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A new report from the four UK university funding bodies has found improvements in the representation of people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in the assessment panels for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The report, Analysis of full REF 2021 panel membership, summarises the equalities characteristics of the members appointed to the REF 2021 expert panels and compares its findings with information from REF 2014, as well as with the UK’s population of academic staff and professors.

The results show clear progress in increasing the representation of members from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Panel members from these backgrounds make up 11 per cent of REF 2021 appointed panellists compared with five per cent in REF 2014.

The proportion of REF 2021 panel members from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds is now in line with that observed in the wider population of professors in the UK. However, while progress has been made, the data show there is still more work to be done to align more closely with the general academic population.

The new analysis also shows continuing positive trends in the representativeness of the panels. This includes significant increases in female representation with females now making up 45 per cent of appointed panellists compared with 33 per cent in REF 201. Furthermore, the representation of appointed members with a declared disability has seen an increase from one per cent in the previous exercise to five per cent.

These improvements follow the introduction of measures at the outset of the 2021 exercise which were specifically aimed at increasing representativeness on the REF panels.

This included tailored ‘Fairness in REF’ training in advance of panel selection processes, and a new requirement for information on equality and diversity considerations to be provided by organisations nominating candidates for membership.