RCSI’s positive equality practices recognised with Athena Swan Bronze Award

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RCSI has successfully retained Athena Swan Bronze accreditation for positive equality practices in higher education. The award follows an assessment of gender equality across RCSI’s policies, practices and structures, and recognises the university’s commitment to gender equality and more recently other equality grounds.

The Athena Swan charter launched in the Republic of Ireland in early 2015 and is a framework that aims to support and transform gender equality within higher education and research. The charter has recently expanded its focus, moving from gender as its sole focus to a more inclusive, intersectional approach.

RCSI achieved its inaugural Bronze accreditation in 2018. The university also has four departmental Athena Swan Bronze awards, received by the Department of Anatomy and Regenerative Medicine in 2019, the Department of Physiology and Medical Physics and School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences in 2021, and the School of Nursing and Midwifery and School of Physiotherapy jointly in 2022.

Engagement with Athena Swan is a key pillar of Ireland’s national strategy for gender equality with progress linked to institutional eligibility for funding from Ireland’s major research agencies.

Commenting on the renewed accreditation, RCSI Vice Chancellor Professor Cathal Kelly said: “The re-accreditation of RCSI’s Bronze Athena Swan award reflects our dedication to cultivating a more equitable environment for both students and staff at RCSI, and we are proud of the strong culture we have created within the university. This award underlines the importance of ensuring that our dedication to equality, diversity, and inclusion remains an ongoing commitment, and this is clearly reflected in our ambitious new intersectional action plan.

“We are signatories to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) accord and we are the highest ranked university in the world for our contribution to SDG3 ‘Good Health and Well-being’*. By promoting equality and inclusion we are contributing to SDG5 ‘Gender Equality’. We are committed to continual investment in supports and processes to enable our colleagues to fulfil their potential.”

Liz Hughes, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at RCSI, said: “This is a proud day for RCSI. Athena Swan is collaboration in action across the RCSI community and we are delighted that the panel has recognised our commitment to embedding an equitable culture throughout our institution. We have an ambitious plan to implement over the next four years and look forward to everyone in RCSI playing an active role in that endeavour.”

RCSI's application was described as “an exemplar of good practice and praised by the panel for its coherence and clarity in evidencing the Institution’s progress since the last action plan”. Key highlights and developments since RCSI’s 2018 institutional award include:

  • Significant increase in female academic leadership in RCSI – there has been a 50% increase in female professors and half of new Head of School positions have been filled by women.
  • Inclusion of 'equality of opportunity' positive action statement in all job adverts. There has also been significant improvement in RCSI’s recruitment policies and practices.
  • Increased visibility of role models – RCSI Academic Leaders portraits in 2020, Women on Walls in 2019.
  • Establishment of the EDI fora – Race equality, ending sexual violence and disability – RCSI was the first HEI to launch a Race Equality Action Plan in 2021.
  • Development of equality-focused policies, including but not limited to: Domestic violence and abuse leave policy, Menopause policy, Enhanced Dignity at Work policy, Gender Identity and Expression policy.

* Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings 2023