Higher education policy development

Research Excellence Framework

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs). It will replace the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) and will be completed in 2014. 

The REF will be undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies. The exercise will be managed by the REF team based at HEFCE and overseen by the REF Steering Group, consisting of representatives of the four funding bodies.

The primary purpose of the REF is to produce assessment outcomes for each submission made by institutions:

  • The funding bodies intend to use the assessment outcomes to inform the selective allocation of their research funding to HEIs, with effect from 2015-16.
  • The assessment provides accountability for public investment in research and produces evidence of the benefits of this investment.
  • The assessment outcomes provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks.

The REF is a process of expert review. HEIs will be invited to make submissions in 36 units of assessment. Submissions will be assessed by an expert sub-panel for each unit of assessment, working under the guidance of four main panels. Sub-panels will apply a set of generic assessment criteria and level definitions, to produce an overall quality profile for each submission.


November 2016: BISA & PSA Joint Response to Lord Stern's Review of the Research Excellence Framework 2020

March 2016: BISA & PSA Joint Response to Lord Stern's Review of the Research Excellence Framework - Joint Working Group on REF 2020

2015 Reports

PSA members' experience of the REF survey (13 November 2015)

2014 Reports

Political Studies Making Big Strides in Research Excellence and Impact (18 December 2014)

Research Excellence Framework 2014:
Overview report by Main Panel C and Sub-panels 16 to 26. (Politics and International Studies is Main Panel C, sub-panel 21)

PSA Blog: A snapshot of the REF results (Nicholas Allen & Oliver Heath)


Teaching Excellence Framework

The Political Studies Association has responded to the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee's inquiry into quality assessment in Higher Education (HE) which sought views into proposed changes to quality assessment in universities and the potential impact of introducing a Teaching Excellence Framework.  

The PSA's submission from October 2015 is available to download here.

Open Access