Developing an Accredited Course

Universities are invited to develop an accredited version of this course according to their own quality assurance processes. Guidance is provided below on the types of information typically required for quality assurance, but this can be adapted as required for local conditions.


Gender Equality in University Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).


This course is intended to be validated for up to 5 ECTS credits, but institutions can develop this as appropriate for their own context – which may result in a shorter, or longer, course. ECTS credits are a European standard. The acronym ECTS stands for European Credit Transfer System. 5 ECTS credits equates to 100-125 learning hours in total, which can incorporate independent learning, direct instruction, assessment and reflection by the learner. Other credit systems apply in other countries, in which case it is recommended that a number of credits equivalent to 5 ECTS credits are used for this course.


This course is intended to be offered as a special purpose short course at postgraduate level, meaning that participants in the course will already have achieved an undergraduate degree qualification, or equivalent. In the European context, this course will be offered at Level 7 on the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) or the second cycle of the Bologna process. Level 7 on the EQF is easily mapped to corresponding levels on other frameworks (for example, this equates to Level 9 on the Irish National Framework of Qualifications)


Participants in this programme must:

  1. Have an undergraduate qualification at a level corresponding to Level 6 on the European Qualifications Framework (EQF); or professional experience deemed equivalent to this level of formal learning.
  2. Have a role in a University or Higher Education Institution that will enable them to contextualise the learning from the course and carry out the assessment with reference to a specific Higher Education context.
  3. Have an interest in, and a commitment to, better understanding the international, national and institutional contexts for gender equality in Higher Education and, in particular, women’s participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programmes and women’s professional participation and advancement in STEM disciplines in Higher Education.


Internationally, the participation rates of women students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses are substantially and consistently lower than those of men. Within Universities, women are underrepresented relative to men in senior positions in STEM departments. There is a need for Higher Education to address the gender gap in these disciplinary areas by encouraging more women to participate in STEM programmes, by supporting and enabling women’s access to STEM programmes, and by guiding and supporting women as they progress through STEM programmes. Allied to this is a need to enhance professional progression opportunities for women in STEM departments and in Universities leading to greater gender balance in decision making in Universities and more visibility for women as role models in STEM disciplines.

This course provides participants with an opportunity to enhance their knowledge and skills relating to addressing gender inequalities in STEM programmes and disciplines in Higher Education. The course has been designed based on the output from the Erasmus+ funded W-STEM project that ran from 2018 to 2022, involving fifteen Universities from ten different countries. Through this project, tools, methods and resources were developed that will assist Universities in understanding gender inequality issues and putting in place action plans to address these issues.

By undertaking this course, participants will gain an understanding of the national and international context for gender inequality in STEM, learn about how to lead and enact change in  University (or Higher Education Institution) including the role of a gender action plan and the importance of gaining the support of University leadership, and specifically address matters relating to attraction, access, and guidance for women students on STEM programmes.

Throughout the course, and upon completion of the course, participants can apply their knowledge and skills to address gender inequality in their own University (or Higher Education Institution).

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the learner will be able to:

  1. Describe and critically analyse the context for women’s participation in STEM programmes.
  2. Critically evaluate an existing self-assessment and gender equality action plan to enhance women’s involvement in STEM programmes.
  3. Reflect upon the requirement for a self-assessment and gender equality action plan to enhance women’s involvement in STEM programmes in the learner’s own Institution.
  4. Reflect upon the learner’s own role in self-assessment and gender equality action planning to enhance women’s involvement in STEM programmes.
  5. Utilise and evaluate the tools, applications and designs for attraction, access and guidance campaigns and processes developed as part of the W-STEM project.
  6. Contribute to the W-STEM resource catalogue.


Introduction and Context

  • The W-STEM Project
  • The International Context
  • The National Context
  • Introduction to Gender Issues
  • Gender equality for academic and administrative staff in a University

Enacting Change in a University

  • Defining and analysing a Gender Equality Action Plan
  • Carrying out and analysing a self-assessment
  • Engaging with national policy
  • Engaging University leadership, and the importance of inclusive leadership
  • Exploring the output from the W-STEM International CAFÉ


  • Understanding the context for student recruitment and advertising
  • Designing an attraction campaign
  • Using and contributing to the W-STEM profiling tool
  • Using and contributing to the W-STEM interviews with the W-STEM women role models
  • Exploring the outputs from the W-STEM roundtable discussions and videos
  • Women in STEM case studies as developed during the W-STEM benchmarking phase
  • Developing and using posters and social media for attraction


  • Understanding the context for providing access
  • Best practice in managing access to Higher Education
  • Deconstructing and mapping local University access processes to comparator processes
  • Developing access processes using GANNT charts
  • Case studies on access to Higher Education


  • Understanding the context for guidance through Higher Education
  • Developing a guidance and mentorship STEM network
  • Providing training for mentors and staff in the mentoring network
  • Case studies on guidance and mentoring

Learning and Teaching Methods

The resources for the course are available on the course website. Access to these is not restricted in any way and the resources are available for reuse by others through a Creative Commons License. The materials are organised into five separate sections, as shown in the Syllabus section. Each section has separate sub-sections as follows:

  1. Welcome: This is a brief video that outlines the objectives of this section, provides a high-level overview of the section, and offers encouragement to the learner.
  2. Explore: This is a collection of learning materials including, for example, a video, written documents, references to readings. This should take learners approximately 2 hours to review in entirety.
  3. Apply and Reflect: This is a series of exercises in which learners will apply the learning that took place in the Explore section and reflect upon their learning.
  4. Extend: This section directs learners to further information about the topic, including information from UNESCO, OECD and other international bodies. This also provides reading materials for the learner to review to extend their knowledge.

The course can be delivered in one of two modes, self-directed or guided.

The self-directed approach involves students being asked to review all the materials available on the course website over a defined period, recommended to be at least four weeks, and then complete the assessment. Using this approach, a course tutor should be available to advise students, to assess students, to provide feedback and to encourage interaction among the class group using, for example, an online discussion forum that is open for the duration of the module. However, there will not usually be scheduled classes, and students can engage with the resources at their own pace and in their own time.

The guided approach will involve scheduled classes over a defined period, recommended to be at least four weeks. The course tutor will define a schedule for the course and make use of the course materials in preparing each class. It is recommended that classes are used to enable discussion and in-depth exploration of specific issues or case studies, and to provide advice and guidance to participants on carrying out the assessment tasks. These classes could take place online, in classrooms or using a blended approach.


Assessment for this course is divided into three assessment tasks, as detailed in the table below. In order to pass the module, the learner must pass each of the three assessments. A mark is not given, but feedback will be provided using the assessment rubric provided with each of the assessment briefs.

The course as a whole is assessed on the basis of pass or fail. A mark is not given for the course.

Assessment Tasks


Learning Outcomes
Gender Equality Plan

The learner will match an existing gender equality action plan to their own context (e.g. their own University); and discuss the barriers and opportunities with a relevant decision maker, providing the overall context for women’s participation in STEM programmes.


This assessment is mapped to Learning Outcomes 1, 2 and 3.
Activity with W-STEM Resources

The learner will use the resources available through the W-STEM project to carry out an activity to enhance women’s participation in STEM programmes, related to their own role. This could include a attraction, access or guidance event or intervention, for example, or a roundtable discussion.

This assessment is mapped to Learning Outcomes 4 and 5.
Produce a Resource

The learner will produce a resource that will be of assistance to themselves and others in promoting gender equality. For example, the learner could develop a video of a woman role model in a STEM discipline, such as the videos developed throughout the W-STEM project and available through the W-STEM app and You Tube Channel.

This assessment is mapped to Learning Outcome 6.

Reading and Resources

As part of the W-STEM project, the following book – which represents the recommended reading for this course – was published:

Francisco José García-Peñalvo, Alicia García Holgado, Angeles Dominguez, Jimena Pascual. Women in STEM in Higher Education: Good practices of attraction, access and retainment in Higher Education. Springer (2022).

The W-STEM website is available at Resources available on the W-STEM website include the W-STEM Mobile App ( and the W-STEM YouTube Channel ( through which access is provided to videos on women role models in STEM disciplines; and a series of publications that address matters relating to gender equality and inequality in STEM (