Burnaby Building; June 2019; XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence)

Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF 2021)

Find out more about our REF 2021 submission and results

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the benchmark of a university's research success. Find out how we performed in REF 2021.

Our REF 2021 Results

The results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) provide accountability for public investment in research, demonstrate the benefits of this investment and determine how much public money is given to fund research.

77 per cent of research we submitted is rated in the highest categories — world-leading and internationally excellent — with wide-ranging impacts on society, health, culture, and the environment.

We are ranked third of all modern post-92 universities in the UK for research power, which measures the quality and quantity of research submitted into the exercise.

Our REF submission included 1,407 research outputs and 54 impact case studies across 16 subject disciplines and involved 603 academic staff.

Our Units of Assessment (UoA)

Our REF 2021 submission covered sixteen Units of Assessment. For detailed information about our results in each area, please click on the Unit names.

REF ratings explained

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is an independent review of the quality of research in the UK's Higher Education institutions.

It's undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies.

Classification Description
4* World-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
3* Internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
2* Recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
1* Recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.

The REF results are important because they:

  • Show the quality of our research
  • Expand our reputation
  • Show how effectively we spend our research funding
  • Help us make our case for further funding

The outcomes of REF are used to:

  • Inform the selective allocation of research funding to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)
  • Provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks
  • Provide accountability for public investment in research and demonstrate its benefits

Looking for results from previous REF submissions? View our REF 2014 results.


Our Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF 2021) preparations are led by our REF Steering Committee, coordinated by our REF Operations Group, and administered by a REF Team in our Research and Innovation Services (RIS) department.


Code of Practice

All institutions are required to develop a Code of Practice for REF 2021, setting out their approach to the identification of staff and selection of outputs for submission to this exercise.

This code outlines our policies and processes for:

  • Identifying staff with significant responsibility for research
  • Assessing research independence
  • Selecting outputs for REF 2021
  • Supporting staff with personal circumstances
  • Informing staff of the appeals process

The policies and processes set out in this Code were developed through consultation with staff at all levels across the University and with staff representative groups – including University and College Union (UCU) representatives, who gave their agreement to this Code of Practice.

Our REF 2021 Code of Practice

Read our Code of Practice for REF 2021
DocFest; 20th June 2019; PhD Candidates
Download the PDF

REF 2021 Staff Privacy Statement

The University is making a single submission to the REF 2021 and therefore this data notice applies to current and former staff within our submission.

For the purpose of GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 the University of Portsmouth is the "Data Controller" for processing personal data collected for our REF submission.  REF 2021 is an exercise to assess the quality of UK Research and inform the selective distribution of public funds for research by the four UK Higher Education Funding Bodies; it comprises assessment of research outputs, impact and environment in subject areas ('units of assessment or UoAs) and requires the submission of details of all eligible staff.

Your personal data may be used to support the University's REF 2021 submission, which as a national research assessment exercise is carried out in the legitimate interests of the University, and current and former employees.

We will retain all data used in the development of the REF submission until completion of the REF audit process (April 2022 latest), and will retain a copy of any outputs, impact and environment submission after submission, in order to facilitate future REF submissions. Data is retained for as long as it is required to perform the above purpose, or for as long as is required by law. At the end of that retention period, personal data will either be deleted completely or anonymised, for example by aggregation with other data so that it can be used in a non-identifiable way for statistical analysis, equality impact assessment and business planning.

Should you have any queries or concerns regarding data use for REF 2021, please contact Denise Teasdale, Research Manager, at denise.teadale@port.ac.uk.

Download the Staff Privacy Statement (PDF)

Complaints procedure

With the REF submission deadline of 31 March 2021 having now passed, Research England have confirmed the process for individuals to make a formal complaint where they believe an institution has not followed its agreed Code of Practice.

The process has two phases. The first phase is open from April 2021 to 30 November 2021, and will address complaints prior to publication of the REF 2021 results. The second phase will look at complaints that arise after the results are published, expected to be in April 2022. This phase will end on 30 June 2022.

Submitted complaints will first be examined by the REF Team at Research England, and those that are in scope for the process and where sufficient grounds have been provided will then be considered by an expert panel from across the four Funding Bodies.

Complaints can only relate to alleged breaches of the agreed Code of Practice, and cannot relate to any other REF issues including suitability of the Code itself, academic judgement applied to decisions, and conduct of individuals.

Any individual can submit a complaint directly by email to the REF Team at Research England. Complaints cannot be submitted anonymously. Complainants will be advised about the use of any personal data that must be submitted as part of their complaint.

The REF Team may also trigger an investigation where they believe a systemic, rather than individual or isolated, breach of an institution’s Code has taken place.

Open access

To be eligible for REF, Research England’s Open Access (OA) Policy requires that journal and conference articles are open access. This policy applies to articles accepted for publication from 1 April 2016. To meet the conditions of this policy, our research staff must upload a copy of their articles to our research portal as soon as they're accepted for publication.

Contact us

If you'd like more information about REF 2021, please visit ref.ac.uk. If you have questions about our preparations for REF 2021, please contact ref@port.ac.uk.