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Research Excellence Framework 2021

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Public funding for research in Higher Education in England is distributed through the ‘dual-support system’ with funding coming through either the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in the form of a ‘block grant’, or through UK Research Councils for specific projects. HEFCE distributes its £1.6 billion annual block-grant quality-related (QR) funding based on a cyclical assessment of research quality; the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The last REF was conducted in 2014 and following the outcomes of a significant government review of the process, led by Lord Stern in December 2015, HEFCE has now released a major consultation on how the exercise should be taken forward. The consultation is wide ranging and particularly open ended in the questions and issues it raises. Some of the key issues, such as the ending of the practice by which institutions can submit research outputs undertaken by researchers previously employed elsewhere, could have significant implications for the future of research conducted in the UK. This briefing note sets out some of the more substantive changes and presents some observations on their implications.

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