HEFCE reveals latest data on universities’ REF submission intentions

Figures collected by the HE funding bodies show UK higher education institutions (HEIs) plan to submit the work of a slightly increased number of their staff for assessment in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), compared to the previous Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) in 2008.

Figures collected by the HE funding bodies show that UK HEIs plan to submit the research of 54,269 academic staff for assessment in the REF, compared to 52,401 in RAE 2008 – an increase of 3.6 per cent. The figures were collected through a survey of submission intentions undertaken by the REF team to inform their planning for the assessment phase of the exercise. They represent the current best estimates by individual HEIs; the actual number of staff submitted will not be known until submissions are received at the end of November 2013.

The figures show a modest degree of variance between the main discipline groups. An increase of 10 per cent is anticipated in science and engineering disciplines, with a smaller increase in social sciences and level or slightly reduced numbers in the arts and humanities, and in healthcare and life science subjects.

The survey has also provided an insight into the range of impacts arising from HE research that are planned to be submitted as part of the assessment process. The survey indicates a rich diversity of impacts including in the areas of health, industry, technology, policy, professional practice, culture and public understanding.

On behalf of the four UK HE funding bodies, Sir Alan Langlands said:

‘This survey was undertaken as a planning exercise and figures are not definitive. They do however indicate clearly that HE institutions continue to attach importance to identifying all of the excellent research undertaken by their staff, and to having its excellence validated through robust expert review. The survey has shown that the HE sector is continuing to maintain a high volume of excellent research activity, and is working hard to ensure that this leads on to positive real world outcomes crucial to the economic, social and cultural development of the country.’ 

Table 1: Number of full time equivalent (FTE) Category A staff submitted in RAE 2008 and planned for REF 2014

  Submitted in RAE 2008 Planned for REF 2014 Change
All REF panels



       +1,868 (+3.6%)

REF Main panel A (includes healthcare and life sciences)



-281 (-2.0%)

REF Main panel B (includes science and engineering )



+1,298 (+10.6%)

REF Main panel  C (includes social sciences)



+860 (+5.8%)

REF Main panel D (includes arts and humanities)



-8 (-0.1%)


  1. The REF survey of submission intentions was carried out in late 2012. All of the 162 HEIs that intend to participate in the REF completed the survey. Responses to the survey indicate HEIs’ current best estimates about their submissions, but selection decisions have not yet been made by HEIs and the survey responses are not binding.
  2. ‘Category A’ staff are academic staff employed by a UK HEI on the REF census date (31 October 2013) and selected by the HEI for submission.
  3. The deadline for institutions to make submissions to the REF is 29 November 2013. The results will be published in December 2014. The four UK HE funding bodies intend to use the assessment outcomes to inform the selective allocation of their research funding to HEIs, with effect from 2015-16.
  4. Further information about the REF