REF international comparisons

Many countries around the world have introduced (or are considering introducing) procedures for the evaluation and assessment of higher education research. In some countries, the allocation of research funds to universities now depends wholly or partly on the results of evaluation of their previous research. Below are some international examples, including union responses.


In 2012, the Australian Research Council conducted the second Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) evaluation across all eight discipline clusters. It applied to research undertaken between 1 January 2005 and 31 December 2010:

National Tertiary Education Union’s ‘ERA Watch’:

UPDATE: you can also see how the NTEU reacted to our REF survey in their article ‘Time to Review Research Assessment and its Impacts upon Academic Staff

New Zealand

In the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF), every New Zealand scholar is evaluated on their ‘outputs’ (on publications, peer esteem, and contribution to research environment) in order to allocate appropriate levels of government research funding to the country’s public and private tertiary providers:

For the view of the New Zealand Tertiary Education Union to the PBRF, see:


In Italy, the National Agency for the Evaluation of Universities and Research Institutes (ANVUR) has overseen a new evaluation of national research structures, in which the rankings determine a proportion of funding allocated to universities. ANVUR has also introduced a controversial bibliometrics-based evaluation of individual academics.

For more detail, see Laura Margottini, Government ‘Exams’ for Italian Scientists Trigger Outcry, Science Mag, 13 December 2012,

Italian researchers have established a website to challenge the ANVUR and its policies: Return on Academic Research: (in Italian)


In Germany, there is a plan to introduce a Research Rating (Forschungsrating) for all subjects, which will use both quantitative and qualitative data in evaluating the quality of research. As with the existing system in the Netherlands, there will be no attempt to link the research ratings to institutional funding.

For more details, see Elizabeth Gibney, Germany’s Research Rating will make quality its own reward, Times Higher Education,14 February 2013,

A critique and discussion of a boycott by the German Sociological Association can be found here: (in German and English)


In 2007 the French government introduced a new system for evaluating universities and research centres (under the direction of the Evaluation Agency for Research and Higher Education – AERES). The new Socialist government has proposed to streamline the AERES and its evaluation system.

For a critical view of the proposed changes, see  ‘Sauvons La recherche’: (in French)