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Home Advance HE’s Equality Charters Athena SWAN Charter Review of the Athena SWAN Charter

Review of the Athena SWAN Charter

The establishment of Advance HE has provided an opportunity to evaluate a number of our programmes to ensure they are fit for current and future needs of institutions, individuals and the sector as a whole. While there has been much positive feedback about the impact Athena SWAN has had on gender equality in the sector and, specifically enhancing the career opportunities for women, concerns have arisen about the award process and administrative burden it places on our universities.

The Advance HE Board has therefore commissioned an independent review of Athena SWAN to ensure that it is fit for purpose and to advise on the process, policy and positioning of Athena SWAN in the UK.  The review is being undertaken by a Steering Group chaired by Professor Julia Buckingham CBE, Vice-Chancellor and President of Brunel University London.

The Group is considering and making recommendations on:

  • the purpose and remit of Athena SWAN,
  • the requirements for each level of recognition,
  • the application process and the administrative burden it places on institutions,
  • the assessment of applications and the training and workload of assessors,
  • perceived inconsistencies in the review process.

Steering Group Membership

  • Ms Margaret Ayers, Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development, Canterbury Christ Church University and member of Executive Committee of Universities HR (UHR)
  • Professor Julia Buckingham, CBE (Chair), Vice-Chancellor and President, Brunel University London
  • Mr Ben Browne, Chief Operating Officer, De Montfort University
  • Professor Paul Carmichael, Associate Dean (Global Development), Ulster University
  • Professor Dame Athene Donald, DBE, FRS, Professor of Experimental Physics, Master of Churchill College, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Jenny Higham, Principal, St George’s, University of London, and Chair of the Medical Schools Council
  • Mr Patrick Johnson, Head of Equality And Diversity, University of Manchester
  • Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, OBE, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research, Innovation and Strategic Development), Swansea University, and Vice-President of the Federation of European Microbiological Society (FEMS)
  • Mr David Sweeney, Executive Chair, Research England, Council of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)
  • Professor Paul Walton, Department of Chemistry, University of York
  • Professor Lesley Yellowlees, MBE, CBE, Head of College of Science and Engineering, University of Edinburgh.


  • October 2018 to 1 February  2019: Informal consultation with the sector
  • March-May 2019:  Formal Consultation with the sector
  • June – September 2019:  Formulation of Conclusions and Recommendations and consultation thereon
  • September 2019: Steering Group reports to the Advance HE Board.

Between October 2018 and January 2019, the Steering Group is obtaining a broad understanding of the Athena SWAN experience through conducting an informal “soft consultation” with groups of stakeholders across the UK. The information gained from this exercise – along with the findings of an impact evaluation of Athena SWAN running concurrently and commissioned by Advance HE – will inform and shape the formal consultation with the UK sector which will take place over the period March-May 2019.

From February 2019 and throughout the rest of the review process, the Steering Group will identify and establish task and finish groups with expertise to advise on specific areas. Depending on the outcomes of the soft consultation, these may include assessment processes, clarity of application processes and data requirements.

The Steering Group will report their findings and recommendations in September 2019.

The timeline for implementation of any recommendations will take account of the work currently underway by institutions and departments on Athena SWAN applications, and will incorporate an appropriate transition period for any changes that will affect applicants. Unless otherwise informed directly by Advance HE, existing award-holders and applicants planning to submit in or before November 2020 will not be affected by the review.

How to Get Involved

Soft consultation

To facilitate participation from a broad range of stakeholders across the UK, members of the Steering Group are hosting various face-to-face meetings and webinars and conducting an online survey. These sessions are focused on six exploratory questions established by the Steering Group:

  1. What have you most valued about Athena SWAN, what are the benefits?
  2. What would you like the Steering Group Review to address?
  3. Who or what do you think Athena SWAN is for? Who or what do you think it should be for in the future?
  4. How can Athena SWAN be improved?
  5. What are the biggest challenges regarding Athena SWAN, and for whom?
  6. What will “good” or “success” look like in 10 years’ time?

Below is a list of face-to-face sessions taking place on the following dates:

Location/group Meeting Date
Advance HE, Westminster Tower Oct 18
University of Manchester Oct 18
NI Ulster internal/online Oct 18
NI Ulster, QUB and Open University webinar Oct 18
SGUL Nov 18
Medical Schools Council Nov 18
Athena SWAN leads at University of Manchester Nov 18
Council of Deans for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Nov 18
Graduate of the Aurora Programme at Brunel University Nov 18
Oxford Brookes Nov 18
Representatives of the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Bath Spa University, University of the West of England and the University of Gloucestershire. Nov 18
Russell Group Directors of Research and Innovation Nov 18
University College London Nov 18
University of Cambridge Nov 18
University of Sheffield Nov 18
Midlands Institutions Dec 18
Chartered Association of Business Schools Dec 18
Imperial College London Dec 18
London Higher Event Dec 18
Royal Society Dec 18
Russell Group Equality Forum Dec 18
S10 Vice Chancellors meeting Dec 18
Sanger Institute – AS Network, London/East Anglia Dec 18
SRUC Campus – AS Network, Scotland Dec 18
University of Reading – AS Network, London West Dec 18
AS Eastern Network Jan 19
City UoL Jan 19
Durham University Jan 19
Kingston University Jan 19
Liverpool University Jan 19
Meeting with Funders Jan 19
Online Meeting Jan 19
University of Wolverhampton Jan 19
Online Webinar (public access) Jan 19
Exeter University Feb 19
Falmouth University Feb 19
Athena SWAN working group TBC
Aurora Network TBC
HRD Oxford TBC
Nottingham EDI Group TBC
UHR Network TBC

For details of how to participate via webinar on 24 January 2019 at 11am, please see the Athena SWAN review, soft consultation webinar.

You can now contribute your feedback about the Athena SWAN review via an online survey. This survey is part of the soft consultation being conducted by the Steering Group and it aims to collect high level feedback and insights from colleagues across the HE sector to inform the more detailed formal consultation on the future shape of Athena SWAN which will take place in the Spring. The survey will close on Monday 28 January 2019.

Sector consultation

Details of how to be involved in the formal sector consultation will be provided herein March-April 2019.

Task and Finish groups

Details of the areas to be explored further by task and finish groups will be provided here in March-April 2019.

Final consultation

The Steering Group plans to test its findings and recommendations from July to September 2019.  Further updates will be posted on this web page.

Latest News

Athena SWAN Impact Evaluation

In November 2018, Advance HE commissioned a new independent evaluation of the impact of the Athena SWAN Charter in the UK in quantitative and qualitative terms. This research will build on previous evaluations and will run between November 2018 and February 2019. The outcomes of this research will inform future development and enhance the support Advance HE gives to institutions working towards gender equality.