HEA Welcomes Publication of Report of Athena SWAN Charter (UK) Independent Review Steering Group



By Maura O'Shea

Posted: 24 March, 2020

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) welcomes The Future of Athena SWAN, the report of the Athena SWAN Charter (UK)Independent Review Steering Group published this week.

The report is the result of an independent review of the Athena SWAN Charter in the United Kingdom, led by Professor Julia Buckingham CBE, Vice-Chancellor and President of Brunel University London. The Steering Group concluded that Athena SWAN should continue to be a major driver of gender equality practice in the UK higher education sector and its key recommendations include streamlining the applications process, reducing the administrative burden on staff, and embracing the wider definition of gender beyond male and female.

Advance HE’s Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005to effect cultural and systemic change in higher education institutions to support gender equality and the career progression of women in science, technology, engineering, medicine and mathematics. In 2015 it was incorporated into a new gender equality charter mark, thereby extending the initiative to include the arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law, and to take into consideration the progression of professional, technical and support staff. The Athena SWAN Bronze, Silver and Gold awards testify to institutions’ and departments’ success in advancing the principles of the Charter.

The Athena SWAN Charter, available to Irish HEIs since 2015, is a key driver of gender equality across the Irish higher education sector. A recent survey of staff in Irish HEIs found that 94.3% believed that the Athena SWAN Charter helps to raise awareness of gender equality issues in Irish higher education institutions. Currently, 44 awards are held by Irish HEIs, with 13 institutions and 31 departments holding Bronze awards.

While the report of the Independent Review Steering Group makes a number of important recommendations that will shape the future of Athena SWAN, this particular review focuses on the United Kingdom iteration of the Charter. In this context, the recommendations specifically apply to the Athena SWAN Charter in the United Kingdom and there is no necessity for them to be applied in other international contexts, including in Ireland. Nonetheless, their application in the United Kingdom may offer valuable insight in relation to the future development of the Charter in Ireland. The HEA looks forward to working with Advance HE, HEIs and other key stakeholders over the coming months and years to further strengthen and develop the Athena SWAN Charter Ireland in order to further advance gender equality in Irish higher education.

The report can be accessed here and an overview of the recommendations is outlined here.

More: Athena SWAN, Athena SWAN Charter