REF 2021 resumes with new guidance

REF 2021 recommences on 31 July 2020. This follows a four-month pause due to COVID-19.

   16 August 2020

The recommencement of REF 2021 marks the start of the countdown to the revised submission deadline of midday, 31 March 2021, following a period during which the exercise was on hold in response to COVID-19. It is accompanied by new guidance, describing revisions to the exercise made in view of the altered timetable and to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on universities’ submissions.

To support universities in the final stages of submission preparation, following the pause period and COVID-19 disruption experienced, the four UK higher education funding bodies that conduct the REF have agreed the final set of revisions to the timetable and guidance. They have also provided preliminary advice on putting in place contingency arrangements for REF submission preparation.

Informed by responses to surveys on REF revisions, the ‘Guidance on revisions to REF 2021’ (REF 2020/02) describes the changes both to the overall timetable, as well as the guidance that aims to take account of the effects of COVID-19. Included among the revisions are:

  • an allowance for submitting outputs that are delayed due to COVID-19, and extension of the existing process for removing output requirements where there are mitigating staff circumstances, to include COVID-19 related circumstances;
  • options to provide explanatory text to the assessing panels on affected outputs and impact case studies; and
  • additional text to describe the effects of COVID-19 on the institution’s environment for supporting research and enabling impact.

Alongside that publication, the ’Advice on contingency planning’ (REF 2020/03) provides some points of advice for universities to consider, in order to minimise further disruption to the preparation of REF submissions.