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Athena Swan Ireland FAQs: Covid-19

The answers to some frequently asked questions about Covid-19 for the Athena Swan Ireland charter.

Is there any flexibility with the submission deadlines because of Covid-19? 

Advance HE recognises that Covid-19 is continuing to impact the work of applicants. To assist applicants planning submissions during this uncertain period, we have introduced a three-month rolling deadline for the following Athena Swan Ireland submission rounds: 

November 2021: 30 November 2021-28 January 2022

April 2022: 29 April 2022 – 24 June 2022

Award validity will continue to be calculated on the basis of the April and November submission deadlines (i.e. applications received between 30 November 2021-28 January 2022 will be valid until November 2025). 

Covid-19 has impacted our institution/department’s timeline for submission and we don’t think we’re going to be ready to submit in time, what can we do?  

New applicants: if you are a first time applicant there is no penalty to withdrawing your intention to submit if you find that the submission timeline has changed. To assist us with our planning, we ask that you email us to indicate that your institution/department will no longer be submitting in this round:

Award-holders: if you are an award-holder due to renew your award in 2021 or 2022 you can request a 12-month submission deferral (see the Covid-19 deferred submission process). Award holders wishing to avail of a Covid-19 deferral must:

  1. extend their existing action plans by one year, and;
  2. submit a letter to Advance HE from the head of the institution/department confirming that the institution/department will continue to:
    • uphold the Charter principles;
    • address gender equality through the implementation of the extended action plan;
    • monitor and evaluate action plan progress via a Self-Assessment Team (or equivalent).

The letter should be addressed to the Head of Athena Swan Ireland and submitted via email ( Letters should be submitted no more than twelve months before the award is due to expire. Once the letter is received and checked, Advance HE will confirm the deferral with the award-holder.

Do we need to address Covid-19 in our submission?  

There is no requirement to address Covid-19 in your submission. However, Athena Swan requires a context specific self-assessment of equality in your institution/sub-unit, meaning that your self-assessment team may wish to explore the extent to which Covid-19 has effected staff outputs and wider culture. The equality impacts of Covid-19 are still emerging, but early commentary and research has indicated several issues. These include equity of access to teaching/research equipment or attainment gaps that arise from using new forms of assessment, expectations of staff work patterns, and variability in research outputs.

If your consultation and data suggest that Covid-19 is impacting your institution/sub-unit, or if you identify that your staff or students are likely to be impacted by Covid-19 in the future, then you should consider how to respond within your application to ensure that your equality work remains relevant. 

The outbreak of Covid-19 has impacted our ability to make progress on our action plan or priorities, what can we do?  

Advance HE understands action plans to be live organic documents that are reviewed and updated in line with regular evaluation during the implementation phase of an award cycle. Across the award period, it is typical for applicants to adjust and revise actions to ensure achievability and relevance (see Topic guide 5: Evaluating and Evidencing Progress and Success), and this will be necessary in a Covid context. For example, it may be necessary to make adjustments to timeframes and milestones, or to revise an action in line with hybrid working or teaching arrangements. Also, where new equality challenges and opportunities are identified, actions can be added to the action plan. As is typical in Bronze renewals and in applications for Silver and Gold wards, applicants are expected to reflect honestly on the progress and impact of their actions during the award period. Where progress has faltered, you should acknowledge this in the application narrative and set out a clear plan to overcome the challenges you have identified.