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Research Excellence Framework

The 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the process for assessing the quality of research in UK Higher Education institutions. The REF uses a process of expert review with sub-panels for each of 34 Units of Assessment (UOAs) working under the guidance of four broad main panels.

The REF assesses:

  • The quality of research outputs
  • The wider impact of research
  • The vitality of the research environment

The governance for UCLan’s REF2021 submission is outlined in our Code of Practice, which was agreed with staff in April 2019, and approved by the UK funder, Research England, in late 2019. This document outlines the processes UCLan will use to prepare the submission, and the criteria for which staff will be returned.

The information below outlines the key points which can be found in the Code of Practice (COP). The COP was approved by Research England in November 2019 and will govern the University’s REF2021 submission. Members of University staff can find out more about the submission via the staff intranet.

Key points:

  • Equality and Diversity will be embedded throughout the REF process, via Equality Impact Assessments, governance, and within the submission itself.
  • All REF governance, including committee membership and meeting synopsis are made available as part of a commitment to a transparent REF submission.
  • The REF 2021 submission is an institutional submission and UCLan will seek to maximise its quality. All staff contribute in some way to the submission; through outputs, impacts or supporting the research environment at UCLan.
  • All staff with Significant Responsibility for Research will be returned to REF. This means staff must have a minimum of 20% allocation for research in their workload model, meet one or more of a wide range of criteria and have at least one clear research objective in their most recent appraisal.
  • Research Only staff, and Teaching and Research staff undertaking doctoral study, will need to be independent researchers to be included in the submission.
  • Early Career Researchers are required to self-identify and let the REF Team know by completing the relevant proforma. An ECR is anyone who started independent research on or after 1 August 2016.
  • Staff circumstances in REF2021 are those which may have affected an individual’s productivity since 2014. A wide range of circumstances are covered, and staff included in the submission are encouraged to use this process to tell the REF about their circumstances and support their discipline areas.
  • The CoP outlines a confidential, voluntary process for staff circumstance declarations, including who sees the information submitted and what we will do with it.
  • UCLan must submit at least one output per individual submitted to the REF. A combination of internal and external peer review will be used to maximise the quality of the submission. Consideration will be given, wherever possible, to equality and diversity and the balance of disciplines represented.

REF 2021

The REF2021 institutional submission for the University of Central Lancashire has now been sent to Research England. Pulling this together has been a huge team effort, especially during a pandemic, but colleagues have, as always, risen to the challenge.

Full story

REF 2014

In November 2013, UCLan submitted to 16 Units of Assessment (UoA) and the results were published in December 2014. They comprised of an Overall Quality Profile for each UoA showing the percentage of research assessed as being at the following ‘Star Levels’.

  • Four star – Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • Three star – Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
  • Two star – Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • One star – Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • Unclassified – Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or work which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of this assessment.

In addition, separate Sub-Profiles were provided for Research Outputs, Impact and Environment.

The University’s REF 2014 results are now available. Other Universities’ results along with key REF 2014 guidance documents can be found at:

Scroll or swipe on small screens to see all table columns

Unit of Assessment

Impact Case Study

Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy

Assessment and management of emotional response to stroke and psychological recovery

Development and evaluation of initiatives to protect, promote and support breastfeeding and to optimize infant and young child feeding practices

Health Impact Fund

Normal childbirth: Leading international debate, evidence and action

Reducing death and disability from stroke by raising awareness and improving emergency and hyperacute care

Transforming international nutrition practice and policy

Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

Sustainable Public Private Partnerships

The Open-air Laboratories Project

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Creative and technical research into silicates-based materials

Making Histories Visible

Business and Management Studies

Global Microfinance: Fighting against poverty in developing countries

Working with Acas: informing advice, policy and guidance

Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management

Communicating the European Union to its citizens via the news media and internet

Enhancing the digital news production capabilities of the Johnston Press

Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials

Mechanistic research supports the transition to environment friendly fire retardant

Robust assessment of fire toxicity leading to safer products and less loss of life and injury from fires

English Language and Literature

Recovering American radicalism: Woody Guthrie through text and performance

Local and global consequences of trans-Atlantic slavery, abolition and racial oppression

General Engineering

Applications of threaded-fastener research leading to improved plant and transportation safety

Synergistic impacts from cross-sectoral research in signal and image processing technology for aerospace non-destructive evaluation and medical non-invasive diagnosis

Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology

Bones without barriers: engaging with ancient human remains

Earthworm applications: harnessing ecosystem services


Co-operation, voters and reform: a partnership for two capital museum and archive projects

Language and ethnic identity in post-Soviet Russia: a historical perspective


Criminal law, complicity and homicide

Prisoners, families and global human rights

Modern Languages and Linguistics

Championing linguistic rights and educational opportunities for sign language users around the world through Sign Language Typology research

Working with vulnerable deaf communities to support the vitality of endangered rural sign languages


Outreach and research-informed public engagement in astronomy

Polymer modelling software for the chemical industry [Not for publication]

Effects of magnetic layer thickness on particle interactions in magnetic data storage media [Not for publication]

Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

Health related quality of life measurement in clinical trials

Providing software, training and support to the police to allow them to identify criminal suspects using facial-composite images

Developing policies and procedures for managing bullying and aggression in secure services

Social Work and Social Policy

Developing service responses to domestic violence

Healthy Settings: Improving Health and Wellbeing In Higher Education and Criminal Justice Settings

Potential and limitations of policies promoting choice, flexibility and control

Services for children in out-of-home care

Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

Sport, visual culture and museums

The influence of thermal imaging on musculoskeletal problems and sports injuries

Uncovering the treatment effects for the conservative management of the knee

Further information

For more information on the Research Excellence Framework, and the UCLan REF Code of Practice, please email: