First research institute gold award for gender equality, 06 October 2017

On Friday 6th October, Equality Challenge Unit announced the UK’s first research institute to achieve an Athena SWAN Gold award.

In the latest review round, John Innes Centre has become a member of an exclusive group of Gold award-holding institutions and departments.

Supported by the Royal Society, ECU conducted a pilot of the Athena SWAN Charter in 2013 with independent research institutes; previously, eligibility was limited to organisations holding HEI status. A dedicated staff member was assigned specific responsibility to support research institutes, and oversaw the preparation of tailored materials, delivery of targeted workshops and site visits, and the establishment of a Research Institute Advisory Group (RIAG). Following from the successful completion of the pilot, there are currently 31 research institute members of the Athena SWAN Charter, holding 16 awards – 13 Bronze, and two Silver, and now one Gold.

In July 2016, echoing the HEI expansion the previous year, the focus of the research institute application process also expanded to gender equality more broadly – including the consideration of intersectionality – and to include arts, humanities, social science, business and law (AHSSBL) disciplines; professional and support staff; and trans staff. At this time, the criteria for a Gold Athena SWAN research institute award was also published for the first time.

In addition to the Gold research institute award conferred to the John Innes Centre, the School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast, the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, and the Institute of Integrative Biology at the University of Liverpool have achieved Gold departmental awards, bringing the number of Gold award-holding departments in the UK to ten.

This round has also resulted in a new Silver institutional award – Swansea University – and two new Bronze institutional awards: Royal Veterinary College and the University of East London.

The April 2017 round saw 143 applications with 4 Gold awards, 22 Silver awards and 59 Bronze awards being conferred. The overall success rate was 59%. Applications for awards are assessed by peer-review panels, and awards are valid for up to four years, after which the applicant must demonstrate progress to renew or upgrade their award.

For more information about ECU’s Athena SWAN Charter, please visit

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