The University of Surrey is committed to conducting education, research and enterprise activities to the highest ethical standards.

Our ethics policy

The University ethics policy details the principles and procedures that underpin the promotion and maintenance of an ethical culture throughout the University. The policy is supported by the Ethics handbook for teaching and research (PDF), which provides guidance for all researchers on aspects of ethics and ethical review. 

The policy integrates the core elements of the concordat to support research integrity: honesty, rigour, transparency and open communication, and care and respect.

The University of Surrey aims to safeguard and promote respect for the rights, interests and wellbeing of:

  • Students
  • Staff
  • Research participants and subjects (both human and animal)
  • Fellow citizens and communities (in local and global contexts).

All activities undertaken by staff and students as members of the University must comply with the University’s ethical standards.

The University also aims to preserve the physical environment and social and historical artefacts engaged with by University staff and students.

The ethical standards which apply to academic activities (including research, teaching, consultancy and outreach work) arise from the basic principle that such activities should neither include practices which directly impose a risk of serious harm nor be indirectly dependent upon such practices.

Please note that all studies may be audited. The University Ethics Committee has prepared a statement about the audit carried out during 2018.

Research Integrity and Governance Office (RIGO)

The Research Integrity and Governance Office (RIGO) is the central point of contact for all enquiries about research ethics at the University of Surrey.

RIGO also provides support to members of the University conducting research with human participants, for those who may need external approval (including from the NHS and HRA) and for those with studies that require ethical review by the University Ethics Committee.

A member of the RIGO team holds the sponsorship role (sponsor representative) on behalf of the University for NHS Health Research Authority applications and Clinical Trial of an Investigational Medicinal Product (CTIMPs).

The RIGO also works to provide advice, resources, and opportunities to ensure that research is carried out to the highest ethical standards and in line with regulations and guidelines.

Visit the RIGO page (internal staff only) for more information.

Research Integrity and Governance Office
Research and Innovation Services
Senate House

Phone: +44 (0) 1483 68 9103 / 2051
Fax: +44 (0) 1483 68 3791
Email: (including external sponsorship approvals)

Human research committees

Our committees provide oversight of research involving human participants, human tissue and human participant data. All members of the University must complete the relevant self-assessment to see if their research study needs review by an ethics committee before embarking on research involving humans.

The University Ethics Committee reviews research proposals from staff and postgraduate research students (PhD and EngD), as well as external researchers proposing to carry out research at the University.

Staff, PhD and EngD students must complete the online Self-Assessment For Ethics (SAFE) to see if their study needs review by the University Ethics Committee. Details of how to complete SAFE and how to apply to the UEC can be found on the Research Integrity and Governance Office page (internal only).

The University Ethics Committee can be contacted at

The Faculty Ethics Committees reviews applications from undergraduate and postgraduate taught students (masters and PsychD).

Undergraduate, masters and PsychD students must complete an ethical self-assessment form to see if their study needs review by their Faculty Ethics Committee. The relevant self-assessment form and details of how to apply to your Faculty Ethics Committee can be found on the following pages:

The Human Tissue Act (HTA) regulates the removal, storage, use and disposal of human bodies, organs and tissue – human tissue being defined as material which has come from the human body and which consists of, or includes, human cells.

Cell lines are excluded, as are hair and nail from living people.

Live gametes and embryos are excluded as they are already covered by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

For a full list of material that is considered relevant under the HTA, please refer to the associated document (PDF) by the Human Tissue Authority.

The HTA was introduced after concerns that existing laws were insufficient to meet the needs of this rapidly expanding area.

The Human Tissue Act 2004 repealed and replaced the Human Tissue Act 1961, the Anatomy Act 1984 and the Human Organ Transplants Act 1989 (in England and Wales).

The Act makes it unlawful to remove, store or use human tissue from the living or deceased without consent to do so for specified health-related purposes or public display, and is punishable by a fine and/or three years' imprisonment.

In addition, there are a number of activities in the Act that require a license from the Human Tissue Authority before they can be lawfully undertaken.

It is also hoped that the Act will improve public confidence, so that people will be more willing to agree to the use of tissues and organs in research.

The Act makes consent the most important principle for the lawful retention and use of human tissue. It also establishes the Human Tissue Authority to:

  • Advise on and ensure compliance with the Act
  • Develop national operational procedures and guidelines
  • License activities using human tissue

The Act also makes it an offence to have bodily material (which includes hair, nail and gametes in this context) with the intention of analysing the DNA, without the consent of the individual from which it was obtained (or those close to them if they have died).

You can access a free, useful and short training on Research Involving Human Tissue provided by the Health Research Authority (HRA).

For help on deciding whether you need consent and/or an institutional license for storage for research please use the Medical Research Council’s flow diagram (PDF).

Researchers using human tissue

The University has guidance and resources for those undertaking activities which may fall under the Human Tissue Act 2004.

The University’s Human Tissue Act Committee can be contacted at

 View the HTA policies and SOPS (internal only).

Animal research committees

The University of Surrey is committed to very high standards of animal welfare; if a researcher believes that the use of animals for their research is the only way to answer an important scientific question they must apply for internal ethical approval.  

The function of the AWERB is to advise and promote the full implementation of the 3Rs, especially in safeguarding the welfare of animals and reviewing harms and benefits of the research. In addition, the AWERB also advises the Establishment Licence Holder on whether or not to submit research projects to the Secretary of State. For more details please see our animal research information or contact

The NASPA Sub-Committee (NASPA) advises on and carries out the ethical review of activities involving animals, which fall outside the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 as amended in 2012 A(SP)A. NASPA is a sub-committee of the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB). For more details please contact