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UEL's School of Psychology recognised with Athena SWAN bronze award

Students in class

Award recognises efforts to promote gender equality among staff and students

The University of East London’s (UEL) School of Psychology has been recognized for its work supporting gender equality with an Athena SWAN Bronze award.

UEL earned an institutional Athena SWAN Bronze award in 2017, but the School of Psychology is the first academic department within the University to be individually recognized. 

The achievement is an important part of the University’s application for an institutional Silver award, one step up from bronze, and is expected to provide encouragement for other UEL departments seeking Athena SWAN recognition. 

Dr Lisa Mooney, UEL Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Knowledge Exchange), said, “The School of Psychology have committed to promoting Athena SWAN principles, both inside and outside the School, with a strong action plan. This is a key achievement in terms of the School beginning to tackle gender equality issues specific to their department and staff. 

“The School of Psychology can also act as a role model and champion more broadly within the institution. This achievement provides impetus for further progress.”

Dr Mooney chairs UEL’s Athena SWAN steering group.

Athena SWAN is a charter, established in 2005 and managed by Advance HE’s Equality Challenge Unit, which supports and encourages universities to work towards gender equality. Higher education institutions which join Athena SWAN commit to adopting the charter’s principles within their policies, practices, action plans and culture. 

For its Athena SWAN application, the School of Psychology undertook a rigorous self-assessment process of analysis and consultation. The effort was led by Dr Caroline Edmonds, a Reader of Psychology, and Dr Sharon Cahill, Head of Psychological Sciences. Dr Edmonds and Dr Cahill are also members of the team that helped UEL earn an institutional Bronze award. 

They considered factors including statistics that show psychology at UEL tends to be a female-dominated discipline (reflected in both student and staff demographics), although women are under-represented in research activity. 

Thus, key priorities in the School’s action plan include increasing the number of male students, while supporting career-progression opportunities for female staff, particularly in relation to research. 

The School will, for example, strengthen ties with the East London Skills and Employment Federation, allowing staff to participate in outreach activities with local schools and build relationships with prospective male and BAME students.

The School is also implementing a writing programme, led by Dr Edmonds, aimed at building confidence and strengthening research skills among female academics. If successful, the programme could serve as a model for other departments at the University.

Dr Cahill said, “The School of Psychology is delighted to receive the Athena SWAN Bronze award. As a School we have always championed inclusivity, and the award is a fantastic achievement and recognition of this. We have a great action plan, some of which we've put into place already. It was a team effort. A huge thank you to everyone involved.” 

Dr Edmonds said, “We’re very pleased. The award recognizes both our accomplishments to date, as well as the powerful plan we have in place to promote gender equality further within the School. We look forward to achieving our goals, and we hope to set a strong example for other UEL departments which are working on their own Athena SWAN applications.”

UEL’s Schools of Health, Sport and Bioscience and Architecture, Computing and Engineering plan to apply for Athena SWAN recognition within the next year.

You can find more information on UEL's Athena SWAN efforts on our web page and blog. You can also check out our Twitter