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The pilot of the REF2021 Submission System has been launched with a new release of the software, which includes new REF forms for universities to trial as they begin preparing submissions in earnest. Institutions will be invited to provide views on the system through a feedback survey, which will be issued towards the end of the pilot phase.

The system is being developed using the agile approach, which has already allowed early access to different parts of the system as the development progresses. The current release includes the staff circumstances reduction request forms (REF6a/b), as well as new import functions. Further releases will be made every month until the system goes live early next year.

The current release of the system also sees the launch of the survey of submission intentions, which collects data on the anticipated volume and range of submissions expected in REF 2021. The survey outcomes will be used to assist with planning of the assessment phase, and in particular will inform the appointment of additional members and assessors to the panels.

Alongside the systems launch, new details have been published to support institutions’ submission preparations. This includes a letter inviting institutions to submit requests to reduce the number of outputs required in submissions on the basis of equality-related circumstances for advance consideration. The letter sets out details of the advance submission and review process, and the data requirements. A webinar and worked examples relating to staff circumstances will be published in October, to further support HEIs with this process.

Information relating to the use of citation data in the REF assessment has also been published, including details about the contextual data that will be provided to the assessing panels, and details of the support that Clarivate will provide for submitting institutions. Additionally, details of the data required in the output allocation field (for those sub-panels requesting it) have been published.


  • The pilot will run from 1 October until 18 December 2019.
  • Details of the expected timelines upon which further aspects of the system will be released are available on the REF website here.
  • The REF team invited institutions to participate in the survey of submission intentions in July this year.  View the invite here.
  • The survey of submission intentions is available through the submission system here. The deadline for responses is noon, 6 December 2019.