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The transformed UK Athena Swan Charter FAQs: Applying Units

The answers to some frequently asked questions about various aspects of the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter.

Can we apply as a faculty?

Yes. Universities operate using a range of structures and it is the applicant’s decision what unit is best placed to apply. 

Advance HE uses the term ‘department’ refer to academic sub-units eligible to apply for an Athena Swan award. Institutions may use other terms to describe these units, such as 'school'. It normally aligns with a particular academic discipline or professional area. Institutions may use other terms to describe these units, such as 'school'. 

Advance HE uses the term ‘faculty’ to describe a group of sub-units, often called departments, in related academic fields that are managed through an over-arching decision-making body or governance structure. Institutions may use other terms to describe these groupings, for example 'College'. 

Faculty applicants should use the same application materials as departments and will be assessed using the same criteria, but should note additional considerations in the departmental guidance.   

How should be decide whether to apply as a faculty or department?

There are precedents for a wide range of successful submissions from very small departments to large faculties. Advance HE’s Equality Charters team is happy to advise on which organisational unit should be put forward for an award, but ultimately this is a decision that must be taken within the institution. This should be done as early as possible in the application process to assist you to prepare your application.

Factors you should consider when deciding whether to apply as a faculty or a department are:

  • Units need to hold adequate decision-making power to make changes to policy, practice and culture – this usually means that the head of the applying unit has responsibility for resource allocation, budgets, academic strategy and policy in the submitting unit, so as to be able to effect the changes set out in the action plan;
  • Communication of and commitment to the Charter principles needs to be apparent across the submitting unit - responsibility and ownership should not be driven by an individual sub-unit;
  • Large departments or faculties need to clearly demonstrate that the self-assessment is representative of the whole department or faculty and that issues specific to different subject areas have been identified;
  • Applications from faculties (e.g. containing sub-units, often called departments, which have their own academic or professional focus, context and structures) should present data disaggregated by sub-unit wherever possible.

Note: A departmental award will be invalidated if the department is subsequently included in a successful faculty submission. Similarly, should departments included in a successful faculty submission wish to apply individually, the faculty award would be invalidated.

Do faculties receive extra words?

Faculty applicants (i.e. an applying unit which is made up of component sub-units, often departments) can avail of a 1000-word extension to the application word limit to allow them to analyse and reflect on any departmental or discipline-specific differences. Applicants are encouraged to disaggregate their data by sub-unit wherever possible to support this analysis. Applicants should email the Equality Charters team no less than one month prior to the application submission date to confirm this additional word allowance and ensure it is noted in our records.