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The FAQs are grouped together by category.

New (December 2019)

What steps are being taken to ensure the submission system is secure?

Ensuring the security of the data we will collect through the REF 2021 submission system is a central part of our systems development work. As part of this, we commissioned two forms of penetration testing of the system: technical vulnerability testing (direct hacking of the site) and behaviour vulnerability testing (phishing).  

The purpose of the phishing testing is to gather data on the likelihood of users of the REF system being led to disclose information via a spoof or ‘phishing’ email. HEIs were alerted during our briefing events in June 2019 of our intention to carry out this testing as part of our security risk analysis. 

Both forms of testing have now completed. The results will allow us to review the need for any further measures to mitigate risk, including by raising cybersecurity awareness among users.  


Which browsers are supported by the REF 2021 submission system?

The submission system has been designed to work with a variety of browsers. It has been tested on, and verified to work with, the latest versions of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Apple's Safari, and Opera. Compatibility is dependent on the development tool used, and the REF uses Angular. A guide can be found on their website -

I can't log in using Microsoft Edge or Internet explorer

If you are having problems accessing the site via Microsoft browsers, you need to ensure that is saved in the Trusted Sites list.  This can be found in Control Panel -> Internet Options -> Security -> Trusted Sites.  Click the 'Sites' button and add the Submission system URL to the list.  Then exit the Internet options dialog and restart your browser.


I haven't received a registration email. What shall I do?

The registration email will have been sent from an email address '[email protected]'. Please check your junk and spam folder for the email.

I get an error message when I try to register. Why is this?

The submission system is configured to only allow valid email domains belonging to your institution.  You cannot register for the submissions system with an email address that is not a valid domain for your institution (for example,

My registration link has expired. What can I do?

Please email [email protected] who can send you a new registration link.

I have registered successfully but when I login I see Access Denied. Why is this?

You should have been sent a verification email which contains a link for you to follow to verify your address and activate.  Please check your spam/junk folder.  If you are still experiencing issues please contact [email protected].

I've created new users but they haven't received their email, why is this?

Only the first user will receive the registration email from the REF team.  Once they are registered they should create users via the User admin function then those new users will need to follow the login process found in the user guide.


I’ve clicked Login but cannot see the sign-in page?

The Microsoft sign-in page is in a pop-out window and it may be hidden behind other windows that you have open.  Alternatively, if you have a dual screen display configured, it may be on the additional screen.

The sign-in page is not displaying my email address. What do I do?

You will not see the sign-in page the first time that you log into the REF 2021 submission system. Click ‘Can’t access your account?’ at the bottom of the page as if you were trying to get back into your account.

I haven’t been sent my verification code email. What do I do?

Your verification code may have gone into a spam/junk folder. Please check these folders and, if you can still not see the code, contact user support.

The system will not accept the password that I am trying to create. Why is this?

Your password must be between 8 and 16 characters, in a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, and symbols. It cannot contain your username.

I've been told I have an account but I haven't set a password, how do I login?

If you have not logged in before you need to set your password.  Please see Page 12 of the user guide for details of how to access your account for the first time.

Access to system features 

I’ve logged into the REF system but I’m not seeing all the options that I was expecting. Why is this?

You will only see the parts of the submission system to which your user ID has been granted access by your system administrator. If you believe that you have been granted access to areas but are still not seeing them, try closing your browser and logging in again. If that fails, ensure that Javascript is enabled in your browser and then go back to your administrator

I’ve logged into the REF system and am ready to start entering data on the REF forms, but I can only select certain UOAs. Why is this?

You will only see the Units of Assessment (UOAs) for which your system administrator has created submissions. Please liaise with your administrator.