After submission of your application


How your application is assessed

The panel

Your Athena Swan application will be assessed by a peer-review panel made up of academics and professionals who have significant experience of gender equality work in the higher education and research sector. Each panel normally consists of five Reviewers and one Chair. At least one panel member will have strong statistical analysis skills, and panels are gender balanced as far as possible.

All panel members are required to attend formal training when they are appointed, as well as yearly standardisation training to enable consistency of approach and decision-making.

The review process and outcomes

Reviewers undertake an independent assessment of your application in advance of the panel meeting, assessing it against the published Athena Swan criteria and recommending scores from ‘Poor’ to ‘Good’ for each criterion.

During the review meeting, the panel discuss the application and independent assessments and finalise scores against each criterion, an outcome for the application and key feedback points.

The panel will recommend one of the following outcomes:

  • The applicant has satisfied all the criteria and an award is conferred;
  • The applicant has narrowly missed one or more criteria and will be offered the chance to address the panel’s feedback through a process of minor revisions;
  • The applicant has not satisfied one or more criteria and will be offered the chance to address the panel’s feedback through a process of major revisions.

Your application is treated as confidential and panel members are assigned to panels to avoid conflicts of interest.

You will receive the outcome of your award within ten working days of the panel meeting – this will be within twelve weeks of your application being submitted.

Scoring rubric and major and minor revisions

The panel assessing your application will agree on a score from 1 to 4 for each criterion, where 1 is inadequate, 2 is narrowly missed, 3 is satisfactory and 4 is good. Your scores will be fed back to you along with the application outcome and detailed feedback to support your ongoing gender equality work.

The scores will give you an indication of the relative strength of your application against each of the criteria and will help panels to ensure consistent outcomes.

Your application must receive a score of 3 or more for each criterion if an award is to be recommended immediately.

If you score below ‘Satisfactory’ for any criterion, you will be invited to address the panel’s feedback through a revisions process. This means that no application will be unsuccessful without being offered the opportunity to revise the application and address the panel's feedback.

Minor revisions will enable unsuccessful applicants who have only narrowly missed the criteria (scoring at least 2 for up to 3 award criteria) to revise the application within eight weeks and return for approval by Chair's action.

If an application requires more significant improvement (it has received a score of 1 for any criterion), major revisions will enable applicants to revise and resubmit within six months for assessment by the same panel.


Athena Swan work does not stop when you have successfully gained an award: perhaps the most rewarding aspect of belonging to the Athena Swan Charter is the opportunity to take action to make a tangible difference to gender equality in your area of work.

Every department or faculty is different, with its own processes and procedures, but here are some general recommendations for how to approach the implementation of your Athena Swan action plan.

  • The action plan should be seen as a ‘living document’ which is updated as priorities and circumstances change. When you renew or upgrade your award you will not be expected to have kept to all the actions you outlined in your application 5 years previously, but you will need to explain why and how any of your actions have altered or become less relevant or achievable.
  • It’s a good idea to keep an ongoing record of progress against every action in your plan. You don’t necessarily need to use project management software. Adding a ‘progress’ column to an Excel spreadsheet listing the actions is simple but effective, as long as you remember to update this frequently!
  • Ensure that your SAT or EDI Committee is kept up to date with progress against your action plan. Consider making this a standing item on your meeting agendas or producing a termly and/or annual progress update. This latter could be usefully shared with other senior committees within your department, as appropriate.
  • Ensure that you regularly check in with all action owners, to ascertain progress against the actions they are responsible for. Discuss and agree interim deadlines for particular elements of the action where relevant, to make implementation more manageable.
Monitoring & evaluation

Keeping tabs on the status of each of your actions is only part of the story. Since the majority of your actions should have a quantitative success measure, it is important to be able to quantify your progress against each action, by regularly collecting data to monitor how close you are to achieving your target. Over the longer-term, it is also beneficial to evaluate the effectiveness of your actions in achieving your desired outcome. Evaluation should take into account both the quantitative results of your monitoring process and additional qualitative measures.

There is a bewildering number of monitoring and evaluation guides and tools available online, but we suggest that these are two of the most relevant for Athena Swan:

  1. Evaluating STEM gender equity programs: Women in STEM Australia

Using a 5-step approach to evaluation (Define, Plan, Design, Execute and Share) this guide offers practical advice on how to evaluate the outcomes and impact of your gender equality activities. It shows you how to embed evaluation in your work from the very beginning. The guidance uses real-life examples to illustrate some of the points, but the advice is easy to apply to your own programmes and projects. Practical worksheets and templates are included to help you plan, design and conduct your evaluation.

  1. Monitoring progress and evaluating a gender equality plan (European Institute for Gender Equality)

This resource includes written guidance, supported by videos and webinars, along with a range of additional tools and resources to explore. The guidance was produced for organisations participating in Horizon Europe, so some of the details may be less relevant to Athena Swan; however, the general principles apply.

Preparing for your next application

Moving from Bronze to Silver – what to consider

If you hold a Bronze award and are thinking about whether to renew the Bronze or apply for Silver, there are a few points to consider when making your decision:

  • Preparation for Silver is a longer process than just preparing the application. The preparation needs to start when you are implementing your Bronze action plan. You will need to gather evidence to demonstrate that those Bronze actions have been effective.


  • Your Silver application will need to tell a story of progress. The requirements of the revised Athena Swan charter have moved away from demonstrating impact (which can be difficult to do) to showing progress. You will need to identify 3 or 4 areas where you have made notable progress in advancing gender equality. Examples might be increasing the proportion of women academics by adopting more inclusive recruitment practices; or setting up a new mentoring scheme which has successfully supported women’s career development.


  • To achieve Silver you will need to show ambition in your planned actions. It is not enough simply to extend or continue your Bronze actions. It can be helpful to identify some key priorities to focus on and highlight these throughout the application and at relevant points in the action plan. Two examples from a recent successful Silver application are to support the emergence of more women leaders in the department and to better enable the career progression of female fixed-term researchers.


  • It is important to have internal and external conversations to help you decide whether to go for Silver:
    • Internally, you will need to think about resourcing. Preparing a Silver application is a lot of work and it should not all fall to one person such as an EDI officer or HR manager. Do other colleagues (such as members of the EDI Committee, the Head of Department or the Head of Administration) have capacity to be involved and can their involvement be timetabled in conveniently? It is helpful to allocate application roles early. Would the Athena Swan application coincide with other critical projects in the department (such as REF)?
    • You will need to secure senior buy-in for applying for Silver. One or two years before your award expires it might be helpful to write a paper for a senior management team or committee setting out the pros and cons of renewing Bronze versus applying for Silver.
    • It is very helpful to gather some external opinions on whether your progress is sufficient and your planned actions are ambitious enough for Silver, to help you assess whether your department is ready to make the leap to the next award level. Talk to departments in Oxford and departments similar to yours in other universities that already hold Silver awards. You could also get advice from the EDU and from colleagues in Oxford who have been trained as panellists under the new Charter.
    • Read successful Silver applications under the revised Charter (ideally from related departments) to get an idea of what is expected and to ‘benchmark’ your department’s own performance. Do you have enough material to build a narrative of progress and ambition in order to achieve Silver? You could ask a colleague from within Oxford or outside who recently secured a Silver award to review your draft application as a critical friend.

Going for Gold – what to consider

To be added

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