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1.     Further to the letter from the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation to universities, I am writing on behalf of the funding bodies to update institutions on contingency planning for REF 2021. This follows the rapid developments in the UK’s response to coronavirus in recent days.

2.     We are considering the full contingency arrangements for the exercise as a matter of urgency; however, we recognise that institutions are needing to divert staff resource to other critical areas, including for those working in clinical and health-related fields. We wish to reassure institutions that such activities should be prioritised without concern for the effect on REF preparations. We are putting the exercise on hold until further notice to enable this, and are now working on the adapted details of the framework.

3.     This means that the submission deadline on 27 November 2020 will no longer apply, and we will announce a new submission deadline no later than eight months prior to the deadline. We will ensure full allowance is made for the impact of coronavirus across affected areas of submissions. The funding bodies recognise the significant effort that has been invested so far by institutions in preparations for the current REF cycle. In view of this, and following the Minister’s advice to universities on supporting their staff, the REF staff census date (31 July 2020) remains unchanged. However, we are at an early stage of understanding the full impact on universities as they respond to calls to support the national effort in the face of COVID-19.

4.     When we have greater clarity about the period of serious disruption to universities, we will consult on the adapted details of the framework. We will aim for the consultation activity to be as light touch as possible, in view of these challenging times.

5.     In the short term, I can confirm that we have lifted the 3 April deadline for nominations to the expert panels. Nominations may continue to be made until further notice. An appropriate notice period will be given when a new deadline is in place.

6.     Staff continue to be available across the funding bodies to provide answers to any REF-related queries. Please, do not hesitate to contact should you have any queries or concerns that are not addressed by this update.


REF Director