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Research Excellence Framework

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Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021

What is the REF?

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in the UK higher education institutions. It last took place in 2014 and the next exercise will be conducted in 2021. 

The REF is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies. The shared policy aim for research assessment is to secure the continuation of a world-class, dynamic and responsive research base across the full academic spectrum within UK higher education. More information on the REF process can be found here.

Our results in REF 2014

  • Royal Holloway is in the top 25 per cent of UK universities for research rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.
  • 81 per cent of our research is in world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*) categories.
  • 30 per cent of our research is rated 4*, the highest category.
  • Geography - ranked the top Geography department in England.
  • Drama, Earth Sciences, Psychology, Mathematics and Music - ranked within the top five departments for their subject in the UK.
  • Media Arts and Modern Languages - ranked within the top ten for their subject in the UK.
  • Under the ‘output’ measure which looks at the quality of research produced by each university, we are ranked 15th out of 154 universities.

View detailed REF 2014 results

REF 2014 was carried out by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Scottish Funding Council (SFC), Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL).


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