REF Impact

REF 2014 (Research Excellence Framework) introduced impact as a new assessment category. It accounted for 20% of the overall quality profile.

Impact for REF 2014 was judged on “reach and significance”. That is, how widely the impact was felt (not necessarily a geographic measure) and how much difference was made to the beneficiaries.

The University of St Andrews submitted over 80 impact case studies to REF 2014. Some of these are featured amongst the fabulous examples of impact on our impact blog.

Initial decisions on REF2021

HEFCE will maintain consistency with the previous exercise in the following key areas:

  • Impacts will remain eligible for submission by the institution or institutions in
    which the associated research has been conducted.
  • Impacts should be underpinned by excellent research, with ‘excellent’
    research continuing to mean the quality of the research is at least equivalent to two
  • Dates for research underpinning the impact case studies: 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2020
  • Dates of the impacts occurred as described in the case studies: 1 August 2013 to 31 July 2020.

Impact weighting has bieen increased to 25% or the overall quality score. The weightings are as follows:

  • outputs – 60%
  • impact – 25%
  • environment – 15%

Case studies continued from examples submitted in 2014 will be eligible for
submission in REF 2021.

HEFCE intend to broaden out the relationship between the underpinning
research and impact from individual outputs, to include a wider body of work or
research activity.

The impact case study template (‘REF3b’ in 2014) will be revised to include
a set of mandatory fields, the better to support the assessment and audit process.
These will include prefatory material, including the case study title, as well as
information relating to the time period and employment of staff involved in the
associated research.

The impact template (‘REF3a’ in 2014) will be included as an explicit
section in the environment element of the assessment.


  • Summer to Autumn 2018 – HEFCE aims to publish draft guidance and consultation on panel criteria
  • Winter 2018-19 – HEFCE plan to publish the final guidance and criteria