REF and Covid-19

Confirmation of Revised Deadlines from Research England (19 June 2020):

Research England have issued the following update on the revised REF deadlines:

Key decisions on the revised submission deadline and impact assessment period have been confirmed, following a recent survey gathering views from the higher education sector.

A letter sent today to heads of institutions sets out the four UK higher education funding bodies’ decisions on the timing of the submission deadline for the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) and extension to the assessment period for impact.

The revised submission deadline is confirmed as noon, 31 March 2021, for all elements of submissions. The exercise is scheduled to resume on 31 July 2020, eight months ahead of the revised submission deadline. Updated guidance on any revisions to the exercise will be published by this date, following a further period of engagement with the HE sector and wider partners. As previously advised the staff census date of 31 July 2020 remains unchanged.

In recognition of ongoing uncertainty about the effects of COVID-19, the funding bodies have set a review date in November 2020. This will consider the level of disruption being experienced, and whether further contingency arrangements for the REF may be necessary.

The letter also confirms an extension to the period in which examples of impact may occur, in order to be eligible for submission. The extended assessment period for impact will therefore run from 1 August 2013 to 31 December 2020. This is an extension from the previous end date of 31 July 2020. The extension has been put in place to enable case studies affected by, or focusing on the current response to, COVID-19 to be assessed in REF 2021.   These decisions follow a short survey seeking views from the sector, which closed in May 2020.

Full Research England Letter

In summary the revised timetable is therefore:

  • The census date for staff will remain 31 July 2020
  • The deadline for outputs will remain 31 December 2020
  • The census period for impact will extend from 31 July 2020 to 31 December 2020
  • The deadline for the submission of final documentation will extend from 27 November 2020 to 31 March 2021

We will be updating the SHU Code of Practice to reflect these revisions, and will share more details of the implications of this revised timeline on the preparation of our submission.

If you have any queestion or concerns in relation to this update, or the REF preparations in general, please direct any queries to


Research England Coronavirus Contingency Planning FAQs (2 April 2020):


All Staff Email (27 March 2020):

Further to the communication on Wednesday sharing news of the postponement of the REF 2021 submission date in response to the Covid 19 situation, I just wanted to briefly reflect on the details of this, and the implications on SHU preparations and staff.

The first thing to clarify is that not all parts of REF have been postponed.  The census dates for staff, outputs and impact remain the same.  The extra time granted is essentially for pulling together and crafting the final submission documents.  The original deadline for this has now been postponed until further notice, and we will be notified at least 8 months in advance of the new deadline.  Since the original census dates have not been changed, an interpretation of how this announcement may affect individuals can be a little confusing, so I will outline here the specific changes relating to the different components.


The census date for staff remains 31/7/20.  All staff in post on this date, who meet the criteria for significant responsibility for research (SRfR), as per the University’s Code of Practice, will be submitted to the REF.  Staff meeting these criteria were notified via individual emails in September.  For lecturers, senior lecturers and principal lecturers, the essential data that will confirm your inclusion will be your AWP system record for 2019-20 (on the census date of 31/7/20), showing Research time of ≥158 hours (pro-rata).  New starters and those whose circumstances have changed significantly since the 2019-20 research plans were submitted last spring, will be reviewed in the coming months.


The deadline for outputs publication to be included in this REF remains 31/12/20.  Open access requirements must also still be adhered to.


For Impact Case Study (ICS) authors the deadline for impact to have been achieved by remains as 31/7/20.  However, the time for evidence collection and drafting has been extended to ‘8 months after the REF clock is restarted’.  While recognising that some ICSs and some authors will be more affected by the Covid situation than others, the RIS support sequence of redrafting, reviews and surgeries will continue on an individually tailored basis.

Further details on adjustments to the REF2021 Impact Case Study submission requirements are available here.


Unit of Assessment Co-ordinators will continue to be supported in drafting unit narratives.  The final submission of these has also been extended to ‘8 months after the REF clock is restarted’.

I hope this has helped clarify the situation in this uncertain time.  If you have any queries or concerns in relation to these revised dates, or the REF preparations in general, please direct any queries to