Accessibility statement

Update on REF (last updated July 31)

Revised REF guidance was published by Research England on 31 July, announcement here. Details of the consultation process to determine these changes are provided below.

  • The revised REF submission deadline will be noon, Wednesday 31 March 2021, for all elements of submissions.
  • The official revised timetable for REF can be found here: revised timetable.
  • The assessment period for impact has been universally extended to 31 December 2020 (replacing the previous end date of 31 July 2020).  The extension has been put in place to enable case studies affected by, or focusing on the current response to, COVID-19 to be assessed in REF 2021.
  • The staff census date of 31 July 2020 is unchanged. The assessment period for outputs remains 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2020 and for environment, remains 1 August 2013 to 31 July 2020.
  • There will be a review date in November 2020 to consider whether further contingency arrangements are needed, though the submission deadline would only be revisited in a significantly worsened context.
  • The new deadline for panel nominations is noon, Monday 7 September. Further details of the announcement can be found here, and a guide to the nomination process can be found here.
  • Outputs which were delayed due to Covid-19 but which were expected to be published by 31 December 2020 will still be eligible for submission to REF
  • There will be optional affected outputs statements for delayed outputs not yet in the public domain in their final form. 
  • Requests to remove the minimum of one output can be made where Covid-19 related circumstances apply.
  • The use of the 'other' exception for outputs published in 2020 will not inform whether open access compliance is subject to audit.
  • The dates for underpinning research of Impact Case Studies remain the same, however the delayed outputs process mentioned above will also apply to underpinning research. In addition, an optional affected Impact Case Study statement will be introduced. 
  • An optional 500 word annex to the Institutional Environment Statement on the effects of Covid-19.
  • Further guidance on the forward looking aspects of environment templates.

Implications of COVID-19 on REF Planning for York

The REF Strategy Group has discussed the initial implications of COVID-19 on REF planning and preparation and the key points from this are listed below:

  • REF Check Exercise. The final REF Check exercise will be in the Autumn, and to reduce burden on departments a phased deadline approach has been put in place. Impact Case Studies and Environment Templates can be submitted for either Friday 28 August or Friday 25 September. Departments must inform RSPO of their selected deadline by Friday 31 July. The deadline for the selection of outputs is Friday 30 October. Further guidance and resources can be found on the Autumn REF Check site here.

  • REF timeline. The final internal deadline for REF submission will be Friday 29 January 2021.
  • REF preparation. It was recognised by the Group that there is a differential impact on whether staff and departments have the capacity to work on REF submissions at this challenging time. It was agreed to work flexibly with departments to support those who have the capacity to work on REF preparation. For example, RSPO will continue to work on REF preparation throughout, whilst seeking to limit the burden on departments.
  • REF Environment. The Group agreed to follow up on the postponed REF Environment workshop by presenting this online in a series of workshops. A revised Institutional Environment Statement has been shared with departments, alongside current copies of Unit-level Environment templates where permission has been given to share.
  • REF4 data. The updated research income-in-kind data (REF4c) has been delayed by COVID-19 and will be shared as it becomes available.

  • REF6 staff circumstances requests. EDAP are in the process of assessing the REF6 requests made by HEIs at the 6 March 2020 deadline. Any requests for further information will be shared by 31 July and the outcomes of the requests will be given in w/c 14 September.

If you have any questions, please contact the Research Strategy and Policy Office in the first instance (

Consultation process on changes to REF 2021

Research England held a webinar on 21 April to present the changes. Initial views were invited from the HE sector on two central issues for the revised exercise namely: the timing of the new submission deadline; and the broad approach to taking account of effects on impact case studies. A short survey was shared following the webinar with a deadline of noon, Tuesday 5 May for responses. Departments were invited by RSPO to feed into the institutional response, which has now been collected from departments to inform the University’s response. This blog from the Research England REF Director Kim Hackett - - provides a useful overview of where they are currently in this process, and the kinds of changes they are considering). 

A copy of the university response can be found here: REF survey - University response (PDF , 86kb)

Research England’s initial update on the outcomes of this survey are available here: See the update above for the latest round of consultation.

second webinar set out the proposals for furher changes to REF. The decisions made as a result of this second round of consultation are covered by this announcement.