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The transformed UK Athena Swan Charter FAQs: Applying

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

When can we apply using the new criteria?

You can begin using the transformed materials as soon as you are ready. The next assessment round is November 2021 and the deadline for submission (which has been extended due to the impact of Coronavirus on applicants) is the 14th of January. You will need to declare your intention to submit for this round by the end of September 2021.

How long do you expect it to take us to be ready to apply under the transformed Charter?

There is no standard length for how long it takes to complete and Athena Swan application. To fully prepare your application you will need to undertake the following:

  • Establish a self-assessment team
  • Collect and analyse data
  • Evaluate your culture and policies
  • Create an action plan

How long these stages take may depend on your existing structures and resources, and your experience with the Charter. Please feel free to get in touch with the team for support and advise on planning your next application.

Do we have to apply using the new application forms? When can we no longer use the Post-May 2015 application form?

The Post-May 2015 forms will be available to applicants up to and including November 2022. You are able to choose which forms you wish to submit your Athena Swan Charter application with until Nov 2022. After this date, only the transformed UK Athena Swan application forms will be available.

We do not have an award under the post May criteria. Can we go straight ahead and apply using the transformed criteria and application materials?

Yes, you can apply using the new application materials, regardless of whether you already hold an award. All applicants can use the existing post-May 2015 forms up to (and including) November 2022 or apply with the new forms as soon as they are ready to do so.

Do I have to apply at Bronze level if I am a first-time applicant?

We expect all applicants that do not already hold an Athena Swan award apply at Bronze level but if there are exceptional reasons for applying at a higher award level then please contact us.

When can we use the culture survey?

The culture survey questions have been published with the transformed charter materials and are available for use straight away. To trial the  culture survey, Advance HE will be running a pilot project over 2021 and 2022, which will collect feedback from early adopters. We ask any applicant planning on using the survey during 2021 and 2022 to register their interest in taking part in a pilot exercise so that we can learn from their experience and feedback. This applies to departments intending to run the survey themselves, or universities planning on running the survey centrally.

Applicants intending to apply for an Athena Swan award in 2021 and 2022 may have already undertaken alternative consultation with their staff, or there may not be sufficient time to run the survey prior to their application submission date. Applicants wishing to explore the option of a short-term extension to allow them to run the new survey should get in touch with the Equality Charters team. Alternatively, applicants submitting in 2021 and 2022 will be allowed to omit the survey findings from their application, though we strongly encourage those applicants to run the survey (or its core questions) if possible, so as to inform their gender equality work and support longitudinal analysis in their future applications. Use of the survey will be expected of all departmental applicants submitting an application under the transformed charter criteria from (and inclusive of) the January 2023 round onwards.

Will there be an additional word allowance to cover extenuating circumstances?

Yes, you can find information relating to word count in the guidance published alongside the application materials.

What changes are being made to how forms are submitted?

From the November 2021 round onward, applicants will be required to submit their application electronically through an online portal system at MyAdvanceHEYou will be asked to upload your application form as a single consolidated PDF. A link to the online portal and further information will be shared closer to the November 2021 application deadline.

Are professional, technical and operational staff included in the transformed charter?

Yes, university, research institute and departmental applications forms will ask participants to consider gender equality issues amongst professional, technical and operational (PTO) staff.  We’re also inviting PTO directorates to apply for Athena Swan awards for the first time through a dedicated form for PTO directorates. If you’d like to be part of this pilot scheme, please let us know and we’ll work to support you. 

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 we 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;
  • When applying for silver and gold awards, faculties will need to demonstrate that progress and success are evident across the faculty and not driven by an individual sub-unit;
  • Applications from faculties 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 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.

For further information or advice about how any of these developments affect you personally, please get in touch with the Charters team who can be reached by emailing: