REF selectivity fears ‘prove unfounded’

Fears that universities would be more selective about who they submitted to the 2014 research excellence framework have proved unfounded.

December 5, 2013

According to funding councils, higher education institutions submitted 52,077 staff to the REF, the submission deadline for which was 29 November. This is only fractionally fewer than the 52,401 submitted to the 2008 research assessment exercise.

Academic numbers have grown during the intervening period, but only by just over 1 per cent. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, there were 179,040 academics in 2008-09, compared with 181,385 in 2011-12: the most recent year for which figures are available.

This means 28.7 per cent of academics have been submitted to the REF, compared with 29.3 per cent to the 2008 RAE - though the numbers released by the funding council are full-time equivalents, while the Hesa figures simply record the number of salaried academics both full and part-time.

The number of academics submitted to the 2014 exercise is just over 2,000 fewer than the 54,269 that universities said they would submit in the funding councils’ survey of submission intentions, the results of which were released earlier this year.

However, the numbers still belie fears that the removal of funding for 2* research would make universities significantly more selective than ever about who they submitted for assessment.

The funding councils have also confirmed that all 155 institutions that intend to participate in the REF made their submissions by the deadline.

Earlier this week Hesa announced that on 18 December 2014 it would release data on the number of staff submitted to the REF by each institution in each unit of assessment.

The REF results are due also to be published in December 2014, raising the prospect that league tables based on the results could be weighted according to proportions of staff submitted.

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