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Silver Athena SWAN award for School of Psychology

The School of Psychology at Ulster University is delighted to announce that it has achieved an Athena SWAN Silver award.

The Athena SWAN Charter recognises advancement of gender equality: representation, progression and success for all, and the School has made steady progress since its Bronze award in November 2016, across a range of areas in its commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

Within its Athena SWAN Silver submission, examples of this impact were outlined, including:

  • Development of a comprehensive workload model, resulting in a significant increase in staff perceptions of fairness regarding workload allocations (increasing from 61% to 96%)
  • 100% success rate for those staff applying for promotion
  • 3 female staff members gaining promotion to Senior Lecturer or Reader (a 50% increase)
  • Significant increases in staff agreement with key areas of cultural change, in the staff survey:
    • “such a great place to work” – increased from 50% to 80%
    • “school support network” – increased from 41% to 80%, and
    • “opportunities to discuss career development” - increased from 40% to 92%
  • An increase in the recruitment of male students is apparent (Undergraduate – increase from 15% to 18%, and Postgraduate Research – increase from 15% to 27%)
  • Enhanced support for students, including the creation of a wellbeing coordinator post
  • The School of Psychology’s Student Peer Mentoring (PASS) scheme rolled out across the University, and the school won an award as a new employability initiative; Psychology at Work.

The School of Psychology is committed to the development of a School Team Charter (currently at review stage) to further improve its ways of working, particularly in relation to communication and collaboration; and its Athena SWAN action plan demonstrates its continued determination to ensure that gender equality is embedded in all aspects of School life.

Professor Melanie Giles, Head of School (Psychology), on hearing the news said:

“I am delighted that the School of Psychology has achieved an Athena Swan Silver (AS) Award in recognition for our work in addressing gender equality.

“Since the consolidation of Ulster’s Psychology provision onto one campus, we have implemented a significant cultural change process, and with support from my colleagues, we have engaged extensively to support the imbedding of AS principles across the School.”

Professor Carol Curran, Executive Dean (Life and Health Sciences), adds:

“Congratulations to everyone within the School of Psychology on being awarded the Silver Athena SWAN Award which recognises our continued commitment to providing leadership and embedding Athena SWAN principles across the Faculty.

“I would like to acknowledge the dedication shown by Professor Melanie Giles, Head of the School of Psychology, and Dr Niamh Kennedy, our Athena SWAN Champion who led this submission, along with the contribution and support from members of the School’s Self-Assessment Team.”

This University has been highly committed to the principles that underpin the Athena SWAN Charter for many years with ten schools at Ulster currently hold Athena SWAN awards.

If you require any further information, contact Maria Loughrey, Athena SWAN Officer, by email to

The School of Psychology was delighted to receive the Athena SWAN Bronze Department Award in May 2017, as we are committed to ensuring an equal workplace for all.

The award acknowledges that within our department, we are working to promote gender equality for all and will address any issues within this area to ensure a transparent working environment.

Both staff and students within the School completed a self-assessment process, reviewing and reflecting on current work practices, with a three-year action plan now in place for 2017-2020.

Our main goals as part of this plan include:

  • Addressing the gender imbalance in recruitment to undergraduate and postgraduate taught courses
  • Ensuring equitable workloads for all staff
  • Improving communication throughout the School of Psychology

Delivering our action plan

Addressing gender imbalance in recruitment

With more undergraduate female students than male currently registered at Ulster University’s School of Psychology, we aim to redress this balance and encourage more male applicants.

Our plan is to:

  • Host annual ‘Psychology for Men’ undergraduate recruitment events, targeting all-boys secondary schools
  • Encourage male psychology applicants at annual ‘Postgraduate Courses’ recruitment events
  • Gather feedback from attendees via questionnaires about our events and taught courses
  • Develop and deliver a new online marketing strategy for our courses, aimed at both males and females and incorporating fresh imagery and video footage

Fair workloads for staff

In 2015, our new Head of School published an updated draft workload model for staff, which will help us as we move forward with ensuring fair and transparent workloads for all.

The School of Psychology will subsequently develop and publish a live workload model, using existing exemplar models within Ulster University as guidance. Our School of Psychology workload model will specify the nature and duration of key administrative roles within the School and will be monitored by our School Executive Team (SET) for gender equity.

The SET comprises two male and two female senior members of staff, including our Head of School, Research Institute Director, Learning and Teaching Coordinator and a Senior Lecturer.

Improving communication

Ulster University’s School of Psychology plans to improve communication within the School by creating a more open and transparent environment in which all staff feel actively involved.

Our strategy will look at:

  • Actively celebrating the success of staff and students through department-wide emails
  • Regularly updating the news section of our website
  • Engaging with staff and students through our Twitter account and using this regularly as a promotional tool online
  • Investing in computer screens for communal spaces which will display revolving content

Core attributes of the School of Psychology

The School of Psychology Board has embraced a much more collaborative way of working in recent years, which we continue to build upon. As a result, our academic, research, technical and support staff can more easily respond to or discuss any issues that are of importance to the School.

We also have a tradition of our academic staff being former students of the School, which is a great endorsement and may inspire current students to return here to work.

The School of Psychology further offers a flexible approach to working hours, which is particularly beneficial for staff with caring duties.

Areas of focus

The School of Psychology’s Athena Swan Bronze award Action Plan (2017-2020) aims to:

  • Increase the proportion of male applicants for undergraduate courses from 12% to 25%
  • Increase the proportion of male applicants for postgraduate courses from 25% to 35%
  • Reduce the proportion of staff who feel their workload is not equitable from 23% to 10%
  • Improve communication within the School of Psychology
  • Develop a new staff induction handbook and a ‘buddy’ mentoring system
  • Improve support for female staff members going on and returning from maternity leave, particularly in relation to teaching relief to support research-related activities.

To find out more about the Award please visit our Athena SWAN pages.