Research Excellence Framework (REF)

In REF2014 Loughborough was ranked a top ten research University in the Times Higher Education (THE) intensity rankings. We are now preparing for our REF2021 submission.

What is the REF?

The Research Excellence Framework assesses the quality of research in UK Higher Education Institutions. The next REF will be assessed in 2021, across 34 subject based Units of Assessment (UoA). The REF informs the selective annual allocation of funding for the period between exercises (c. 6 years), awarded by the four UK higher education bodies. The assessment provides accountability for public investment in research and produces evidence of the benefits of this research in the form of case studies.

In REF2021 three main areas will be independently assessed by UoA Panels; analysis of outputs (60%), impact (25%) and research environment (15%). In 2014, quality ratings for all three sub-sections led to an Overall Quality profile for each UoA submitted. Loughborough University made 18 submissions to 17 UoAs. For further detail on how we performed in 2014 see the REF2014 website

REF Code of Practice

All higher education institutions who intend to make a submission to the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) are required to develop, document and apply a Code of Practice on the fair and transparent identification of staff and selection of outputs for REF submission.

Loughborough University’s Code of Practice is being drafted by a working group chaired by the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research) and consisting of academic staff, Human Resources, Loughborough UCU, the Planning Team, and the Research Office.  The confidential draft Code of Practice is now available and feedback is invited until 1 May 2019.  The final Code of Practice has to be submitted by 7 June.

Feedback should be emailed to the Research Policy Team at or by telephone: 01509 228594


Following the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, Lord Stern performed an independent review of the exercise to which Loughborough University responded. Following Lord Stern’s report, HEFCE published a consultation on some proposed changes to the REF.

Some initial guidance on REF2021 was subsequently published in September 2017, followed by some key decisions on staff and outputs in November 2017 (updated April 2018). 

In July 2018, Research England published the Guidance to Panels.  In January, 2019 the REF 2021 Guidance on submissions; and the Panel criteria and working methods were published.   

The key decisions include:

  • All staff with a significant responsibility for research should be submitted.
  • The average number of outputs per member of staff submitted should be 2.5 with a minimum of 0 (where staff have individual circumstances) and a maximum of 5.
  • This may include outputs of staff who no longer work at Loughborough University as long as they were demonstrably generated here.
  • Each submission should include a total of two case studies (up to 19.99 FTE), plus one additional case study for up to 15 FTE….

Sub-panel Chairs were announced in December 2017.


REF Support Structures at Loughborough

REF Support Services image

Loughborough University Submission to REF (LUSTRE)

LUSTRE meetings are scheduled for the Spring 2019 and 2020.  All REF UoA Teams will receive guidance on their progress from internal and external advisors including PVC(R), PVC(E), REF Panel reps, senior staff, Research Policy and Planning, Planning Team.  Chair: PVC(R). Contact: Elizabeth Gadd & Angela Crawford, Research Office. Email:

Code of Practice Working Group 

The Code of Practice Working Group is a short-term working group established to steer, design and implement the University's REF Code of Practice around the identification of staff with significant responsibility for research, those that qualify as independent researchers and the selection of outputs.  It is attended by representatives from academic staff, HR, Loughborough UCU, Research Office. Chair: PVC(R). Contact: Elizabeth Gadd, Research Office. Email:

REF Panel Member Advisory Group

The REF Panel Member Advisory Group consists of Loughborough staff who sit on, or secretary, REF 2021 panels.  It meets occassionally to guide the university (within the bounds of confidentiality imposed by the REF) on its submission.  Chair: PVC(R).  Contact: Angela Crawford, Research Office. Email:

Open Access Advisory Working Group (OAAWG)

The Open Access Advisory Working Group exists to oversee the management and operation of the Institutional Repository and LUPIN (LU Publication Information Network) and to advise Research Committee on open access and data matters.  It meets quarterly and is attended by representatives from academic staff, library staff, Research Office and IT Services.  Chair: Jeff Brown, Assistant Library Director: Support, Collections & Systems.  Contact: Katie Appleton and Naomi Dungworth, Library.  Email:

REF OA Action Group

This is an informal group of Library and Research Office staff that meet regularly to discuss operational matters relating to Open Access, the Institutional Repository and LUPIN (LU Publication Information system).  Contact: or

REF UoA Teams

Each Unit of Assessment to which Loughborough University intends to submit is supported by a team, headed up by a UoA Lead.  Each additional School submitting to a UoA will also have it's own School Lead.  UoA Teams are responsible for writing their environment statement, identifying independent researchers, and selecting outputs and case studies for submission in line with Loughborough University's Code of Practice. A list of the UoA Leads and their contact details are below.

UoA Name Main Panel UoA number Overall Lead
Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care A 2 Mark Hamer
Chemistry B 8 Steven Christie
Physics B 9 Sergey Saveliev
Mathematical Sciences B 10 Andy Archer
Computer Science and Informatics B 11 Qinggang Meng
Engineering B 12 Jeremy Coupland
Architecture, Built Environment and Planning C 13 Malcolm Cook
Geography and Environmental Studies C 14 Louise Holt 
Business and Management Studies C 17 Tom Jackson
Politics and International Studies C 19 Caroline Kennedy-Pipe
Social Work and Social Policy C 20 Steve Case 
Education C 23 Matthew Inglis
Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism 24 David Stensel
English Language and Literature D 27 Michael Wilson
Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory 32 Richard Bibb
Communication, Cultural & Media Studies, Library & Information Management D 34  James Stanyer



Where do I go for help with Vertigo Ventures Impact Tracker (VVIT)?

A VVIT Manual is available and LU guidance on how to populate a REF2021 impact case study template on VVIT  . For additional help with the functionality with VVIT, please contact Angela Crawford, Research Office at

I believe I qualify for a reduction in outputs due to my circumstances, what should I do?

The UK funding bodies are committed to supporting and promoting equality and diversity in research careers. As part of this commitment, measures have been put in place to recognise the effect that individuals’ circumstances may have on research productivity, resulting in a reduction in outputs.  Please see paragraph 160 of the REF Guidance on Submissions for a list of circumstances that apply.  Loughborough University's Code of Practice Working Group are developing a process by which staff can voluntarily declare any such circumstances.  All staff will be notified of this process when it is in place.  In the interim, if you have any questions about this, please either contact your UoA Team Lead or the Research Policy Team on

Further Information

Further information about the REF is available from the REF2021 website.

Loughborough University’s REF submission is overseen by the Research Policy and Planning team. Email:

How are outputs assigned to individuals for REF?

The purpose of REF 2021 is to assess the research excellence of universities and units within those universities, rather than individuals. To this end, the expectation is that all RTE staff are submitted rather than a selection. The total number of outputs submitted by each UoA must equal 2.5 times the summed full-time equivalent (FTE) of the unit’s submitted staff, with a minimum of one and a maximum of five outputs per person. Thus, whilst outputs will need to be allocated to individuals to demonstrate that the minimum of one output per person is met, the matter of who each output is associated with makes no difference to REF or to the University. Indeed, Loughborough University's Code of Practice has made it clear that whether an individual has been submitted to the REF, or the number of REF outputs associated with an individual, will not be used as a criterion for recruitment, probation, reward or promotion. Whilst the REF will publish a list of outputs submitted to the REF by each University, they will not display the individual with whom each output was associated. To this end, once the requirement for a minimum of one output per person has been met, the remaining outputs will be allocated to individuals in such a way as to maximise our return.