Open University responds to review of Research Excellence Framework

The independent review of the process for assessing university research and allocating public funding has been published by Lord Nicholas Stern outlining proposals to protect and strengthen the UK’s leadership in world-class research.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is run every 5 to 6 years and requires UK universities, that conduct research, to submit their top research papers demonstrating the impact of their work, for assessment. The results of the REF are then used to inform the allocation of government funding to universities for research.

Responding to the publication Building on Success and Learning from Experience, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University Peter Horrocks said:

“Overall, The Open University welcomes the greater flexibility to showcase interdisciplinary and collaborative impacts by submitting ‘institutional’ level impact case studies as part of a new institutional level assessment. This is an opportunity for us to showcase research impact aligned with our social mission.

However one recommendation which raises some concerns is that all research active academics should be submitted to the REF. There can be significant variation in how much time faculty members spend on research that leads to returnable outputs, with many staff devoting the majority of their time to teaching or contract work for business. Enabling institutions to return more outputs for some research active staff and fewer for others may provide some flexibility.

Other recommendations in the review that has resonated with the OU include:
• REF continuing to support research excellence wherever it is found.
• A new institutional level assessment to foster greater cohesiveness between academics and which rewards collaboration on interdisciplinary activities.
• The notion of research “impact”, one which was introduced in REF 2014, is widened and deepened is also good news as this facilitates the capturing of unexpected and unusual impacts which arise from university research.


To find out more about research at The Open University visit the research website.