GuildHE has responded to the consultation on the initial decisions on the next Research Excellence Framework – REF 2028.

The first consultation considered the fundamental elements of the proposal and structure of the assessment including:

  • Calculating the volume measure – i.e. the number of staff as a proxy for the size of a research environment – and using HESA data to do so;
  • Breaking the link between individuals and outputs, thus moving the assessment towards the way institutions support research overall;
  • Recalibrating the expectations for demonstrating impact through Impact Case Studies and redrawing thresholds for quantities required;
  • Proposed retention of existing Units of Assessment;
  • Effective capturing and acknowledgement of the impact of Covid;
  • Supporting the Welsh language – a mandatory question for HEFCW.

GuildHE’s response made the following key points:

  • Members are concerned about the use of HESA data and how late in the assessment process they will know their accurate volume measure;
  • Due to the changes in the exercise and the development of their own research environments, institutions expect to need to revisit their Codes of Practice, and that this anticipated relief on bureaucracy and burden is unlikely to be realised in practice;
  • Deep concern that underrepresented groups will be further marginalised by the break between individuals and outputs; we ask for clarity on how this will be mitigated in the People, Culture and Environment submission;
  • A mixture of relief that very small units of fewer than 10 FTE will submit just one impact case study, and concern that narrative statements will carry a great deal of importance for overall scores
  • A plea to balance out inequities in the Units of Assessment to improve parity of esteem between disciplines
  • A sense of urgency to issue guidance on these fundamentals, and a request to either review the timeline of submissions by 2027 or stagger proposed changes to enable effective implementation of the policies.