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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.

1. This letter invites higher education institutions (HEIs) to submit staff circumstances reduction requests for consideration in advance of the submission deadline. These are requests for reductions (without penalty) to the number of outputs required for a given submitted unit. The advance process will provide HEIs with the opportunity to receive decisions prior to making submissions in REF 2021.

2. Requests should be made by noon, 6 March 2020 through the REF 2021 submission system using forms REF6a (removing the minimum of one requirement) and REF6b (unit reductions). Requests will be reviewed by the REF Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel (EDAP) and decisions provided to institutions by the 29 May 2020. A full timetable for the process is provided at Annex A.

3. In applying the reductions that have received advance recommendation for approval from EDAP at the submission deadline, institutions must ensure that these reductions still accurately reflect the circumstances pertaining to submitted staff. Where there are changes to the staff included in requests or the nature of their circumstances since the request was made, institutions must update the information in the REF6a/b forms before making their submissions in November 2020. Where new or additional reductions are applied at the submission deadline, these will be reviewed as part of the full assessment process as in previous exercises.

4. The full letter and annexes are available as a download below.  These are provided for information only. All requests must be made through the REF2021 submission system.