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REF 2021

In November 2015 the Minister of Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, commissioned an independent review of the Research Excellence Framework.

At the end of January 2019, the UK higher education funding bodies published the final guidance and criteria for REF 2021.

The Guidance on Submissions​ details how UK universities should make their submissions to REF 2021 and the panel criteria and working methods​ describes how the REF2021 panels will assess the research.

The University made a submission to the current assessment exercise, REF2021, on 31 March 2021, comprising 13 Units of Assessment.​ 

Units of Assessment Leaders
Unit of Assessment Leader
3 Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy Paul Hutton and Peter Barlow
7 Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences Karen Diele
11 Computer Science and Informatics Ben Paechter
12 Engineering John McDougall
13 Architecture, Built Environment and Planning Mark Deakin
17 Business and Management Studies Gerri Mathews-Smith
18 Law Jill Stavert​
20 Social Work and Social Policy Kiril Sharapov
24 Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism Anna Leask​
​24 ​Sports Science specific and depute ​Gerraint Florida-James
27 English Language and Literature Linda Dryden
32 Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory Sam Vettese
33 Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts, Film & Screen Studies John Hails
34 Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management Chris Atton​​

REF Professorial Leaders
Area Leader
Research Environment Professor Emma Hart​​

Code of Practice


Each institution making a submission to REF2021 is required to develop, document and apply a Code of Practice on the fair and transparent:

  • identification of staff with significant responsibility for research, as agreed with staff (where a University is not submitting 100% of Category A eligible staff)
  • determination of research independence
  • selection of outputs for submission

Edinburgh Napier Univerity’s Code of Practice has been developed based on the REF 2021 Guidance on Submissions and the guidance outlined in the guidance on codes of practice.


Download Edinburgh Napier's REF2021 Code of Practice


In developing the criteria within the CoP, the University has been committed to open, two-way, meaningful communication with all staff. This has included a programme of institution-wide consultation with staff including:

  • Open campus meetings which were hosted by the Dean of Research and Innovation and REF Policy Officer in March 2019. The presentation slides and FAQs are available to staff.
  • A dedicated REF2021 CoP email address, REFCodeofPractice@napier.ac.uk inviting views from all staff on the developing CoP criteria.

The final version of the CoP takes into account the feedback from the consultation phase.


The CoP was approved by the Research and Innovation Committee in May 2019 on behalf of Academic Board and will be submitted to the joint UK funding councils REF Equality and Diversity panel in June 2019.


Staff Circumstances 

As part of the University's commitment to supporting equality and diversity in REF, measures have been put in place to recognise individual circumstances that may affect research productivity.

The following equality-related circumstances are permitted for reductions: 

  • Qualifying as an ECR
  • Absence from work due to secondments or career breaks outside the HE sector
  • Qualifying periods of family-related leave
  • Circumstances with equivalent effect to absence, that require a judgement about appropriate reduction in outputs, including i. Disability, ii. Ill health, injury or mental health ocnditions. iii. Contraints relating to pregnancy, maternity, paternity, adoption or childcare that fall outside of - or justify the reduction of further outputs in addition to - the allowances set out in Annex L in Guidance on Submissions. iv. Other caring responsibilites 9such as caring for an elderly or disabled family member). v. Gender reassignmenet. vi. Other circumstances relating to the protected characteristics.

All st​aff who have been deemed significantly responsible for research or independent researcher and whose oputputs are eligible for submission to REF2021 will be sent a staff circumstances declaration form.


If your ability to research productively during the assessment period has been contrained due to one or more circumstances, you are requested to complete the declaration form and return to Sandrine Flower​ in HR by Monday 2nd December 2019.


Please note the completion of the form is voluntary, and individuals who do not choose to return it will not be put under any pressure to delcare information if they do not wish to do do. 


Appeals ​Process


ENU has established a REF-specific appeals process. The Appeals process is for members who wish to appeal, after they have received formal written feedback, on the reasons behind REF 2021 submission decisions in accordance with established criteria as outlined in the University’s REF2021 Code of Practice.


Grounds for appeal are expected to fall within one of the following categories:

  • Exclusion on personal protected characteristics based on the REF 2021 Guidance on Submissions and the guidance given by the Joint UK Funding Councils on the Code of Practice, relating to age, disability, gender identity, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy or recently given birth.
  • Failure to take into account fully the impact of work pattern or absence according to the guidance given by the Joint UK Funding Councils on the Code of Practice.
  • Inappropriate application of the criteria of the Code of Practice.
  • Inappropriate application of the criteria as set out in the REF 2021 Guidance on Submissions and Panel Criteria and Working Methods.

The following are NOT grounds for appeal:

  • Disagreement with the approved criteria in the CoP for identification of staff with significant responsibility for research or research independence
  • Validity or standing of the University’s final judgements concerning output quality
  • Allocation of individual’s research outputs to a specific UoA
  • Allocation of research outputs to an individual, on the basis of the minimum one and maximum five output quota, based on the Worktribe automated algorithm

It is hoped that any issues staff might is resolved through informal discussion at local level. Staff are encouraged to speak with their line manager, School Director of Research and Dean, before submitting a formal appeal.


If a solution cannot be sought, staff have the right to appeal directly to the University REF Appeals Panel. The full process and application form is outlined in the REF Appeals Process Document​. 


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​REF2021 – Covid-19 Update


In March 2020, the REF team at Research England, acting on behalf of all the UK funding bodies made an announcement that the REF2021 exercise was on hold until further notice.

In June 2020, it was formally announced that the revised submission deadline has been extended from November 2020 to 31 March 2021. There is now also a universal extension to the impact period.

The census date for REF eligibility of staff remains the same (31 July 2020).

At end of July 2020 the Research Excellence Framework 2021 recommenced following a four-month, sector-wide postponement due to COVID-19.

The recommencement is accompanied by new guidance, describing revisions to the exercise made in view of the altered timetable and to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on submissions.

REF Steering Group

The University's REF 2021 Submission will be overseen by the REF Steering Group.


The group is responsible for formalising processes and overseeing and approving the Code of Practice and the preparations for final submission.


GDPR - Data Collection


The Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR require institutions to inform their staff as to how data about them that are submitted to REF 2021 will be used.


The REF team will collect store and process all information submitted by HEIs in accordance with the Data protection Act 2018 and GDPR. Information will be submitted to the REF via a secure website.


HEIs will only be able to access their own institution’s data, except in the case of joint submissions where HEIs can grant access to other HEIs in the joint submission. Information will be processed for the purposes of conducting and evaluating the REF. Information may be shared with other organisations to facilitate this, and will be shared with panel members (comprising panel chairs, members, assessors, advisers, secretaries and observers) for the purpose of assessing submissions. Panel members are all bound by confidentiality and data security arrangements.


The REF team will extract and pass to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) the following data to enable verification: for each individual submitted as research-active in Category A, their Unit of Assessment, HESA staff identifier code, and date of birth.


The REF Team will use information from HEIs to monitor the diversity of staff selected for the REF. Parts of submissions will also be published on the internet.


These REF Data Collection Statements outline how your personal data will be used for REF2021.


REF 2021 Privacy Notices


Open Access and the REF


A major change for the next REF is the introduction of Open Access for certain outputs. Open Access policy states that, to be eligible for submission to the next REF, authors’ outputs must have been deposited in an institutional or subject repository. Deposited material should be discoverable, and free to read and download, for anyone with an internet connection. The requirement applies only to journal articles and conference proceedings with an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN). It will not apply to monographs, book chapters, other long-form publications, working papers, creative or practice-based research outputs, or data. However, the University is promoting an act on acceptance policy for all outputs and staff are encouraged to ensure that all outputs are deposited to the University Worktribe repository within three months from acceptance.


Edinburgh Napier's policy on Open Access can be found here:


The REF2021 policy on Open Access is available here.


There are a number of exceptions to the various requirements that will be allowed by the policy. These exceptions cover circumstances where deposit was not possible, or where open access to deposited material could not be achieved within the policy requirements. These exceptions will allow institutions to achieve near-total compliance.


Valid exceptions are captured in paragraph 38 of the above policy. If you think one of the exceptions is applicable to your output, please discuss this with the Library in the first instance. In straightforward cases, the library staff will assign and record the appropriate exception. In more complex cases, the decision will be referred to your School Director of Research and/or the Dean of R&I.


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