Performance-based research funding systems (PBRFSs) have been used in selectively distributing research funding, increasing public money accountability and efficiency. Two recent such evaluations in England were called the Research Excellence Framework (REF), which took place in 2014 and 2021, and the research environment, outputs and impact of the research were evaluated. Even though various aspects of the REF were examined, there has been limited research on how the performance of the universities and disciplines changed between the two evaluation periods. This paper assesses whether there has been convergence or divergence in research quality across universities and subject areas between 2014 and 2021 and found that there was an absolute convergence between universities in all three research elements evaluated, and universities that performed relatively worse in REF in 2014 experienced higher growth in their performance between 2014 and 2021. There was also an absolute convergence in the research environment and impact across different subject areas, but there is no significant convergence in the quality of research outputs across disciplines. Our findings also highlight that there has been an absolute convergence in research quality within the universities (between different disciplines in a given university) and within disciplines (between universities in a given subject).
- Performance-based research funding systems
- Research excellence framework