School of Nursing – Athena SWAN

The School of Nursing was delighted to be the first School at Ulster University to receive an Athena SWAN award, receiving a Bronze Department Award in November 2015. This award celebrates and acknowledges our commitment to gender equality.

The Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. In May 2015, the Charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. As a result, the Charter now focuses more broadly on gender equality. In achieving the award in 2015, the School of Nursing also engaged in commitment to further enhance equality issues in a transparent and proactive manner. The achievement of the award involves a self-assessment process undertaken by both staff and students in the School through a self-assessment team, and the action plan aims to collaboratively deliver on equality from 2015 until 2018. In November 2018, the School intends to re-apply for a departmental award under the new, post May 2015, criteria.

Our main goals as part of this plan include:
  • Maximising gender equality in recruitment to undergraduate and postgraduate taught courses with a focus on addressing the under-representation of male students
  • Supporting the progression of female staff at research and lecturer grades through promotion processes and facilitate access to leadership programmes
  • Encouraging more meaningful engagement in developmental appraisal processes
  • Maximising meaningful engagement in the wider equality agenda and culture within the School
  • Continuing to imbed a culture whereby staff and students feel supported and valued

Core attributes of the School of Nursing

In 2012, the School of Nursing began a Culture Change Project, established following feedback from staff at an Away Day that explored our shared vision for School and how to create a ‘person-centred culture where staff and students could flourish’.

The aim of the project was to promote a sense of belonging and integration between colleagues and to engender a greater sense of autonomy, empowerment and collective responsibility.

An ethos of shared governance was implicit to the development of a Values and Behaviours Framework that was based on three core values namely inclusiveness, integrity, and professionalism.

This project was all inclusive, aiming to bring together academic, research, technical and professional services staff within the School.

The project has resulted in the creation of staff teams which have grown, morphed and adapted in response to their success over time, forging authentic, collaborative working relationships.

The School of Nursing is dedicated to civic engagement through valuing our ability to positively influence society through high quality teaching and research, impacting on the care experiences of people in society.

We are proud of our students, graduates and staff, and aim to celebrate their achievements.

We continue to embrace a culture of person-centredness, recognising the privileged position we have to make such an impact on society. In being authentic in this process, we value our positive relationships with practice-partners, government and the people and communities which we exist to serve.

Delivering our action plan

Addressing gender imbalance in undergraduate student recruitment

With more undergraduate female students than male currently registered at Ulster University’s School of Nursing, we aim to minimise the under-representation of male students to redress this imbalance.

Our plan is to:

  • Gather the views, experiences and insights of male students regarding careers in nursing within the context of the available evidence on effect measures to promote male recruitment.
  • Host annual ‘Men in Nursing’ undergraduate recruitment events, targeting men of all ages and backgrounds who have an interest and passion to care for people through becoming a registered nurse.
  • Ensure a gender balance in “Insights into Nursing” recruitment event.
  • Ensure promotional materials include images of men in nursing.
  • Profile men in nursing at national and regional events.
  • Ensure a gender balance in recruitment and selection interviews.
  • Record and monitor data on male applications and acceptances into both pre-registration nursing and post-graduate research degrees.

Support and promote academic leadership

While the School of Nursing has a positive trend of equality in promotions, demonstrating a commitment to success, further work is required. In order to promote gender equity in leadership and promotion within the School, our three-year plan includes:

  • Providing opportunities for staff to attend workshops such as academic development and  “Women in Leadership” events
  • Support staff development and promote opportunities for academic leadership through peer support, staff team activities, and peer-mentoring support for research activities through a “Teacher as Researcher” project
  • Continue to monitor applications and success during promotion rounds by grade and gender

Undertake activities that create an authentic culture of equality

The School of Nursing Athena SWAN action plan focuses on many aspects of gender equality. In order to have impact, we recognise that our culture must be one of authenticity with regards to equality. Some further actions we intend to take as part of our action plan include:

  • Bringing equality and the Athena SWAN Charter to the fore through establishing and retaining Staff and Student Athena SWAN Champions and establishing equality as a substantive item at our School Board.
  • Celebrating the success of obtaining a Bronze Award by sharing our commitment to equality demonstrated by the use of the Athena SWAN logo on staff emails and an Athena SWAN presence on our School website.
  • Support staff development through authentic engagement in appraisal systems and providing access to peer support systems
  • Continue to support and acknowledge the achievements in the successful creation and development of staff teams
  • Enable access to flexible working arrangements and promoting a culture of support to staff returning from periods of leave and for those with challenging circumstances.

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


If you have any questions about the Athena SWAN award please use the contact details below.