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A step-change for gender equality – the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter is launched today

30 Jun 2021 | Advance HE “A great step forward in the drive for gender equality in higher education and research institutes.”

Advance HE is delighted to share details of the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter. The transformed UK Charter will build on the great strides the Charter has already achieved in promoting gender equality, accelerating this through an even more effective, engaging and flexible approach.

Following a period of collaboration with colleagues from across the sector, the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter takes forward the recommendations of the Independent Review which was established by Advance HE on formation, significantly enhancing the Charter to bring about:

  • a paradigm shift from prescription to autonomy and flexibility

  • a reduction in administrative burden, including a halving of data requirements

  • Advance HE moving from a focus on assessment or judging, to a developmental and supporting approach.

The detail shared with universities, research institutes, academic departments and professional, technical and operational (PTO) directorate includes:

  • New Charter Principles * – empowering participating institutions, departments and directorates to make active commitments that align with their gender equality goals and supporting greater inclusivity
  • Revised award criteria – with more flexibility for applicants to focus on what is important within their context while providing greater clarity and transparency through new guidance on what’s needed to meet the criteria
  • Updated application materials – reducing the administrative burden through streamlined applications and data requirements (more than halved); empowering applicants to focus on the assessment of culture and embedding greater inclusivity for all staff types, people of all gender identities and people facing intersectional inequalities
  • New panel processes – with transparency and consistency through the adoption of a new scoring rubric, developmental guidance for applicants through new processes for minor and major revisions and reducing the time between application and result through streamlined processes
  • Proactive guidance – increasing Advance HE’s developmental support for applicants, with additional written guidance, events and team support planned.

Alison Johns, Advance HE Chief Executive, said, 

“This is a very significant step in advancing gender equality, ensuring that the Charter centres on the key dimension of positive and supportive cultures, and is inclusive of people of all gender identities and those facing intersectional inequalities. It is also absolutely right that the Charter embraces professional, technical and operational staff directorates whose work contributes so much to the HE sector.

“I am extremely pleased that we have addressed the concerns held by many relating to the administrative burden of applying for Athena Swan awards, which often fell to the people the Charter intended to champion. New processes, coupled with our active support for applicants have significantly reduced this workload while retaining the rigour of the Charter.

“Finally, I would like to thank colleagues throughout the sector for engaging with us to shape the transformed Charter; the Independent Review panel, the Athena Swan Governance Committee – and its sub-groups, whose advice and attention to detail has informed the work so expertly and constructively on the sector’s behalf and the Athena Swan Transition Group (ASTG), comprised of members from the original review panel, who advised the ASGC on the detailed findings of the review.”

Professor Parveen Yaqoob, the ASGC Chair and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Reading, said, “The  ASGC Committee, which was configured to ensure expert representation from across the sector so that Advance HE members remain at the heart of the transformation, is delighted to endorse the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter.

“The ASGC is also pleased to see Advance HE’s commitment to increasing support for applicants and taking a more developmental role across the Charter process. As we launch the new framework, we are already making plans for monitoring and evaluation. The long-term goal for success for Athena Swan is evidence that the sector views the Chartermark as an improvement tool rather than an end product, is open to sharing good practice, and is genuinely committed to dismantling inequality.

“I believe this Charter is a great step forward in the drive for gender equality in higher education and research institutes.”

Watch this short video to hear more from Professor Parveen Yaqoob about the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter

These changes to the Charter affect the UK only and Advance HE will continue to work and engage with our Equality Charter partners around the world to share the learning from this process of co-creation. Advance HE is committed to ensuring Athena Swan continues to support progress in gender equality in the HE and research sectors globally.

Advance HE will run a series of dissemination events and briefings with colleagues throughout the HE and research sectors over July and August to explore the key aspects of the transformed Charter.

(* The new Charter principles were first shared in November 2020 as part of the transformation project.)

More about the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter

Developed in full consultation with specialist groups and the sector, we have enhanced the systems and processes that underpin the UK Charter to ensure it is fit for the future.

These pages include details of:


We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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