Research Excellence Framework 2029: initial decisions and issues for further consultation

The four UK higher education funding bodies are publishing key decisions on the high-level design of the next research assessment exercise and outlining issues for further consultation.

These decisions represent a shift towards a broader and more holistic approach to research assessment.

These decisions have been reached by agreement across the four UK HE funding bodies represented in the Future Research Assessment Programme Board. Decisions have been arrived at through consultation and engagement with the sector, have been informed by commissioned research in specific areas, and have incorporated advice sought from the International Advisory Group.

Key decisions

  • The next exercise will be conducted in 2028 with institutions providing their submissions in late 2027
  • REF 2029 will have an expanded definition of research excellence. The three elements familiar from REF 2014 and REF 2021 have been renamed, their content adjusted and their weightings rebalanced to reflect this:
    • People, culture and environment (25% weighting) replaces the environment element and will be expanded to include research culture
    • Contribution to knowledge and understanding (50% weighting) replaces the outputs element. It will largely be based on assessment of research outputs, but will also include evidence of broader contributions to the advancement of the discipline
    • Engagement and impact (25% weighting) replaces the impact element. It is similar to the impact element of REF 2014 and will consist of impact case studies and an accompanying statement
  • REF 2029 will move further away from the assessment of individuals. There will be a new approach to determining research volume, where the number of staff with significant responsibility for research is drawn directly from the HESA staff record. The volume measure will be based on the average number of staff over a number of years
  • In REF 2029 there will be no minimum of maximum number of outputs contributed by an individual. This is intended to increase inclusivity of the assessment and provide an environment which is supportive of researchers establishing themselves, or moving into academia

See the full initial decisions document, annexes and supporting documents:

Next steps

Following the publication of these initial decisions, further work is required to develop the more detailed guidance and criteria.

This will take place through the following routes: 

  • A short, targeted consultation on specific policy aspects
  • A discrete consultation on the REF 2029 open access policy to be launched later in 2023
  • Commissioned work on content and indicators for the structured explanatory statements and the revised people, culture and environment element
  • Discussions with REF assessment and advisory panels when appointed

Consultation with the HE sector and other relevant stakeholders will continue to be central to all policy development activities. 

REF 2029: initial decisions and issues for further consultation webinars

The funding bodies held two webinars in July and September focusing on the key areas for further consultation.