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Below are FAQs regarding the submission system, listed as categories.

New (May 2020) 

Paragraph 272 of the ‘Panel criteria and working methods’ sets out that the requirement for an abstract in English is waived for outputs submitted in UOA 26 (Modern Languages and Linguistics) if the output is produced in any of the languages within the remit of that UOA: that is, all Celtic, Slavonic, Germanic and Romance languages. How should we reflect this in the Submission system?

In the submission system, HEIs are not required to tick the ‘non-English’ box if the output is in one of the non-English languages that falls within the remit of UOA 26. HEIs will only need to tick this box and provide an abstract where the output is in any languages outside UOA 26’s remit. 

Access to system features

I have logged into the REF system but I am not seeing all the options that I was expecting. Why is this?

You will only see the parts of the submission system which your user has been granted access to 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. If you’re still unsuccessful, please contact your administrator and request that they make changes to your user permissions/functions.

Why can I not use the staffID field for my REF1A records?

The staff ID field is only available to those institutions who do not submit all or some of their staff to HESA, and therefore do not have HESA IDs. Please provide the HESA ID for staff in form REF1a if you are not one of these institutions.

Why am I unable to edit existing items or create new items with submissions?

You will only be able to edit items and create new items within a submission if you have write permissions for the corresponding submission and form. Please contact your administrator and request additional permissions.

I have 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. You will also only see UOAs that your administrator has provided you access to. Please liaise with your administrator.


What is the different between the test and live submission systems?

The test (UAT) submission system is a separate system to the live system. Any data you enter into the test system will not be recorded in the live system. You will also be unable to sign in to the live system using your test system user credentials. If you have access to the test system and require access to live, please contact your administrator.

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.  


How do I get an account so I can login to the submission system?

If you do not have a user account for the test or live submission system and require one, please contact your institution's technical contact to request one. A full list of contacts can be found here:

I have not 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.


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 cannot 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.


What is the login URL?

There are two system URLs at present, the test system: (indicated by a pink background)
And the live system: (indicated by a blue background)

I have 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.

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 have been told I have an account but I have not 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.