How to apply to participate as an HEI submitting to the PCE Pilot Exercise

Applications for expressions of interest closed at midday 24 April 2024.

Which Units of Assessment will be involved?

The selected Units of Assessment (UoAs) enable the inclusion of a range of institution and submission types across the four Main Panels and will provide insight into how the assessment of PCE might work in the REF exercise. These are: 

  • Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy (UoA 3) 
  • Biological Sciences (UoA 5) 
  • Earth Systems and Environmental Science (UoA 7) 
  • Computer Science and Informatics (UoA 11) 
  • Business and Management Studies (UoA 17) 
  • Social Work and Social Policy (UoA 20) 
  • History (UoA 28) 
  • Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies (UoA 33) 

Could my institution be involved?

Participating HEIs will need to be able to produce submissions for at least one of the UoAs being tested in the pilot and also an institution level submission. If your institution does not have research capacity in at least one of the pilot UoAs your institution will not be able to participate in the pilot.  

We plan to select a broad range of institutions. This means we will look to include HEIs with a range of submission sizes, a range of breadth of provision, a range of experience of participation in previous REF exercises, and from across the whole of the UK. HEIs should not consider any of these criteria to be a barrier for inclusion in the pilot; our intention is to represent the breadth of the UK research sector so for example we will need representation of small and specialist institutions, teaching-intensive institutions, and large multi-faculty research intensive institutions. 

What is expected from participating HEIs?

Participating HEIs will be encouraged to make submissions to as many UoAs as they are able. This will allow us to develop a broad understanding of the differences in subject areas, and if there are any economies of scale when working across multiple UoAs. However, we understand there may be resource issues and HEIs should not see this as a barrier to participation; if your institution is selected to be involved in the pilot exercise we will be prepared to open a conversation on how many and which UoAs you are able to produce submissions for. 

One of the objectives of the PCE pilot exercise is to gather evidence on the administrative effort required for the assessment of PCE in the REF exercise. Feedback from participating HEIs will provide valuable information on the feasibility of scaling up PCE assessment in the full REF 2029 exercise. We are likely to ask: 

  • How much effort/staff time went into the preparation of each submission? 
  • What worked well? 
  • Which indicators were straightforward to work with? 
  • What aspects of the template were positive? 
  • What could be improved? 
  • Which indicators were problematic? 
  • What aspects of the template were challenging? 
  • Are there other indicators not tested in the pilot that should also be considered? 

We are also committed to sharing emerging issues and learning with the wider community as the pilot progresses. As such, HEIs participating in the pilot may be expected to engage in online discussions with the wider community. 


The PCE Indicators project will afford opportunities for the sector to engage with the development of the PCE indicators and the submission/assessment templates for the pilot. We will explore opportunities for the pilot HEIs to be kept informed of the developing indicators in particular providing input into the drafting of the Pilot Guidance on Submissions, see the PCE timetable for more information.

Benefits of participating

Through participation in the pilot exercise, HEIs will receive insight into the submission process and be able to begin the early establishment of processes which could be used in the preparation of PCE submissions in the full REF 2029 exercise. 

Applications for expressions of interest closed at midday 24 April 2024.

What if my HEI cannot participate?

Your input is important to the development of PCE assessment. Please look for opportunities to engage through the PCE indicators project, and the PCE Pilot Panels. Where possible we will recruit panel members from HEIs which are not making submissions to the pilot. This will provide the broadest opportunities for involvement and avoid possible conflicts of interest when conducting the assessment phase of the pilot. 

In addition, we will work with the Pilot HEIs to explore on-going community engagement online events, discussing issues and learning involved in the pilot process so that the wider community can contribute with ideas for solutions, and learn from the process, as it develops.