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Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021

Updated 22/06/20

The REF team has announced the funding bodies’ decisions on the revised submission deadline and the assessment period for impact. Click here to read the full news item.

Key points are:

  • The revised REF submission date for all elements will be 31st March 2021
  • The impact assessment period will be universally extended to 31 December 2020.
  • The census date remains the same – 31st July 2020.
  • The revised submission deadline of 31 March 2021 will be reviewed by 6 November 2020 or, if sooner, in the event of a further significant and sustained outbreak.
  • They will consult shortly on further mitigations (summary information below)
  • They intend to finalise any mitigations and notify institutions about the full set of revisions to the exercise by 31 July 2020.

Further Decisions & Consultation

Some details about further revisions to the exercise are not yet finalised. This includes any other changes necessary to REF deadlines in view of the four month delay, such as the deadlines for submitting corroborating evidence for impact case studies and redacted versions of impact case studies. It also includes potential further mitigations to account for the effects of COVID-19 on submissions. Research England intend to engage with the sector and wider partners shortly on these proposed mitigations for impact, outputs and environment.

They will set out the proposals in a webinar, scheduled for 24 June 2020 (information here). Views will be invited via an online survey, with a response deadline of noon, 8 July 2020. They intend to finalise any mitigations and notify institutions about the full set of revisions to the exercise by 31 July 2020.


The REF team has written to heads of institutions to outline the UK higher education funding bodies’ current position in relation to contingency planning for coronavirus for the REF 2021. The key points are:

  1. The submission deadline (27 November 2020) will be changed. There is no indication yet as to the new date, but the letter states institutions will receive at least 8 months’ notice.
  2. The census date (31 July 2020) remains the same, for now.
  3. Further details to follow.

2/3/20 – Research England has published some FAQs about their contingency planning for REF 2021, in light of the impact of the pandemic –https://www.ref.ac.uk/faqs/.


To inform the REF development work, initial views will be invited from the HE sector on two central issues for the revised exercise: the timing of the new submission deadline; and the broad approach to taking account of effects on impact case studies.

Views on these two issues will be gathered via a short survey, which will also open on Tuesday 21 April, following the webinar. The deadline for responses will be noon, Tuesday 5 May.

Recording of the webinar, slides and survey are accessible here –

https://www.ref.ac.uk/guidance/training-and-events-materials/webinar-and-survey-initial-views-on-ref-timetable/Return to main Covid-19 page