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Equality Charters

Advance HE’s equality charters enable organisations to apply for an award recognising their commitment to, and progress on, equality and diversity.

Driving change to organisational culture in higher education and research, Advance HE’s Equality Charters aim to transform and support gender and race equality in HE and research.

Advance HE’s Equality Charters are catalysts for change – encouraging higher education institutions and research institutes to transform their cultures and make an impact on the lives of staff and students. 

As well as our work in the UK, Advance HE’s International Charters team work with governments, national and sector agencies, and professional bodies to establish tailored and impactful charter frameworks. If you are interested in an Athena SWAN pilot programme, please contact

The Charters and Advance HE Membership

In the UK Advance HE Membership provides access to our Equality Charters making higher education better for everyone. Choose how to access our membership.

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The Charters explained

Advance HE’s Equality Charters enable organisations to apply for an award recognising their commitment to, and progress on, equality and diversity.

The Charters aim to drive forward the cultural and systemic changes needed if institutions are to remain competitive and attractive to talented staff and potential students in a global market. They are outcome-focused programmes that are catalysts for change – encouraging higher education institutions, research institutes and others to transform their cultures and make a real impact on the lives of staff and students.

The Charters are based on a methodology of self-assessment, peer-review and continuous progression.


A self-assessment team has responsibility for gathering data and qualitative evidence to support their submission. This will take stock of progress to date and identify areas for further action. Institutions must also develop an ambitious, comprehensive action plan based on their self-assessment.

Peer review

Award applications are assessed by a panel drawn from across higher education. Panels will have members with a mix of roles and specialisms, including:

  • academics
  • professional services staff
  • equality and diversity practitioners
  • HR practitioners
  • representatives of learned societies and professional bodies
  • industry representatives where applicable.

Continuous progression

The Athena Swan Charter has three levels of awards available for institutions and individual departments, and institutions can also apply for a Bronze or Silver REC award, depending on their level of progress. Members are encouraged to work through the levels from Bronze, to Silver and Gold (Athena Swan only) with re-application at regular intervals. These renewals require evidence of progress and the successful completion of earlier action plans.

Introducing the Charters

We have developed Advance HE’s Race Equality Charter and Athena Swan Charter to help the higher education and research sectors address racial and gender inequality, including the underrepresentation and lack of progression and success of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff and students, and the gender imbalance at senior levels and in certain subjects.

Race Equality Charter

The Race Equality Charter aims to improve the representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students within higher education. It provides a framework through which institutions work to self-reflect on institutional and cultural barriers standing in the way of minority ethnic staff and students and have their commitment to and progress in removing these barriers recognised.

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Athena Swan

The Athena Swan Charter is a framework which is used across the globe to support and transform gender equality within higher education and research. Established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment, the Charter is now used to address gender inequality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

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Athena SWAN Ireland

Athena SWAN Ireland is a cross-sector initiative that is nationally funded. The scheme launched in Ireland in 2015 at the request of the Higher Education Authority and with the support of the Department of Higher Education and Skills. Advance HE’s dedicated Athena SWAN Ireland staff support the development and delivery of Athena SWAN Ireland. All of Ireland’s universities and institutes of technology participate in the Charter, and accreditation is linked to institutional eligibility for research funding as part of a national strategy to progress gender equality in higher education and research.

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International Charters

Advance HE’s Equality Charter frameworks are used across the globe to support and transform gender and race equality within higher education (HE) and research. Our international charters aim to establish frameworks that are globally comparable and locally contextualised.

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The impact of the Charters

Advance HE's Equality Charters are based on an effective methodology that can make a real impact, aiming to be a catalyst for cultural change and to make a real impact for staff and students.

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An impact evaluation of the Athena Swan Charter (2019)

An independent report into the impact of the Athena Swan Charter
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Advancing women’s careers in STEMM

Evaluating the effectiveness and impact of the Athena Swan Charter
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