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The four higher education (HE) funding bodies have published a report analysing the representativeness of the REF panels across the protected groups. The ‘Analysis of REF 2021 panel membership’ (REF2019/07) summarises the equalities characteristics of the members appointed to the expert panels for REF 2021, and compares this with the characteristics of the pool of nominees for panel membership and the expert panels in REF 2014, as well as the UK population of permanent academic staff and permanent professors.

The report identifies a number of positive trends, including marked improvement in female representation on panels since the last REF exercise. The analysis shows that 45 per cent of members appointed to panels in REF 2021 are female, compared with 33 per cent in REF 2014, which is a statistically significant increase. Significant increases were also seen in the proportion of appointed members with a declared disability, and in the proportion of members describing themselves as LGB.

There are some areas in which the data show more limited progress, particularly in terms of representation of those from BME backgrounds. While the proportion of appointed members from BME backgrounds is slightly higher than in the previous exercise, it remains lower than in the comparator academic populations.

Based on these findings there are a number of steps that the funding bodies will take to improve further the representativeness of the REF 2021 panels, including through adjustments to both the nominations and selection processes. The funding bodies will put these in practice ahead of the second round of recruitment in 2020.

A report by the Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel (EDAP) has also been published, which analyses the equality and diversity templates submitted by nominating bodies in 2017 alongside their nominations for panel members.

The ‘Review of nominating bodies equality and diversity templates’ report provides reflections on the effectiveness of the new process of submitting equality and diversity templates, highlights examples of good practice and sets out recommendations for future rounds of panel membership recruitment.

Both reports are accompanied by a blog from the Chair of EDAP, Professor Dianne Berry OBE, reflecting on the findings from the reports and on further work to continue improving panel representativeness.