own analysis. Researchers can make copies of any copyright material under fair dealing provisions (and conduct text and data mining). They will be able to do this without having to obtain additional permission to make these copies from the rights holder. This only permits the making of copies within the fair dealing provisions for non-commercial research. If any user wishes to re-use material from the database for another purpose they will need to seek permission from the relevant copyright holder (the HEI who submitted the case study in the first instance) including making multiple copies, for example to put the work on a shared drive, computer network, intranet or website. 

At the time of submission, the funding bodies committed to referring any requests to re-use the copyrighted material to the relevant copyright owner. The request to publish the case studies with a CC BY licence would replace this commitment and would permit re-use without individual requests being made to the HEI each time.

The impact case study database published on 25 March 2015, allows the above use.

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Who owns the copyright to the impact case studies? 

The institution will still retain the copyright to the case studies they submitted.  HEFCE is not the copyright owner of these. Applying a CC BY licence to the case studies does not transfer ownership.

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Who are the proposed users of the database?

Potential users of the database may include researchers, policy makers, businesses and those interested in research impact. We expect the audience to be primarily scholarly or scientific; however it is possible that others may also be interested anywhere in the world and for a range of purposes that we cannot foresee. We anticipate that should the existence of the case studies become more widely known; the greater the benefit will be to UK HE. 

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Has Section 5 'Sources to corroborate the impact' of the impact case studies been published?

Yes. We previously agreed with the HE sector that we would publish the full PDF document submitted to REF, this includes Section 5, unless otherwise redacted from publication. The corroborating source contact details that were submitted separately to the case study documents or any corroborating statements provided to the REF team as part of the REF audit procedures have not been published. Section 5 has also been published as part of the REF submissions data on the main REF website as previously planned and advised.

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Who is responsible for the costs of pursuing legal action?

Only the owner of a work (or an exclusive licensee) can bring legal action for breach of copyright.  We would expect institutions, as the owners of the case studies, to consider pursuing any legal action if they concluded their ownership of the copyright or other intellectual property rights (IPR) had been materially breached. HEFCE would own the rights to the database and therefore we are also entitled to take legal action if our rights have been misused by a third party.

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What are users of the REF impact case study database currently permitted to do with the REF impact case studies?

123 HEIs have agreed that their impact case studies contained within the REF impact case study database can be used under the CC BY 4.0 licence. Use is permitted under these licence conditions.

A more user-friendly version of the licence is available but does not replace the full legal code. 

The ‘Attribution’ element of the CC-BY licence requires users to give appropriate credit, provide a link to the licence, and indicate if changes are made. This means that HEIs will be appropriately credited where case studies are used.This may be done in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses the user or the use of material.

31 HEIs were not in a position to agree to their impact studies being made available under a CC BY 4.0 licence on the REF impact case study database. A list of HEIs where this applies is available below. In such cases, the following terms apply:

Copies for research

Although these impact case studies are not licensed under CC BY 4.0, researchers can still make copies of any copyright material under fair dealing provisions, for example to conduct text and data mining. They can do this without having to obtain additional permission to make these copies from the rights holder, noting that making multiple copies such as putting the case study on a shared drive, computer network, intranet or website is not usually permitted under fair dealing provisions. Researchers are only permitted to make copies within the fair dealing provisions for non-commercial research or where otherwise permitted by law. If in doubt, you should seek clarification and permission from the relevant rights holder (the HEI that submitted the case study in the first instance) including in instances where you would like to re-use the impact case studies in publications and for other purposes.

Other users

Specific fair dealing provisions are also available for others, including students.

The case studies for the following HEIs cannot be used under the CC BY 4.0 licence

Birmingham City University
Bishop Grosseteste University
Cardiff University
Harper Adams University
Imperial College London
Newcastle University
Norwich University of the Arts
Queen Mary University of London
Queen's University of Belfast
Rose Bruford College
St Mary's University College (Belfast)
The Institute of Cancer Research
The London School of Economics and Political Science
The Robert Gordon University1
The Royal Academy of Music
The School of Oriental and African Studies
The University of Bolton
The University of East Anglia
The University of Southampton
The University of Surrey
The University of York
University of Cambridge
University of Central Lancashire
University of Durham
University of Glasgow2
University of the Arts, London
University of Ulster

1 This includes impact case studies in their Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy joint submission with University of the Highlands and Islands

2 This includes impact case studies in their Chemistry joint submission with University of Strathclyde

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If an HEI would like to make changes, further redact or remove a case study from the database, will HEFCE accept representations to do this?

We cannot change or replace impact cases studies within the database. Requests for case studies to be removed from the database will be considered, although we cannot guarantee they will be accepted. Please email for further information.

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What are the licence arrangements for case studies provided within a joint submission?

Each HEI that has contributed to the joint submission would be required to agree to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence in order for this to be applied to those case studies. All case studies submitted as part of a join submission are considered to be jointly owned by all HEIs and we will not recognise or identify one HEI as the sole author of such a case study.

Page last updated 19 February 2016