Recognised as an outstanding initiative within the SAGE Athena Swan Bronze Institutional Award process, Western Sydney University’s Vice-Chancellor’s Gender Equity Fund (VC GE Fund) is the first of its kind in the Australian higher education sector.

Established and sponsored by the University’s Vice-Chancellor in 2016 and overseen by the Vice-Chancellor’s Gender Equity Committee, the VC GE Fund is a funding innovation that funds innovation: an internal grant that furnishes academic and professional staff with resourcing to undertake gender equity and diversity research or initiatives that have the potential to make tangible impact at the University.

Now in its sixth year of operation, the VC GE Fund has become an essential mechanism for generating new knowledge and innovative practice for gender equity, diversity and inclusion at Western Sydney University. To date, more than $200,000 has been granted to projects that have strengthened and expanded the University’s understanding of its gender equity challenges and opportunities, helping to focus the University’s gender equity efforts for the benefit of staff, students, and community.

As a direct result of VC GE Fund projects, evidence-informed improvements have been made to University breastfeeding facilities, academic promotions processes, targeted supports for parents and carers, and staff and student training on gender equity and diversity matters (among others). New recommendations are forthcoming for enhancing the University’s intersectional approach to gender equity and targeting its responsiveness to the gendered impacts of COVID-19.

Across the life of this initiative, much has also been learned about how to optimise the operations of the VC GE Fund itself. The University has progressively consulted and clarified priorities for new research and programs, refined Fund guidelines to safeguard project success, improved oversights for monitoring progress, introduced new mechanisms to ensure the delivery of practical and implementable recommendations, and increased both internal and sector-facing engagement with our project findings and outcomes. Each of these improvements has shaped a more sustainable and more impactful initiative with greater strategic effectiveness and increasing reach both within and beyond our institution.

This presentation shares the best-practice insights we have accrued across six years of implementing the VC GE Fund at Western Sydney University. As more higher education institutions look to adopt this funding model (or similar) into their own contexts, we offer learnings about the benefits, but also the hurdles and challenges we have encountered along the way. In doing so, we map the administrative and strategic refinements made to realise new potentials for this initiative at our organisation, with the aim of guiding others to effectively implement such funding innovations of their own.


  • Kieryn McKay, Western Sydney University