Skip to main content

Lesbian, gay and bisexual people

HEIs can make a significant difference to the lives of their lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) staff and students by adopting a clear approach to LGB equality and providing appropriate support.

Social attitudes to sexual orientation have changed significantly over the last few decades in the UK and internationally. However, many lesbian, gay and bisexual people may still face discrimination, harassment and isolation.

Advance HE’s own groundbreaking 2009 research found that a significant number of LGB+ people in higher education across the UK felt that there was room for improvement in the approach their institutions took to LGB+ equality.

Nearly 10 years later, there are still indications that:

  • some LGB+ and/or  trans students may experience higher rates of non-continuation in studies, have specific needs around mental health support, and may face higher rates of harassment.
  • Some LGB+ staff still perceive their sexual orientation as a barrier to certain training or progression (see for example our Research Insight: experiences of LGB academics).

In July 2018 the government has launched the national LGBT Action Plan which includes specific actions for the Higher Education sector to improve experiences for students. For example the Office for Students has been asked to “investigate and tackle gaps in participation, experience, safeguarding and success for LGBT students in higher education”. The report also contained specific actions around workplace equality.

Note: for further information on our work specifically on trans and gender diversity inclusion, please see our supporting Trans people resources.

Current statistics

The latest national statistics on sexual orientation data for staff and students in higher education can be found in our statistical reports. Note that the national collection of sexual orientation data is not yet a mandatory return to HESA for either staff or students. This makes it challenging to assess national trends on issues such as student recruitment, attainment and progression, or representation in senior staff leadership roles.  Advance HE therefore supports work to improve disclosure and return of this data. This includes supporting individual institutions with queries about data collection and disclosures, and continues to work closely with HESA. Further details can be found in our guidance on monitoring questions.

Ongoing work

Advance HE continues to work with the sector and individual institutions on supporting LGB+ staff and students. We:

  • assist member institutions with specific queries around policy, practice, monitoring and good relations.
  • participate in sector discussions on LGBT+ mental health,  LGBT+ inclusive curricula, and LGBT+ staff experiences.
  • conduct research such as our ASSET research into gendered experiences in STEMM through the lens of sexual orientation (as well as disability and ethnicity)
  • share examples of best practice (such as LGBT+ inclusive curricula).
  • empower institutions to hold respectful conversations around LGB+ experiences and data collection, and improving disclosure rates. In 2017 for example we recommended a change to sexual orientation monitoring questions to more routinely provide options for a greater diversity of sexual identities.
  • work closely with relevant third sector organisations such as Stonewall, staff trade unions, and support organisations like the national LGBT+ Network of staff Networks.


We hope that all LGBT+ staff and students feel welcome at our networks, conferences and events.  If you have recommendations for how we can improve our events to make them more inclusive please contact us or let us know in event feedback forms.

Advance HE is a proud ally of the independent LGBT+ Network of staff Networks. We encourage HEIs to support staff equality networks as a useful resource for staff support, and to encourage understanding between staff and senior leaders.

The LGBTQinHE network is an international network (independent of Advance HE) which shares academic and practitioner discussion on LGBTQ inclusivity in higher education. An annual conference aims to bring practitioners together. For further details see their jiscmail or twitter (external links).


Advance HE has traditionally referred to ‘LGB’/’LGB+’ or ‘lesbian, gay and bisexual’ people when discussing sexual orientation (as distinct from other protected characteristics). We recognise the limitations of these terms, which may not incorporate all sexual identities. Our terminology may differ in certain contexts (for example, legal or social)  or if we are discussing wider issues of both gender and sexual identities. We are proud to have extended our  sexual orientation monitoring guidance recently to include the recording of ‘queer’ and ‘asexual’ identities.  We welcome feedback or questions as our terminology evolves.

Further reading

You may find the following resources useful for starting research, or discussion. Note that many of these links are for external sites, and we do not necessarily endorse all findings, nor accept responsibility for content. Please note that terminology around gender and sexual diversity may vary in different disciplines and fora.


Student experience and attainment (general)

Health, Sport, Accommodation

Career choice

Related publications

Experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans staff and students in higher education: research report 2009

An authoritative evidence base of the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans staff and students in higher education

Student services: supporting LGB students

Leaflets to help student services support their lesbian, gay and bisexual students

International students’ services: supporting gay students

Leaflet with information and advice for staff supporting international students

Advancing LGB equality

Improving the experience of lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and students in higher education

Accommodation services: supporting gay students

A leaflet with information and advice for providers of student accommodation

Research Insight: The experiences of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual staff in UK higher education

Research Insight are short summary reports of recent research undertaken by ECU's research team.