Month: June 2023

athena swan insights

Front Cover Issue 9 – Image of woman with household items: iron, thread etc. Usage terms: © Estate of Roger Perry Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence – See more at:

I am spending some time assessing Athena Swan Applications. It is making me ponder a lot of things. Guidance for giving feedback is to focus on what is included, not what is missing.

Here are some:

  • The experiences of professional staff are given very little attention and seem to be poorly understood. particularly in relation to career progression.
  • The professional staff in academic departments are mostly women. I wonder if this is because IT is so centralised.  Bringing all your professional IT and estates staff together in their own large groups makes sense of course in most universities, but it does exacerbate and perpetuate the structural inequalities and gendered assumptions about who does what kinds of work? This is what our students are seeing us modelling.
  • Athena Swan is asking applicants to consider intersectionality, but so many more words are being wrangled into a word salad around gender than are being used to describe the different experiences of diversity and intersectionality of women  in regards to age, ethnicity, race, disability, religion, class, nationality, parental status or  workplace seniority.
  • Its almost like we have only just discovered that career progression is completely different for professional and academic staff. No mention of why the responses to a culture survey might be different in these groups.
  • There is no mention of technology. Flexible working is described, but no mention of anything hybrid or how access to that might vary by job roles.
  • Plenty on maternity, almost nowt on menopause.
  • One action plan discussing the impact of COVID. None mentioning the impact of  ‘digital transformation’ or AI.
  • Interesting to see project management language coming through in the plans  for action logs and data audits, One dept using RAG status for reporting. I haven’t seen any Risk Registers yet.
  • my computer likes to correct my misspellings of maternity to ‘matter not’.
  • No attempt to evaluate the efficacy of training beyond numbers of attendees and satisfaction happy sheets.
  • Only one mention of working to remove marital status titles ‘mr, mrs, miss, ms’ from university systems.
  • Much inclusive language, but also some highly contested and confusing.
  • Almost no mention of technical staff at all ( even in bids at university level)

on your marks

Oliver Byrne. The Elements of Euclid, 1847 (c) University of Edinburgh

According to some recent on- the-ground research this is the list of tools being used by schools at University of Edinburgh for summative assessment and marking (below)

Some Schools have tried to standardise their assessment practices as much as possible, making things more consistent for students, markers and teaching office staff. In these Schools, the Learning Technologist, Teaching Office and Course Organisers work together to agree which tools are used and there is a level of central coordination of this work

Other Schools have a more devolved way of working and each course may differ in which tools and processes are used. In some cases, the Teaching Office and Learning Technologist have more limited information about course by course assessment practices.

The full cost of running so many different systems will be our next bit of research.


PebblePad ATLAS
MS Forms
Media Hopper Create
MS Teams
Final Year Rotation Feedback Tool
McGraw-Hill MCQs
Unidesk form
Sign-up tool
EMS Placement Feedback

the change you can see

I asked my excellent Data and Equality Officer to look at our demographics again. I wanted to know if my attempts to diversify the LTW workforce by sex, ethnicity and age were having an impact. She looked at data since 2015. The group has grown about 50%. From 100 in 2015 to 155 in 2022. Proportions of staff in different groups (age, contract type, disability, ethnicity, sex, and nationality) by academic year were requested from HR. Data are only shared in proportion whole numbers.  The data are in a Power BI Dashboard for monitoring and the dashboard is set up so new data can be added every year.


  • In 2021 – 2022, nearly half (45%) of staff in LTW were under 35 years old. This was largely due to the student intern population, as in this year they made up a quarter (25%) of staff in LTW. Taking into account only the “core” LTW population, nearly a third (30%) of staff were under 35 years old.
  • The proportion of staff on fixed-term contracts has remained consistent (about 12%) since 2020. This is a significant drop compared to previous years where the proportion of staff on fixed-term contracts was, on average, about a third (32%) of staff were on fixed-term contracts.
  • The proportion of staff with disabilities has remained relatively consistent (about 6% on average).  The proportion of staff reporting a disability at University level in 20221 – 2022 was 5%.
  • The proportion of staff from BAME backgrounds has remained relatively consistent at about 8% on average. This is consistent with the proportion of professional services staff from BAME backgrounds in 2021 – 2022 at University level.
  • At 47%, the proportion of female staff within LTW has been the highest it has ever been in 2021 – 2022. This seems to be driven by the student intern population, however. the average proportion for female staff in LTW has been about 40%, and has remained at 39% since 2020 – 2021.
  • The proportion of EU staff has increased slightly since 2020 – 2021. The proportion of international staff has slightly dropped since 2019 – 2020.

digital badgers

As previously teased, I am delighted to say we are launching a 3-year pilot of BadgEd, a new Open Digital Badge service, so that students and staff can earn their stripes and show off their achievements in black and white!

It’s taken me a while to get this in place. I am indebted to Pat Lockley for first introducing me to the idea at Mozfest in 2010.

Open Digital Badges have become a standard way of recognising skills and achievements outside of credit-bearing course work. Within the University of Edinburgh, some departments have already been issuing digital badges for several years, which has highlighted the need for a central service. Our aim is to create consistency, to share best practice among colleagues, to support local issuers, and to provide an opportunity for more colleagues to get involved.  Our graphic design teams have been working hard on figuring out how to make branded setts.

The pilot will:

  • focus on the recognition of extra-curricular skills, achievements, or competencies through the awarding of a digital badge
  • support the growing interest in and recognition of digital badges
  • provide guidance on how to maintain the value of digital badges for both earners (students, staff, external learners) and issuers (Schools and Deaneries issuing a badge)
  • expand on stand alone badges to explore how badge pathways and skills frameworks could enhance the value of the badge to the earner. Find out more about our badger setts : BadgEd (Open Digital Badges) | The University of Edinburgh
#mozfest Barcelona 2010. Pat Lockley explains badges to me.