REF 2021 - Inclusion and diversity

Our inclusive approach to REF2021

We welcome the greater focus on equality and diversity for REF2021. We are committed to supporting equality and diversity and ensuring that all our practices for REF2021 align with the funding bodies’ principles of transparency, consistency, accountability and inclusivity. This includes ensuring that all committees and groups of individuals contributing to the decision-making processes also prioritise building an inclusive REF2021 submission.

The University takes seriously its duty as an employer and a public body to ensure that our REF procedures do not discriminate unlawfully against, or otherwise have the effect of harassing, victimising or otherwise disadvantaging individuals because of their protected characteristics.

Our preparations for the REF align with our institutional strategy and policy for equality, inclusion and diversity, the purpose of which is: ‘to create an inspirational, inclusive learning and working environment, celebrating the diversity of our University community in our everyday conversations’.

Read our Inclusion and Diversity Strategy 2016-2021 here.

Practical actions to support inclusion

In the REF2014 exercise, 32% of our submitted staff were female, and across the University submission as a whole 24% of eligible women were submitted compared with 42% of eligible men. We recognise there is substantial work to do to address systemic issues contributing to under-representation of staff with protected characteristics and have committed to actively working towards a more inclusive research environment.

To support development of academic colleagues, greater inclusion in REF leadership, and succession planning for the next REF, deputy UOA coordinators have been appointed to work alongside the UOA leads. This has enabled much greater representation of women and BAME colleagues on UOA teams and aims to provide this career development opportunity to increase the diversity of our future research leaders.

Other measures have included requiring greater diversity on the REF Steering Group, as well as regular discussions on matters of equality, diversity and inclusion in meetings of the Senate Research and Enterprise Committee and the REF Steering Group.

Our Inclusion and Diversity Manager has regularly contributed to the development of our REF Code of Practice and we are ensuring that this close working relationship between our REF Team and I&D Team continues throughout preparation of our REF submission.

Defining ‘significant responsibility for research’ (SRR)

The University’s approach to defining SRR has been designed to support a more inclusive submission for REF2021 and into the future. We do not view REF as an isolated process, nor as an end in itself. The aim of our SRR process is to fulfil our REF obligations while ensuring the activities we introduce align with our mechanisms for supporting and developing our researcher community, specifically our Academic Career Framework. This has been introduced to raise aspirations and support the long-term career development of academic colleagues at all levels, whether focused on teaching and learning, research, or academic leadership.

Academics are invited to opt in for SRR by undertaking a self-assessment and evaluation of their research activity and career aspirations through the production of a personal 3-year research plan. This allows colleagues to determine their current level of activity and produce ambitious, yet realistic, plans for the future direction of their research and their own professional development. Assessment of this plan is conducted by a panel of academics in each School against our SRR criteria and considers both past achievements and future potential.

Equality-related circumstances are taken into account as part of the assessment of research activity through discussion between individual academics and either their Associate Dean for Research and Innovation (ADRI), line manager or our Inclusion and Diversity Manager. This establishes research trajectory allowing individuals to define the effect that personal circumstances have had on achievement of particular research activities, ensuring they are not disadvantaged by such circumstances.

External accreditations

The University’s commitment to the inclusive career development of researchers has been recognised by our retention of the Vitae HR Excellence in Research Award ( in 2019 for a third, 4-year term. Our forward-looking process for defining SRR has been designed to support academic colleagues from all backgrounds to develop their research careers and consider their specific career development needs, as well as enabling the identification of specific support requirements of those returning from career breaks and periods of leave.

As part of our wider inclusion and diversity activity we participate in various national schemes to seek external accreditation as this ensures our approaches are aligned with best practice:

  • We were awarded an institutional Athena SWAN Bronze award in 2016 and within our previous University structure four Schools achieved departmental Bronze awards.
  • We have been accredited as a ‘Disability Confident’ employer through a government-backed scheme, which promotes and recognises good practice in the recruitment, selection and retention of disabled job seekers.
  • We are a member of the Race Equality Charter and are actively working towards a submission.
  • We are a long-standing member of Stonewall and are a Stonewall Diversity Champion.
  • We are also a member of Inclusive Employers, a leading membership organisation for employers looking to build inclusive workplaces, share best practice and learn from each other.

Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs)

Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) have been conducted during the development of our REF2021 Code of Practice and have informed our processes and procedures to enable us to support the development of more inclusive research communities and to fulfil our legal obligations. We are required to submit a final EIA as part of our REF submission in November 2020.

Details of our EIA carried out as part of our Code of Practice development process are given in our full code of practice here.