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Athena Swan application support

This page is designed to guide University of Exeter departments through the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter process. Please visit Advance HE Connect for more guidance, resources, and advice on applying for an award.

Award levels


Departments submitting an application for the first time are advised to apply for a Bronze award. This requires a thorough analysis of staff and student data to create an action plan to progress gender equality. As an applicant for a Bronze award, you should be honest about where you are as a department and explain what you will do to address any issues highlighted by your data.


Applicants for Silver awards must demonstrate progress on gender equality against their previous action plan and provide evidence of impact. They must also capture new actions for the future.


Going for Gold requires evidence of significant and sustained impact arising from a department’s actions and evidence of its role as a “beacon” of good practice. This can be demonstrated through supporting and mentoring other departments, both internal or external to the University.

Previous applications

We recommend looking at some of the University of Exeter's successful Bronze and Silver awards before you commit to an Athena Swan submission, to get an idea of what is required. You can contact the EDI team for copies of our past submissions, or find other examples on Advance HE Connect.

Resources and capacity

You will need to carefully consider the resources and capacity required to complete an application. This includes forming a Self-Assessment Team (SAT) comprised of academics, students, and Professional Services colleagues. Core members of the SAT will be responsible for carrying out the writing and submission of the application when required, and you should consider additional resource and effective workload allocation arrangements to cover this process. This will need to be evidenced in the application too.


You will need a budget to cover the administration fee charged by Advance HE (£500 VAT exempt); other costs associated with data collection (e.g. hosting focus groups); and supporting specific Charter activities such as training, travel or sponsorship.

All Athena Swan guidance, application forms, and other resources are available to the Athena Swan Member Network Group on Advance HE Connect. You can sign-up for a free account to access these member resources.

The University of Exeter's Gender Equality Group oversees the strategy for both institutional and departmental Athena Swan submissions and encourages new applications. To inform the group of your intention to submit, please contact the EDI team.

The EDI team offers short presentations and workshops to departments on data requirements, action planning, and other aspects of applying. Please contact the EDI team to schedule a session or to ask for further information and resources.

Advance HE requires you to set up a Self-Assessment Team (SAT) as part of your Athena Swan submission. The SAT plays a pivotal role in putting an application together.


  • Source and analyse mandatory quantitative data required for your department.
  • Set-up qualitative data collection e.g. consultations and focus groups for staff and students.
  • Write and submit the Athena Swan application.
  • Co-ordinate action plan delivery, monitor progress, and provide updates to the Gender Equality Group through the EDI team (see section 3 above).

The SAT will need to meet regularly to ensure it can carry out these responsibilities and keep the application and action plan progressing. A good guideline is at meeting least once a month during term time in the lead-up to submission, and at least quarterly post-submission.


SAT membership should:

  • Reflect the profile of the department in relation to staff type, grades, and roles
  • Include a diverse range of people in relation to sex, trans status, gender identity, and caring responsibilities
  • Consider intersectional inequalities

Data on the characteristics of individual SAT members is not required.

Workload, recognition and reward

SAT membership must be appropriately recognised and rewarded. Workload allocation must consider members most impacted by existing structures, policies, and cultures, to ensure that responsibilities are not disproportionately allocated.

Some departments have found it useful to run a sub-group of the SAT that takes responsibility for writing the application. It is recommended to assign specific sections of the application to members of this writing sub-group. It is not recommended for one person to draft the entire application.

Athena Swan data pack

The Athena Swan data pack can be accessed on the MI Hub. Please complete the online form to request access to the data pack.

It contains both the mandatory data departments require for an application, and additional analysis which may highlight other areas for action for your Self-Assessment Team (SAT, see section 4 above). If you require any additional data, please contact the EDI team.

Staff data

Please note that Advance HE has specific guidance for clinical and non-clinical staff. They will only assess those staff members employed directly by the University, so data on clinical and allied health professionals working with the University but employed elsewhere is not required.

Professional Services teams are managed centrally, so this data is not included within departments’ mandatory quantitative data. However, departments must illustrate how you include Professional Services staff within their departmental culture.


Benchmarking data is no longer a mandatory requirement. However, it can be useful to assess whether issues highlighted by your data analysis are sector-wide, or unique to your department.

The combination of the data pack and national benchmarking data will provide your SAT with a good overview of the either the current gender equality status of your department (Bronze awards) or any positive changes since your last application (Silver awards).

Use the SAT to analyse the data, build a narrative for your application, and create an action plan.

The Self-Assessment Team (SAT) is required to evidence specific areas in the application, depending on the award level. Download the Download the Department Information Pack (requires sign-in) from Advance HE Connect for more detailed information.

Bronze awards

  1. Structures and processes in the department that underpin and recognise gender equality work
  2. Evidence-based recognition of the department’s key issues
  3. Action plan to address key issues identified

Silver awards

In addition to the above, Silver applications must demonstrate progress against previously identified priorities (including the previous action plan) and evidence of success in addressing gender equality against at least two of these priorities.

Gold awards

In addition to Bronze and Silver requirements, departments must provide evidence of sector-leading gender equality practice and supporting others to improve.

Internal reviews

The EDI team can arrange an internal panel review ahead of your submission. The panel will usually consist of Professional Services and academic colleagues from other departments with successful Bronze or Silver applications. 

Please ensure you give the EDI team enough time to facilitate this. We recommend panels are held at least 20 weeks in advance of a submission deadline, to allow enough time for any amendments following feedback.

External reviews

You can also have an external assessor to review your application before submission. The EDI team can facilitate this for you or you are welcome to contact other institutions or individuals of your choice.

Intention to submit

You must complete an ‘Intention to Submit’ form online through Advance HE Connect (requires sign-in), at least two months ahead of your submission deadline.


You need a ‘My Advance HE’ account to submit your application. Please ensure that you have created this in advance of the deadline. Note: this is a separate to your Advance HE Connect account.

Completed applications need to be submitted to Advance HE by the last working day of the month in any of the six annual submission rounds. Submissions should be done as a single PDF upload (by 5pm on the deadline date) on My Advance HE.

Please also consider the accessibility of your application for panel reviewers. Further guidance on this is available on Advance HE Connect.

Contact the EDI team if you have any questions.

Assessment and scoring

Your application will be assessed by a panel of trained reviewers and a Chair. You can view the full list of current Chairs and reviewers online.

The Athena Swan scoring rubric, which is used by the panel to assess applications, is also available online.

Results and feedback

Applicants will either receive an award, an award with conditions, or be asked to undertake revisions where the criteria for an award have not been met.

All successful and unsuccessful applicants receive feedback from the panel soon after the results are announced.