Use of portfolios in REF 2014: UoA 34 – Report on Submissions

REF 2014 Report on Submissions flagged up an importance of portfolios which had been initially introduced to aid institutions in presenting the research dimensions of creative practice. UCA submitted physical portfolios providing clarity on the research questions and methodology, and any supporting materials that would help the panel members with the assessment process.

The panel found that the best examples were presented digitallyclearly outlined the research question and the methodology employed and provided complementary evidence about the work itself.

However, a significant proportion of portfolios submitted were not helpful especially when the submission of evaluative commentary was more concerned with the esteem, impact and status of the output than with the research i.e. contained mainly review and publicity materials. or when they contained disparate materials without an index or clear organisational structure.


Impact in REF 2014: UoA 34 – Report on Submissions

REF 2014 showed that Art and Design research has been very effectively converted into social and economic impact that has had a transformational effect across the UK and internationally.

The variety of impact case studies was the most marked feature of the submission as a whole. Several areas of strength were evident:

  • Exhibition activity was a noticeable strength – curatorship, authorship leading to an exhibition, exhibition design, artistic intervention in museum space and exhibitions of the research of individual researchers.
  • A considerable amount of activity related to the creation and support of SMEs – often facilitated through the formation of dedicated units within HEIs.
  • The design and development of products of various types that demonstrated economic and social impact and other related benefits.

Case studies that were less effective, failed to persuade the panel that the impact was significantly external to the sector.  The small number that were marked as ‘unclassified’

Who is research-active? – A key question for the future of research assessment

On 8 December last year, the UK higher education funding bodies launched the consultation setting out proposals for implementing the Stern recommendation on the next REF. Since then, there has been a lot of discussion about the proposals, including at the consultation events. Through these, and at other engagements, quite a lot of people have…

via Who is research-active? – A key question for the future of research assessment — HEFCE blog

Unit of Assessment 34 – Report on REF 2014 Submissions


In REF 2014,  UCA submitted to Unit of Assessment 34 – Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory which was part of Panel D.  This blog and the two to follow, will provide a synopsis of the key data on submissions, feedback on the process of assessment and an overview of the research in the sector.  Click here, if you would like to read the whole report.

Unit 34 comprised all areas of art and design, including practice, art history and art theory.  This sector proved itself as a leader in interdisciplinary research, particularly evident in product and digital design, film curatorship, media studies, conceptual and performance based art practice.  A significant number of collaborative, team driven projects went beyond the main panel’s remit and into engineering, medical and digital design.  It was also the leader in practice-based research.

The Outputs

To summarise:

  • Unit 34 received the widest range of output types across the whole REF exercise.
  • Photographic practice and Design were noted for their large number of high quality outputs.
  • The Crafts were noted for the growth in the interface between traditional making practices and digital technologies, but the number of outputs had significantly declined since RAE 2008, probably as a result of the closure of programmes.
  • Emergent research activity was noticeable in curatorial studies, critical theory and digital and engineering design.
  • Inter-cultural fine art practice was an important feature. Practice connected to ethnography and anthropology in fine art, design and theoretical studies was especially noted.
  • Exhibition activity across all subject areas had grown considerably since RAE 2008 and collaboration between practice-based researchers and museum professionals led to the expansion of fields of practice in museological and archival environments.
  • The history and theory of art, architecture and design revealed itself to be a major national strength.
  • Physical objects were only a small percentage of the total submission.
  • 57% of the total submission in this sector was from publishing – authored books, edited books, chapters in books and journal articles.

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Issues and Problems with REF 2014

Before making its recommendations for changes to the next REF, the Stern Review looked at REF 2014 and highlighted some of the problems and issues that arose from it.  They are summarised below, but click here if you would like to read the full report.

  1. Cost

REF 2014 was an expensive business costing an estimated £246 million – 133% more that RAE 2008 and about 2.5% of the funds distributed.  The majority of this cost (£212 million) was borne by the HEIs.  The rest was divided between the four UK funding bodies and the cost of the panellists.

  1. Gaming

There was potential for ‘gaming’ i.e. playing the system in REF 2014.  The following practices were highlighted:

  • Institutions hiring staff to enhance their REF return as the census date approached
  • recruiting overseas staff on fractional contracts who were submitted to REF, but contributed very little to the institution.

In some areas, this led to:

  • a highly selective submission to REF that was not a true representation of the overall research activity.
  • Exclusion of other good research staff who did not fit the HEI selection strategy
  • Salary inflation for those the HEI’s wished to recruit/retain, but not for others.

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What’s this thing called REF?

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK Higher Education Institutions

Primary purpose of REF: QR funding allocation

►4 UK HE Funding bodies allocate approximately £2bn per annum
►To ensure ‘a dynamic and internationally competitive UK research sector’
►To contribute to ‘economic prosperity, national wellbeing and the expansion and dissemination of knowledge’
►Institutional strategy development
►Response to emerging new areas

search-bar-image What’s QR Funding?

Public funding for Higher Education research is administered under a ‘dual support’ system. Under this system, research infrastructure is funded through a grant called Quality Related (QR) funding, and specific research projects are funded through UK Research Councils through a bidding process.

Other purposes of REF

Continue reading “What’s this thing called REF?”