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157 universities are participating in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021Over 185,000 research outputs have been submitted for assessment by expert panels. The assessment will take place over the coming yearAround 6,700 case studiesdescribing specific examples of research impactwill also be reviewed. 

Over 76,000 staff have been returned in the exercise, which is a 46 per cent increase since REF 2014. This increase is in line with changes to the way that staff are submittedmoving from a selective approach in that exercise to submitting all staff with significant responsibility for research in REF 2021. 

The original submission deadline in November 2020 was revised last year, in response to the effects of COVID-19. Further revisions to the exercise have also been introducedthat aim to take account of the effects on REF submissionsThese included the option to request an extension for providing the narrative parts of submissions. This measure has given support where it’s been needed, with around 3 per cent of impact case studies and 5 per cent of environment statements due to be submitted in the next six weeks. 

Commenting on reaching the submission deadline, Kim Hackett, REF Director, said: 

The past year has presented many challenges for universities and their staff. Woffer our thanks to them for working with the REF team and funding bodies in such uncertain times to ensure we can deliver a robust and timely assessmentI am delighted to have reached this milestone and look forward to working closely with the panels on the assessment during the next year.’ 

The outcomes of REF 2021 are due to be announced in April 2022. The REF team will write to institutions in the autumn with further details about the arrangements for publishing the REF results. 


  • The staff figure given for REF 2021 relates to Category A submitted full time equivalent (FTE) staff. These are academic staff employed by an institution who meet the eligibility criteria for REF on the census date (31 July 2020) and who have significant responsibility for research.