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The four bodies – the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Scottish Funding Council, the Department for the Economy, NI, and Research England – are seeking views from subject communities on the draft Panel criteria publication developed by the REF expert panels.

They are also calling for responses on key aspects of the Guidance on submissions publication, which they have developed with advice from the expert panels, including the equality and diversity, and interdisciplinary research advisory panels.

The draft Panel criteria and Guidance on submissions publications set out the detailed requirements for submissions to REF 2021. They follow announcements in autumn 2017 of the funding bodies’ decisions on several areas of the framework.

In the ‘Initial decisions on the Research Excellence Framework 2021' announcement, published in September 2017, the bodies set out the first set of decisions following both the 2016 independent review of the REF led by Lord Stern, and the subsequent consultation activity with the sector in 2016 on the proposals set out in the review. The 'Decisions on staff and outputs' announcement, published in November 2017, followed further consultation on some aspects of the framework, which required further evidence and discussion.

The four UK funding bodies want to ensure that equality and diversity continue to be supported within the REF and are embedded throughout the exercise. The arrangements for taking account of the effect of staff circumstances on productivity during the assessment period are a key part of ensuring this, and views are invited through the consultation on the proposals set out in the Guidance on submissions. The proposals seek to address concerns raised during the 2016 consultation and the detailed development of measures about how staff circumstances can best be recognised in the new submission process. 

Consultation responses are invited from any higher education institution, association, organisation or individual with an interest in the conduct, quality, funding or use of research. Consultation responses should be submitted online at by 12 noon on 15 October 2018. Further information about the REF is available at



1.  About REF 2021

The Research Excellence Framework is the UK's system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. It first took place in 2014. The next exercise will be conducted in 2021.

2.  Draft guidance on codes of practice (REF 2018/03)

Alongside the draft guidance and criteria, the funding bodies have also published draft guidance about submitting codes of practice in REF 2021.

 3.  Consultation events

In September, the funding bodies will be holding three consultation events for HEI representatives. They will offer HEIs the opportunity to provide feedback on the draft framework and assessment criteria from an institutional perspective. Further information can be found at

4.  The REF is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies: the Department for Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), Research England and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC).