Higher education’s X-Factor: everything you always wanted to know about the REF

IOE LONDON BLOG

Chris Husbands

Imagine – if you do not work in a UK university – a cross between the Olympics, the X-factor and a visit from Father Christmas. That will give you some – some – idea of the REF (the Research Excellence Framework), and its importance in academic life. The results of REF2014 are published this week. Around the country, vice-chancellors, pro-vice-chancellors for research, deans, heads of department will be looking anxiously – not just at their own results, but at their competitors. As Gore Vidal famously put it: “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail”.

Research funding matters enormously to government, and to universities. For government, it is how new knowledge is generated, new science supported, innovations which will eventually strengthen national competitiveness developed. For universities, research is the lifeblood, motivating
academics and defining their purpose.

In the UK, the bulk of research funding is offered competitively…

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