This blog is part of the series featuring ideas contained in the new HEPI-Brightside report, Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director for Fair Access and Participation. It showcases the idea from Pete Mercer, Head of Public Sector Membership Programmes at Stonewall.
While many assume universities are friendly environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people, we know that LGBT students still face worrying levels of bullying, harassment and social exclusion, with trans students at particular risk. All institutions should take a proactive role in addressing harmful culture and behaviours.
We know that these negative experiences can significantly impact on LGBT students’attainment and drop-out rates. Half of trans students (51 per cent) who responded to a National Union of Students’ survey admitted to having seriously considered dropping out of their course. While progress is being made, more should be done across the sector to address the barriers that prevent LGBT students from accessing the support they need.
Sexual orientation and gender identity data returns for students and staff are currently inadequate. This means that many institutions are unable to determine the access and participation rates of LGBT students across academic departments and student services. Data returns on sexual orientation and gender identity are not currently mandated by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), unlike other protected characteristics, and it is vital that this is addressed.