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Executive Summary

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The UK higher education bodies asked RAND Europe to evaluate the assessment process for the impact element of the Research Excellence Framework 2014, and to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the assessment process in delivering reliable, robust and fair outcomes, identify any unforeseen issues emerging during the assessment process and outline broad implications for the assessment proves of impact in future exercises.

This report provides a summary of our key findings, complemented by a details analysis of the parts of the assessment process. It complements a previous piece of research that RAND Europe undertook for the UK higher education funding councils to evaluation the preparation process HEIs undertook as part of the exercise.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Panel structure and membership

  • Chapter Three

    Allocation of impact case studies and impact templates

  • Chapter Four

    Calibration exercise

  • Chapter Five

    Review of impact case studies and individual scoring

  • Chapter Six

    Review of impact templates

  • Chapter Seven

    Scoring agreement and moderation

  • Chapter Eight

    Evidence checking and audit

  • Chapter Nine

    Overview of the perceived benefits and challenges associated with the assessment process

  • Chapter Ten

    Burden associated with the assessment of the impact element of REF 2014

  • Appendix A

    List of panels and units of assessment for REF 2014

  • Appendix B

    Semi-structured protocol for focus group interviews

  • Appendix C

    NVivo code book for coding interviewee responses from the focus groups

  • Appendix D

    Survey protocols for those involved in the assessment of the impact element of REF 2014

  • Appendix E

    Protocol for individual interviews with panellists involved in the assessment of impact

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and was conducted by RAND Europe.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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