British universities await research results

December 19th, 2014 Category: Colleges and Higher Education

British universities are currently awaiting news on how their research activity has been rated, it has been reported.

Results will be published as part of the Research Excellence Framework and will influence how £2 billion of government funding will be distributed.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

Those universities, which are rated more highly as part of this new system, will receive more funding. For example, institutions that achieve at least a four star rating, are much more likely to attract better-qualified staff and additional students.

Figures published with the REF report showed that three-quarters of the institutions had at least 49 per cent of their submitted activity graded as internationally excellent and rated as three star or above.

Furthermore, a quarter of those surveyed a quarter had 79 per cent of their submitted activity graded as internationally excellent or above, with at least a three star rating.

In addition, the findings showed that three-quarters had ten per cent of their submitted activity graded as world-leading.

The report also revealed that a quarter had 30 per cent of their submitted activity graded as four star.

These positive figures highlight the growing level of excellence at British universities. However some critics claimed that the system throws up a number of problems. 

For example, Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said in an interview with the Guardian: “The impact case studies are likely to produce a few surprises, and may shake things up a bit. It’s the first time that universities have had to show the impact of their work, and there’s a lot of uncertainty about the best way to tackle it.”

Other campaigners claimed that REF could end up being nothing more than a bureaucratic exercise, that costs institutions £50 million.

There is also the question of time and resources being diverted towards submitting submitting evidence for the REF report.

The system involves more than 1,000 experts sifting through 1,911 subject submissions by 155 universities. Some 191000 pieces of research were submitted by 52,000 university staff as part of their assessment.

There is also the question of how funds are allocated. For example, leading institutions such as Cambridge and Oxford are much more likely to dominate the lists, meaning they will receive more finances.

However, smaller or newer institutions, could potentially lose out if they are unable to compete with some of the more established ones.


Despite some of the issues highlighted by various critics of the REF system,, the figures are encouraging. The research shows that a high number of universities have been rated as excellent or world-leading.

This can only be a positive development for many education institutions and will help to assist many students with extra information when it comes to selecting a university to attend.