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Home Article ECU response to Lord Stern’s review of the Research Excellence Framework

ECU response to Lord Stern’s review of the Research Excellence Framework

Published: 04/04/2016

ECU comments on equality requirements in the REF 2014.

Equality Challenge Unit has responded to the current review of the Research Excellence Framework 2014, specifically regarding the equality requirements that were embedded into the process.

  • You can download the response on the right hand side of this page.

ECU believes that the equality and diversity requirements were successful in increasing the numbers of women, early careers researchers and those with equality-related circumstances, submitted to the REF. However, there continue to be disparities in submission rates by different protected groups, and we believe that this can be improved by maintaining the focus on equality and diversity.

The measures included in the REF have had an impact beyond the exercise itself, with some institutions using them in promotion processes, for example.

We believe that more consideration needs to be given to the equality impact of the use of metrics, and to equality in the development of research.


  • Equality requirements should remain part of any future REF.
  • Policies and processes relating to the selection of staff that are included in any guidance from UK higher education funding bodies are impact assessed at the national level enabling HEIs to focus on data analyses of their REF exercises.
  • An optional equality impact assessment template is introduced.
  • The use of metrics is not increased until concerns relating to their impact on equality and diversity are addressed.
  • REF panels should receive unconscious bias training as well as equality and diversity training.
  • Equality is assessed at both institutional and unit of assessment levels.
  • The assessment of equality in the research environment is simplified.
  • The definition of research impact be extended to include reference to equality.
  • The strong emphasis on equality should remain to serve as a stimulus for continued and further behavioural change in the sector.