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Women in HE Conference 2021

Equality Charters: Panel members and observers

Panel members and observers are central to the peer review assessment process of the Equality Charters.

What do panel members and observers do?

Participating in an Equality Charter panel provides invaluable insight into: the award assessment process; an understanding of how panels work; how institutions present and analyse data included in applications; and methods to evidence progress of an action plan. It also allows the opportunity to build professional networks and share knowledge of equality, diversity and inclusion practices.

Panel members undergo a selection process and complete training before being assigned to an award assessment panel. Panel members review applications, assess them against criteria, and meet in an online panel meeting to discuss whether an application satisfies the criteria to be eligible for an award. During the panel meeting, the panel considers each application in turn, led by a Chair drawn from the panel. Also present is a member of Advance HE staff who may provide guidance to the panel and take notes, but does not make any decisions regarding the conferral of an award.

Observers are able to attend an assessment award panel, an opportunity that can be insightful for those working towards an Equality Charter award. Observers do not take part in the decision-making process and do not vote, although they may be asked for their observations on the panel process after a decision has been made.

Due to the high number of requests to observe our panels, we prioritise those who are actively working on an upcoming Charter application.

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Who can be a panel member or observer?

To qualify as a panel member you need to work, or have recently worked, in the higher education and research sector.

All panel members are required to attend training upon appointment and to attend yearly standardisation training to enable consistency of approach and decision-making.

For each assessment panel, Advance HE seeks to achieve appropriate representation, by considering the gender and ethnicity of panel members, and ensuring there is also representation of experienced and new panel members. Advance HE may draw panel members from the following groups of people:

  • academics in all disciplines;
  • human resources or equality and diversity practitioners with experience in higher education and research institutions;
  • other professional, technical and operational staff with experience in higher education and research institutions;
  • specialists (e.g. industry and research institute representatives, members or employees of learned and professional societies, gender equality and race equality specialists);
  • students (Race Equality Charter only).

Anyone working or studying in an Advance HE member institution can request to observe a panel, however, due to the high number of requests to observe our panels, we prioritise those who are actively working on an upcoming Charter application. 

For Equality Charter panels, role descriptions and person specifications for Chairs and Reviewers can be found in the relevant terms of reference as follows;

A list of current Athena Swan Charter panel Chairs and Reviewers can be found on the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter webpage.

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