Athena Swan awards overview

The Athena Swan Charter recognises and celebrates good practice in relation to gender in Higher Education. It primarily focuses on the under-representation of women in academia, particularly at senior levels, and challenges institutions and Schools to address barriers to recruitment, retention and career progression and promote gender equality.

Athena originally focused on STEMM subjects, but since 2015 includes arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law. Whilst primarily focused on the substantive sector-wide issue issue of female under-representation, subject areas that are female-dominated are also expected to address male under-representation.

Athena Swan Awards 

Athena awards are given at Bronze, Silver and Gold levels. To achieve an award, a School needs to undertake a review identifying the gender equality challenges they face and develop an action plan identifying how they will address those issues. Preparing an award application is a considerable commitment. It involves:

  • Establishing a self-assessment team (SAT)
  • Analysing staff and student data to identify and analyse trends in the School (e.g. recruitment, promotions, committee membership)
  • Undertaking focus groups and/or surveys to understand and explore issues and School culture
  • Reviewing the effectiveness of local practices, such as support for promotions, maternity and return to work, flexible working, induction, workload models and outreach
  • Developing and implementing a SMART 4 year action plan to address the issues identified

Preparing an award submission typically takes around 6-12 months. Submission deadlines are the last working days of April and November.

Levels of award: Bronze, Silver & Gold

You have to select the level of award you are applying for as this determines the application format. A School’s first award application would be for Bronze. 

Bronze department award criteria: The assessment, action plan and structure for implementing it demonstrates that the department is working to promote gender equality and to address challenges particular to the School and discipline

Silver department award criteria: In addition to the above, the department has taken action to address previously identified challenges and can demonstrate the impact of those actions

Gold department award criteria: Sustained progression and achievement in promoting gender equality. Gold departments are beacons of achievement and champion and promote good practice to the wider community

Awards are valid for 4 years. Once a School has achieved a Bronze or Silver award they can apply for a renewal of that award if they do not meet the criteria for a higher award.



Award application process and deadlines

Athena have two submission deadlines a year – the last working days of April and November.

Award applications are assessed nationally by peer review panels convened by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU). Panel members are academic and professional staff from Athena-participating universities, plus two moderators from the ECU. Academics from your subject area or a neighbouring subject area will sit on the panel.

Results are released typically announced 5 months after an application and are valid for 4 years from the award being given.

The University has it's own internal Athena panel that must pass an application before it can be submitted to Athena. 



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