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Research Excellence Framework (REF)

What is the REF?

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in our universities. REF is a periodic review undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies designed to:

  • provide accountability for public investment in research
  • provide benchmarking information
  • inform the selective allocation of funding for research.

REF is concerned with three distinct aspects of research excellence: the quality of outputs (e.g. publications, performances, and exhibitions), their impact beyond academia, and the environment that supports research. These are assessed through inspection of the work of a number of Units of Assessment (UoAs) subject areas that may span more than one discipline.

The last exercise took place in 2014, the current one takes place during 2021 with the results expected in April 2022. The results of REF 2021 will report on the quality of our research and will inform the selective allocation of funding for research.

The University has entered all eligible staff to REF 2021, in line with our commitment to an inclusive research environment and building on the success and strengths of our REF 2014 submission.

Further details of our preparations for REF 2021 can be found on this page and on the staff intranet (visible to Middlesex staff only), including our REF Code of Practice which sets out our decision-making processes for the fair and transparent selection of staff and associated outputs in the context of the principles of equality and diversity, and all relevant legislation.

  • REF 2021

    • How we planned for REF 2021

      We appointed Unit of Assessment coordinators (UoA) across the University, and the work of preparing our submission was carried out by inclusive University Panels, Faculty Committees, and UoA Working Groups.

      Equality, diversity and inclusion

      Equality, diversity and inclusion is at the heart of everything we do at Middlesex – including the conduct of our research – and the University has sought to ensure that characteristics of our REF 2021 submission and overall academic staffing profile reflect this.

      As we prepared for REF 2021 we established a University REF Equality and Diversity Panel, chaired by the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Diversity), whose considerations follow University policy closely. All staff involved in REF committees, panels and working groups have completed mandatory training in equality, as well as further training for the purposes of REF 2021, including unconscious bias training for all staff involved in decision making.

      Find out more about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Middlesex

      See our Equality and Diversity policy

      Declaration of Individual Staff Circumstances

      Our Middlesex Declaration of Individual Staff Circumstances was sent to all staff whose outputs were eligible for submission to REF2021 (see ‘Guidance on submissions’, paragraphs 117-122). Committed to supporting equality and diversity in REF, we have put in place safe and supportive structures for staff to declare information about any equality-related circumstances that may have affected their ability to conduct their research productively during the assessment period (1 January 2014 – 31 July 2020).

      Staff consultation on our Code of Practice

      All academic colleagues were invited to a series of lunchtime consultation sessions on our Code of Practice in May 2019. Staff who were unable to attend were invited to raise questions or make suggestions on how our Draft Code of Practice could be improved directly to the Director of Research or their Faculty’s Deputy Dean for Research. Following this consultation, the Draft Code of Practice was then submitted to Academic Board for approval in June 2019.

    • Research integrity

      Research integrity underpins all Middlesex research activity. We are committed to the Concordat to Support Research Integrity, the principles of which are a key feature of the University’s Code of Practice for Research, itself periodically reviewed along with Research Ethics Policy Framework Statement (reviewed in 2014 and 2019).

      The Director of Research reports annually on research integrity to the Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee (RKEC), which then reports to the Academic Board. This includes a review of cases of academic misconduct (investigations organised by Registry), Ethics Committee case work, training on research integrity/ethics, lessons learned and proposed actions for the coming year.

      We train and support our researchers on academic and research integrity through our Researcher Development Programme of face-to-face workshops, and an online Academic Integrity Awareness Course – compulsory for newly joined staff.

      Find out more about our Research Ethics

    • REF Code of Practice

      Our REF Code of Practice (COP) sets out our decision-making processes for the fair, open and transparent selection of staff and associated outputs in the context of the principles of equality and diversity, and all relevant legislation. Our COP also shows how all staff employed on academic contracts (teaching and research route, Senior Manager Academic or research only) on the REF census date (31 July 2020) who satisfied  the REF 2021 criteria for inclusion have been submitted.

      See REF 2021 Guidance on codes of practice

    • Open Access and Open Data

      Making research publications open for public access – 'Open Access' publications – enables anyone with an internet connection to read them (free of charge) and also potentially enables their re-use (with appropriate contribution).

      We encourage all of our researchers to deposit publications 'on acceptance' in the Middlesex University Research Repository in line with the University’s Open Access Publications Policy. The University supports its staff to make their research data accessible too, and the University participated in a lively pilot project on the extension of ‘open data’ and data curation in research.

      Further information about Open Access and depositing work in the Repository

    • Privacy Notice

      The REF 2021 Privacy Notice explains what personal information the University holds in relation to the REF 2021 exercise, detailing why we hold this information, what we do with it, how long we keep it for and if we share it with third parties.

      This covers:

      – Current Middlesex University employees (employed during the REF assessment period) who are considered to be REF-eligible individuals with a primary employment function of “Teaching & Research” and may include staff with a primary employment function of “Research only”

      – Former Middlesex University employees (employed during the REF assessment period) who were REF-eligible at the time of ceasing employment and who have research outputs that were generated while they were employed at the University during the REF assessment period

      – Individuals who are not employed by the University but whose contract or job role includes the undertaking of research primarily focused at the University during the REF assessment period or who are not employed by the University but who have provided testimonials concerning the development of impact case studies in relation to the University’s preparations for the REF 2021 exercise.

      View Middlesex University’s REF 2021 Privacy Notice

      See also: Middlesex University Public Policy Statements

    • Rules and guidance

      REF’s national organising executive has produced a number of publications to set out the rules for submission and provide guidance to universities, the most important of which are:

      Guidance on submissions (2019/01)

      Panel criteria and working methods (2019/02)

      Supplementary guidance, which includes revised submission arrangements (should be read alongside the above two)

      Guidance on codes of practice (2019/03)

      Answers to frequently asked questions

  • REF 2014

Headline REF 2014 results

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) ranked Middlesex:

  • Close to the top third for research power across the entire sector
  • The best modern university in London for research power
  • 58% of research classed as world-leading and internationally excellent
  • In top 20 across all creative industries research disciplines
  • 4th in the UK for Social Work and Social Policy.

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