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 What is ATHENA?

ATHENA is a Socrates Thematic Network Project in which 80 Women's and Gender Studies Programmes at universities, research institutes and documentation centres in Europe participate. ATHENA was created in 1996 by the Association of Institutions for Feminist Education and Research in Europe (AOIFE), and was selected as a Socrates Thematic Network Project in September 1998. The ATHENA central coordination is located at Utrecht University, the Netherlands.

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In 2001, the first three year period of the Thematic Network Project came to an end in order to start dissemination phase in September 2002. In November 2002 a new application for the next phase: ATHENA II, shall be submitted to the Commission.

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 ATHENA - Dissemination

In short, the dissemination phase will be carried out five complementary strategies: 1) through a wide dissemination of the ATHENA publications and additionally, through translation of selected relevant publications into languages that would allow especially partners from the South and the East of Europe to benefit from the publications; 2) through networking the wider field of Women's Studies in Europe; 3) through the organisation of regional seminars around the ATHENA results and outcomes, during which expert meetings around the panel publications will be organised with the different target groups. One regional seminar will take place in the North, targeting the Nordic and the Baltic countries; one in the Central-East, targeting Central-Eastern Europe; and one in the South, targeting the South of Europe; 4) through the 5th European Feminist Research Conference, to take place in August 2003, organised by the ATHENA network, in Lund, Sweden; 5) through dissemination of the results through the ATHENA website. An important role in this dissemination project will be for the libraries and documentation centres. The documentation centres are a very rich resource and a perfect location from which to disseminate the results of ATHENA to the wider field of Women's Studies in Europe. Furthermore, the big aim of the dissemination project is to enlarge the partnership, with special emphasis on the South and the East of Europe. New partners from those regions are especially welcome in ATHENA II, and we hope to be able to link up to new contacts and continue cooperation with those already involved.

 How to participate in ATHENA?

If you are interested in participating in ATHENA, please contact the ATHENA central coordination at athena@let.uu.nl. All institutions which are members of AOIFE can participate in the development of current ATHENA activities. If you want to be included in the Socrates list of Thematic Network Project partners for the next phase (ATHENA II) 2003/2004, you have to be registered as an official member before 15 September 2002.

 What is the history of ATHENA?

ATHENA is based on the SIGMA European Subject Area Evaluation of Women's Studies conducted in 1994-95 by the European commission (DG XXII), coordinated by the Department of Women's Studies in the Arts, Utrecht University. Experts from nineteen countries produced national reports on the state of Women's Studies in their countries. After the confer-ence 'Women's Studies in Europe: Evalua-tion, Co-operation and New Perspectives' in Coimbra, Portugal, two final SIGMA reports were produced: an evaluation report on sixteen Erasmus programs in Women's Studies and a Synthesis Report on recommen-dations for the improvement of European co-operation within the field of Women's Studies. The ATHENA activities build on the outcomes of these evaluations. During the 3rd European Feminist Research Conference in Coimbra (1997) the first ATHENA working group meeting took place. This meeting started the content-oriented planning and activ-ities for the ATHENA working groups.

 What is a Socrates Thematic Network?

A Thematic Network under the Socrates programme of the European Commission is a forum for reflection, a platform for policy-making, advice and quality evaluation in a specific area. Moreover, a Thematic Network is a teaching network, focusing on the development of a European dimension through setting up co-operation activities in the field of curriculum development, teaching methodologies, and research and policy-making on education.

 Starting points

Women's Studies developed across Europe by following the variety of academic and cultural traditions in the different countries. As a result, it is an area in which the structure and contents of educational programmes currently vary widely across Europe. Therefore, a strong need exists for cross-cultural and multicultural analysis and comparison in the area of Women's Studies education. This need is made stronger by the fact that most Women's Studies curricula at present are dominated by North American perspectives and materials, and that the European perspective is underrepresented. Moreover, being multi-disciplinary, multicultural and socially oriented, Women's Studies requires specific curricula innovation and teaching methods. The Advanced Thematic Network in Activities in Women's Studies provides a unique opportunity to systematise the comparison of European perspectives and thus contribute to a more precise definition of interdisciplinary gender-education. The disciplinary fields concerned are the Humanities, Social Sciences and Technology Studies, including Law, Administrative studies, Political Science, Business Studies, Education, Health and Medicine.

Thus, there are five main reasons for creating a Thematic Network Project in the field of Women's Studies:

  1. To implement the recommendations of the European Subject Area Evaluation in Women's Studies (1994/95) and build on activities, aims and objectives developed at European level and to spread and implement the findings by producing reports, articles, teaching books and manuals.
  2. To further develop and increase the exchange of ideas, expertise, and insights across national borders in order to promote effective discussion and comparison of curricula, methods and material in Women's Studies teaching.
  3. To contribute an added value to the partner institutions, since a large number will be able to use and profit from the expertise of former small scale European co-operation projects. The participating institutions will profit from pooling their expertise in their respective areas and thus allow for transferral of knowledge and good practice. The broader field of Women's Studies, and beyond, will profit through the channels of dissemination of activities, through co-operation with the participating documentation centres and international networks such as WITEC, as well as through the interdisciplinary focus.
  4. To develop competence in feminist education and research in order to contribute to the knowledge and good practices needed for the mainstreaming of European policies on science, technology and higher education, with regard to equal opportunities.
  5. To contribute to equal opportunities policies and practices - in keeping with the European Commission's commitment to equal work - equal pay - as well as to social and economic development.

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