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The contents of this page refer to details that were amended after the exercise was paused in response to COVID-19. Please click here to see an overview of changes to timeframes, along with additional published guidance and details of contingency plans for REF 2021.

The environment pilot guidance is supplementary to the main REF guidance, set out in the ‘Guidance on submissions’ and ‘Panel criteria and working methods’. The pilot will take place alongside the REF assessment in 2021.

The inclusion of an institutional-level environment statement is a new feature for REF 2021, following the recommendations of the independent review of the REF led by Lord Stern. The statement will minimise duplication across universities’ submissions and provide the REF sub-panels with important context to inform their assessment of the unit-level environment.

Alongside the REF 2021 assessment, a separate pilot exercise will consider the standalone assessment of the institutional-level environment in order to assess the viability of its discrete assessment in future exercises. The results of the pilot assessment will not inform the outcomes of REF 2021. The pilot panel will make recommendations as to whether and how an assessment of the institutional environment should be included in future.

The publication of the Institutional-level environment pilot: supplementary guidance on submissions and panel criteria and working methods follows a period of consultation with the HE sector. The document sets out supplementary guidelines for institutions to consider in developing their submissions, and describes how the panel will undertake the pilot assessment. The deadline for submissions to the REF is noon, 27 November 2020.


  • The four UK funding bodies are Research England, the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland.
  • The pilot panel is chaired by Professor Chris Day, Vice Chancellor and President of Newcastle University, and includes senior research leaders with a breadth of discipline expertise across a range of UK HEIs, as well as individuals with expertise in the wider use and benefits of research, and those with senior-level experience in research management.