Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021




The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs). Last conducted in 2021, the assessment: 

  • Informs the selective allocation of research funding (Quality Research- QR) by the four higher education funding bodies, including HEFCW (Higher Education Funding Council of Wales), to HEIs with effect from 2022. 
  • Provides accountability for public investment in research and produces evidence of the benefits of this investment. 
  • Provides benchmarking information and reputational yardsticks, for use within the higher education sector and for public information. 

Three distinct elements are assessed; quality of research outputs (60%), the impact of research beyond academia (25%), and the environment that supports research (15%). 

Assessments were made on a 5 point scale, 4*-U. 

  • 4* Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour. 
  • 3* Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence. 
  • 2* Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour. 
  • 1* Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour. 
  • Unclassified. Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. 

Significant rise in the proportion of research in Aberystwyth classified as ‘world leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’ 

The results of REF 2021 show that the overall quality of research at Aberystwyth has risen since the last assessment in 2014, with 98% of all our research activity being of an internationally recognised standard or higher, within all 14 of the Units of Assessment submitted. 

The findings also show that more than three quarters of our research was categorised as either world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), an increase of 9 percentage points on REF 2014.