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Help with your application

This page is designed to guide you through the Athena SWAN Charter process and provide hints and tips for writing your application.

Departments submitting an application for the first time are advised to apply for a Bronze award. This requires a thorough gender analysis of staff and student data to support the creation of 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 action plan and provide evidence of impact. They must also capture new actions for the future.

Going for Gold requires evidence of considerable 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 and external to the University.

If you are unable to find the information you are looking for on these pages, please consult the Athena SWAN FAQs.

It is worth looking at some of our 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 past submissions.

You will need to consider the resources and capacity required to complete an application. This will include the formation of a Self-Assessment Team (SAT) made up of academics, students and professional services. 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 to cover this process.

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

In terms of timescales, a good rule of thumb is to allow at least 18 months from the formation of your SAT to submission of your application. For example, if you want to apply in April 2023, you will need to establish a SAT by October 2021 at the latest.

Advance HE provide the Athena SWAN application form, in addition to a Charter awards handbook, available from the Athena SWAN resources pages on their website. 

The EDI team also offer presentations and workshops on data requirements, action planning and other guidance. Please contact the team to schedule a session or ask for further information and resources.

The Gender Equality Group oversees the strategy for both institutional and departmental Athena SWAN submissions. Your intention to submit must be agreed with this Group. To inform them of your intentions, please contact the EDI team.

Advance HE accepts applications twice a year on the last working days in April and November. You must inform them of your intention to submit an application two months in advance of the application deadline, in order for judging panels to be arranged. These are strict deadlines and your application will not be accepted if Advance HE have not received enough notice of submission.

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

Responsibilities of the SAT:

  • analyse the quantitative data provided for their department
  • set-up qualitative data collection e.g. consultations and focus groups for staff/students
  • co-ordinate delivery of their action plan and monitor progress
  • provide updates to the Gender Equality Group
  • write and submit the Athena SWAN application

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

In terms of membership, the SAT should contain representatives from:

  • Each academic job family (Education and Research, Education and Scholarship, Research)
  • Departmental undergraduate community
  • Departmental post-graduate community
  • Professional Services

In most cases, the Athena SWAN lead takes the role of SAT chair. Advance HE indicates that the membership of a SAT should also reflect:

  • a proportionate gender balance for the department
  • part-time, flexible working and career breaks
  • dual-career families
  • recent recruits/promotions
  • different career stages
  • different levels of seniority and responsibility

Some departments have found it useful to run a sub-group of the SAT that takes responsibility for the actual writing of an application. It is recommended to assign specific sections of the application to members of this writing sub-group.

The Athena SWAN data pack can be accessed via the MI Hub and contains both the core data departments will require for an application and also additional analysis which may highlight other issues and areas for action for the Self-Assessment Team (SAT).

For access to the data pack, or if you require any additions to the core data collated centrally, please contact the EDI team.

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.

Specific questions within the application require benchmarking against national trends. Benchmarking data is provided by Advance HE.

The combination of your data pack and national benchmark 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 (Silver awards). Use the SAT to analyse the data, build a narrative for your application and start creating an action plan.

It is likely that you will want to source your own departmental data as well, including details of local events, engagement and/or focus group and consultation feedback.

The Self-Assessment Team (SAT) will be required to write the following:

  • a letter of endorsement from the Head of Department
  • a description of the SAT and the process they followed
  • a picture of your department in terms of student and staff data
  • a section on supporting and advancing careers
  • additional information to support your application
  • an action plan

Silver awards will also require two case studies. You can download the Advance HE handbook and our Hints and Tips guide, which draws on the experiences, lessons learned and feedback from previous departmental Athena SWAN submissions.

The EDI team can arrange an internal panel review ahead of your submission. The panel will usually consist of colleagues with experience in submitting a successful Athena SWAN application at either Bronze or Silver level. Please ensure that you give the team enough time to facilitate these – we recommend panels are held at least 8 weeks in advance of a submission deadline, to allow enough time for amendments following feedback. Please notify the team as early as possible in order to ensure colleague availability.

It is also useful to have an external assessor to review your application prior to submission. The EDI team can facilitate this for you, but departments are also welcome to contact other institutions or individuals of their choice.

Your application needs to be submitted to Advance HE by the last working day in either April or November. Email your application to AS-Submissions@ecu.ac.uk.

Advance HE will make copies of your application in black and white for the awards panel.

Usually, it is better for your application to be considered in colour so you should post 10 colour copies to arrive at Advance HE at the address below within 5 days of the submission deadline. These colour copies should be printed double-sided and corner stapled, not bound:

Athena SWAN Charter
Advance HE
First Floor, Napier House
24 High Holborn
London
WC1V 6AT

Advance HE aims to release all results 5 months after the submissions deadline. All applicants, both successful and unsuccessful, will receive feedback from the judging panels soon after the results are announced.

There is an appeals process for appeals and objections. Further information on this can be found in resources and guidance provided by Advance HE.