Help with your Athena SWAN application

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

Departments can apply for Bronze, Silver or Gold awards. You can go directly for a Silver award without applying for Bronze first. The features of the different levels of the awards are:-

  • Bronze awards: you have carried out a gender analysis of your staff and students and created an action plan based on this evidence.  Bronze is about being honest where you are as a Department, understanding your data and explaining what you will do to address any issues highlighted by your data.
  • Silver awards: you have implemented actions (from your Bronze action plan unless you are going straight for Silver) and are able to evidence their impact. You have also captured new actions for the future.
  • Gold awards: you have shown considerable impact from your actions and can evidence your role as a “beacon” by supporting and mentoring other Departments, both internal and external to the University.

The application process

Before committing to an Athena SWAN submission, it is worth looking at some of our successful Bronze and Silver awards, to get a feel for what is required.

 At this stage, you will also need to consider the resources required to complete an application:

  - ECU talk about creating a "Self-Assessment Team" or SAT made up of academics and students.  Applications for the new expanded charter, launched in May 2015, also need to consider professional services. In practice, disciplines set-up separate Strategy and Working Groups, with the Strategy Group carrying out the actual writing and submission of the application when required. 

  - resource to co-ordinate the application process and submission. To discuss the options here, please contact the Equality and Diversity team

  - a budget to cover

       - the administration fee for each Departmental application charged by the Equality Challenge Unit (approx £500)

       - other costs associated with collecting data (e.g. hosting focus groups) or supporting specific Charter activities (training, travel, sponsorship)

In terms of timescales, a good rule of thumb is to allow at least 18 months to either get to a Bronze submission or to show enough impact for a Silver submission. 

The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) provide the Athena SWAN application formECU also provide a Charter awards handbook and guide to processes that can both be found on their Athena SWAN resources page. You can also contact the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Team for an Athena SWAN Toolkit with additional materials and guidance.

The University Gender Equality Group oversees the strategy for both University and Departmental Athena SWAN submissions. Therefore, your intention to apply must be agreed with this group. To inform them of your intentions, please contact

The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) requires a Self Assessment-Team (SAT) to be set-up as part of your Departmental Athena SWAN application.

We tend to call these "Working Groups" locally but whatever the name, they play a pivotal role in putting together an application.

Some disciplines find it useful to have a smaller Strategy Group that governs and steers the Working Group and, in a submission year, becomes the Writing Group.

Responsibilities of the Working Group are:

  • 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
  • report into the University Gender Equality Group
  • write and submit the Athena SWAN application - this may be the remit of the Strategy/Writing group

To carry out these duties, the Working Group will need to meet regularly – a good guideline is at least once a month during term time in the lead-up to a submission and three times a year post-submission

In terms of membership, the Working Group 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 chair of the Working Group.

ECU indicate that the membership of a Working Group 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 Working Group that is responsible for the actual writing of the application. They have found it useful to assign specific sections of the application to members of the writing group. You can read more about existing Departmental Working Groups on their Athena SWAN pages.

We would expect that the chair of your Working Group becomes a member of the University Athena SWAN Working Group in order to communicate progress and share best practice.

Departmental Data Packs

Data packs are provided for each Department intending to submit an application.

These packs contain both the core data required in the application and also additional analysis that may highlight other issues and areas for action for your Working Group. 

Once the University Gender Equality Group has agreed your intention to apply, your Departmental data pack will be made available to you.

If you require any additions to the core data collated centrally, please raise this with the Senior Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Advisor.

Note: ECU has specific guidance for clinical and non-clinical staff data.  They will only assess those staff members employed by the University directly so data on Clinical and Allied Health Professional working with the University but employed elsewhere is not required.

Benchmarking Data

There are specific questions within the application which should be benchmarked against national trends.  Benchmarking data is provided by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) . You will need  to enter our member password: AthenaSWAN14


The combination of your data pack and national benchmark data will provide your Working Group with a good overview of the either the current gender equality status of your Department (for Bronze awards) or any positive changes (for Silver awards). Use the Working Group to analyse the data, build a narrative for your application and start creating an action plan.


Local Data

As part of the application, it is likely that you will source your own Departmental data for example, details of local events or focus group/consultation feedback.


‌The specifics of each application form will vary depending on whether you are using the pre-May 2015 or the post-May 2015 version, and the level of award you are going for, but all will require the Working Group to write the following:

  • a letter of endorsement from the Head of Discipline
  • a description of the Working Group team 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.

The document below is a collection of Hints and Tips drawn on the experiences, lessons learnt and feedback on previous Departmental Athena SWAN submissions.  This guide is intended to be used alongside the official ECU handbook, specific for your application.


The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) accepts applications twice a year: on the last working days in April and November.

At this stage, you will need to confirm with the University Gender Equality Group of the application date you are targeting by writing to

You must inform the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) of your intention to submit an application two months in advance of the application deadline in order for them to arrange judging panels. You do this through a short application form accessed via the Athena SWAN website.

Applications are accepted on the last working day of April and November so intentions to submit must be given by last working day of February or September, respectively.

ECU are strict on these deadlines and if they have not received notice in time, they will not accept your application until the submission date.

It is useful to have an external assessor review your Athena SWAN applications prior to submitting to the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU).

For contact details of a suitable assessor, please write to

The final step before submitting is for the chair of your Department Working Group to agree with the Gender Equality Group that your application is ready to go. 

Your application needs to be submitted to the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) by the last working day of either April or November.

Email your application to

ECU 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 ECU 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 Submissions Team

First Floor, Westminster Tower

3 Albert Embankment



The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) aims to release the results 5 months after the submission 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 the Equality Challenge Unit’s (ECU) guide to process.