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.
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.
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.
Please contact Advance HE’s Senior Policy Adviser with responsibility for sexual orientation, Jess Moody, to discuss policy guidance, consultancy, or contributions to events around LGB+ student and staff experiences.
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.
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)
- Stonewall (2018) LGBT in Britain: university report
- University of Birmingham (2016)LGBTQ – Inclusivity in Higher Education Curriculum: A best practice guide
- Formby, E (2015) #FresherstoFinals: Understanding LGBT+ perspectives on, and experiences of higher education [pdf]
- NUS (2015) Education Beyond the Straight and Narrow – LGBT students’ experiences in Higher Education
- Equality Challenge Unit (2010) Advancing LGB Equality
- Equality Challenge Unit (2009) Experience of LGBT staff and students in higher education: research report
- The Forum (2016) Pride and Prejudice in Education
Health, Sport, Accommodation
- Student Minds(2018) LGBTQ+ Student Mental Health [pdf]
- NUS (2012) Out in Sport: LGBT Student Experience of Sport
- Richard Taulke‐Johnson (2010) Assertion, regulation and consent: gay students, straight flatmates, and the (hetero)sexualisation of university accommodation space, Gender and Education, Volume 22, 2010 – Issue 4
- Lara E. Pomerantz(2010) Winning the Housing Lottery: Changing University Housing Policies for Transgender Students, 12 U. Pa. J. Const. L. 1215
- Stonewall (2018) LGBT in Britain: work report [pdf]
- Ciarán Mcfadden (2015) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Careers and Human Resource Development: A Systematic Literature Review, Human Resource Development Review 14(2)
- Schneider, M. S. & Dimito, A.(2010), Factors Influencing the Career and Academic Choices of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People, Journal of Homosexuality, 57, 1355-1369
- Tomlinson, M. J. & Fassinger, R. E.,(2003) Career development, lesbian identity development, and campus climate among lesbian college students, Journal of College Student Development, 44, 845-860
- Nauta, M. M., Saucier, A. M., & Woodard, L. E.(2001) Interpersonal Influences on Students’ Academic and Career Decisions: The Impact of Sexual Orientation, Career Development Quarterly, 49, 352-362
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.