Research Excellence Framework 2014

Science in Sheffield is amongst the very best in the UK and is ranked alongside leading institutions worldwide. In the Research Excellence Framework 2014, more than 90% of our research was assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent. Across disciplines, this means: 

  • We are number one in the UK for medical research excellence, with our colleagues in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health
  • We are in the top five in the UK for biological science research excellence
  • 98% of our chemistry research is world-leading or internationally excellent
  • We are in the top ten in the UK for physics research output
  • We are in the Russell Group top ten for mathematics research, with 89% rated as world-leading or internationally excellent
  • More than 80% of our psychology research is world-leading or internationally excellent

About the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The REF is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. It replaced the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), last conducted in 2008.

The 2014 REF was conducted jointly by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland (DEL). The REF was managed by the REF team, based at HEFCE, on behalf of the four UK higher education funding bodies, and was overseen by the REF Steering Group, consisting of representatives of the four funding bodies.

Each submission was assessed by a team of academics and industry experts and awarded up to four stars. For the first time 20 per cent of the overall score was judged on the impact the research has had outside academia. Alongside impact, research was also evaluated in terms of the quality of research output (65 per cent) and the research environment (15 per cent), which includes factors such as the number of graduates.

The primary purpose of REF 2014 was to assess the quality of research and produce outcomes for each submission made by institutions. REF results are important to universities because as well as the funding bodies using the results to inform the selective allocation of their research funding to higher education institutes, the assessment also provides accountability for public investment in research and produces evidence of the benefits of this investment and gives potential students and staff an insight into the quality of UK universities research.

The assessment outcomes provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks, for use within the higher education (HE) sector and for public information.

Previous Research Assessment Exercises were carried out in 1986, 1989, 1992 and 1996 and 2001 and 2008.

In the 2014 REF ratings of research quality are expressed on a five-point scale:

  • 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 nonetheless 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
  • u/c Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work