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The guidance in this document has been revised in response to the effects of COVID-19. Please click here to see an overview of all changes to timeframes, along with additional published guidance and details of contingency plans for REF 2021.

Executive summary


1. This document sets out the assessment criteria and working methods of the main and sub-panels for the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF).

2. This document, taken together with the ‘Guidance on submissions’ (REF 2019/01) provides give a comprehensive description of the information required in submissions to the REF, and how the REF panels will assess submissions.

Key points

3. The REF is a process of expert review. Expert sub-panels for each of the 34 units of assessment (UOA) will carry out the assessment, working under the leadership and guidance of four main panels.5. The deadline for submissions is 27 November 2020. Submissions will be assessed by the REF panels during the course of 2021. Results will be published in December 2021, and will be used by the HE funding bodies to inform research funding from the academic year 2022–23.

Action required

4. This document is for information and to guide institutions in preparing and collecting data for inclusion in REF submissions. No action is required by HEIs at this stage.

Further information

5. Enquiries from members of staff at UK HEIs should be directed in the first instance to their institutional REF contact.

6. Other enquiries should be addressed to