REF equality and diversity

The provisions for equality and diversity for REF 2021 are summarised in the open letter from Professor Diane Berry to the higher education sector.

The University of Oxford’s REF equality and diversity measures will be overseen by the REF Equality Committee, chaired by Dr Rebecca Surrender, The Advocate and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Equality & Diversity).

Declaration of individual staff circumstances

This process is available to staff at the University of Oxford (including employees of colleges) who may be submitted to REF 2021.

As part of the University’s commitment to supporting equality and diversity in REF, we have put in place safe and supportive structures for staff to declare information about any equality-related circumstances that may have affected their ability to research productively during the assessment period (1 January 2014–31 July 2020), and particularly their ability to produce research outputs at the same rate as staff not affected by circumstances.

All eligible staff with significant responsibility for research must be submitted to REF 2021. The University has set out how it will determine staff eligibility in its code of practice. Staff will be notified if they are included in the submission in early 2020. Ahead of this notification, the declaration of circumstances is available to all academic staff. Declaration of circumstances is not a factor in determining eligibility.

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The purpose of collecting this information is threefold:

  • to enable staff who have not been able to produce a REF-eligible output during the assessment period to be entered into REF without the minimum of one output where they have:
    • circumstances that have resulted in an overall period of 46 months or more absence from research during the assessment period, due to equality-related circumstances (see below)
    • circumstances equivalent to 46 months or more absence from research due to equality-related circumstances
    • two or more qualifying periods of family-related leave
  • to recognise the effect that equality-related circumstances can have on an individual’s ability to research productively, and to adjust expectations in terms of expected workload/production of research outputs
  • to establish whether there are any units of assessment where the proportion of declared circumstances is sufficiently high to warrant a request to the higher education funding bodies for a reduced required number of outputs to be submitted


  • qualifying as an early career researcher (ECR) (defined as members of staff who started their career as an independent researcher on or after 1 August 2016)
  • absence from work due to secondments or career breaks outside the higher education sector
  • qualifying periods of family-related leave
  • junior clinical academics who have not gained a certificate of completion of training by 31 July 2020
  • disability (including chronic conditions)
  • ill heath, injury or mental health conditions
  • constraints relating to family leave that fall outside of the standard allowances
  • caring responsibilities
  • gender reassignment

If your ability to research productively during the assessment period has been constrained due to one or more of these circumstances, you are requested to complete the declaration form.

Further information can be found in paragraph 160 of the Guidance on submissions (REF 2019/01).

Completion and return of the form is voluntary, and individuals who do not choose to return it will not be put under any pressure to declare information if they do not wish to do so. 

This form is the only means by which the University will be gathering this information. We will not be consulting HR records, contract start dates etc. You should therefore complete and return the form if any of the above circumstances apply and you are willing to provide the associated information.

The University of Oxford has established a REF Equality Committee, chaired by Dr Rebecca Surender (The Advocate and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Equality & Diversity)), to oversee the declaration of circumstances and the process for submission of reduction requests. Submitted declarations will be reviewed initially by a restricted number of staff from the Research Services REF team and the Equality and Diversity Unit, and declarations which require a judgement about the effect of circumstances may be reviewed by the REF Equality Committee. The REF Equality Committee will review all declarations which result in a request for reduction of outputs in assessment in REF 2021, as set out in the University’s code of practice.

If the institution decides to apply to the funding bodies for either form of reduction of outputs (removal of ‘minimum of one’ requirement or unit circumstances), the Research Services REF team will need to provide UKRI with data that you have disclosed about your individual circumstances, to show that the criteria have been met for reducing the number of outputs. Please see the Guidance on submissions document (paragraphs 151–201) for more detail about reductions in outputs and what information needs to be submitted. Submitted data will be kept confidential to the REF team, the REF Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel, and main panel chairs. All these bodies are subject to confidentiality arrangements. The REF team will destroy the submitted data about individuals’ circumstances on completion of the assessment phase.


The University recognises that staff circumstances may change between completion of the declaration form and the census date (31 July 2020). 

If this is the case, staff should submit an amended form to provide the updated information.


Completed forms should be submitted by email to