Project leader/s: Dr Stephanie Mckendry, Dr Matson Lawrence
There is increasing evidence that trans people face significant challenges studying and working in higher education. Research undertaken at the University of Strathclyde to explore the experiences and challenges of this diverse group discovered a far greater proportion of students considering or having left their course, and issues around learning and teaching, placements and confidentiality. Whilst staff are keen to support trans students, there is a lack of awareness or training to provide background context, a wider understanding of terminology or the support requirements that might improve their student experience. Similarly, trans staff encountered barriers in relation to applications and other elements of daily working life. Building upon that research, this project will explore what works to effectively raise awareness and promote change and leadership. The team will create and evaluate training materials, policy templates, mapping documents and multimedia resources that inform HE leaders and practitioners about the lived experiences, support needs and views of trans students and staff. The project will work with a sample of institutions to pilot and evaluate the materials to determine how to effectively increase awareness of the transgender population, build capacity and motivation to improve support and provide practical resources to enable positive action.
Research theme/s: Equality, diversity and inclusion, Developing leaders, Culture, change and organisational development
University of Strathclyde - Original Proposal
Empowering leadership to support transgender students and staff within higher education: what works to raise awareness and effect change?
- Dr Stephanie Mckendry, Widening Access Manager, University of Strathclyde
- Dr Matson Lawrence, Research Associate, Trans.Edu Scotland, University of Strathclyde
Project's administrative ‘Home’ HEI
University of Strathclyde
Aims and objectives of the project
There is increasing evidence to suggest that trans people face significant levels of harassment and bullying within education. According to the Equality Challenge Unit (2009) almost a quarter of trans students felt bullied or discriminated against since starting university and 23% of trans staff felt they had been denied a promotion as a result of their trans status. A 2016 report by the UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee found that about half of young trans people and a third of trans adults attempt suicide. The committee argued that ‘the levels of bullying and harassment experienced by trans students in further and higher education are unacceptable’. Whilst there is increasing recognition within the HE sector of the potential challenges and barriers trans people face, there remains a dearth of empirical evidence to inform leadership, as well as student and staff support.
Recognising their statutory and ethical obligations to these potentially vulnerable and under-represented individuals, the University of Strathclyde was supported by the Scottish Funding Council to undertake a research project exploring the experiences and support needs of trans applicants, students and staff in Scotland. The work has uncovered a wealth of detail around the experiences of staff and students, areas in which support could be improved, such as application and induction processes for staff and learning and teaching issues for students, as well as examples of innovative practice and institutional leadership and policy. The project provided evidence that a far greater proportion of trans students considered or had left their course than the general population, as well as issues around learning and teaching, placements and confidentiality. Whilst staff are keen to support trans students, there is a lack of awareness or training to provide background context, a wider understanding of terminology or the support requirements that might improve their student experience. Similarly, trans staff encountered barriers in relation to applications and other elements of daily working life.
This project will utilise those research findings to develop materials for institutions to use in the development, evaluation or refreshing of their trans support, policies and activities. Working with several institutions, the project will investigate what resources and approaches will be most effective in empowering leadership to develop or enhance support for trans people in higher education.
To create a reusable suite of resources to support leadership activities and policy development in relation to transgender students and staff
Create a series of videos and talking heads for use in training and to provide examples of the lived experience of students and staff
Develop training resources and workshop materials to enable staff training
Publish practice guide and ‘champion model’ for engaging in cultural change in relation to trans students and staff
Production of worked through examples of real-life scenarios faced by trans students and staff as well as examples of best practice in institutional support.
Research methodology or approach
The project will be managed within the Widening Access Team of the University of Strathclyde. Both lead members of staff are experienced in researching effective practice and developing support materials, models and activities in relation to under-represented groups.
The project will initially explore with other universities what resources and training materials will best facilitate their development of support for trans students and staff as well as investigating the creation of a model to nurture trans champions - staff in influential positions able and willing to lead support for trans staff and students. It will then create a package of resources designed to allow institutions to undertake their own needs analysis and evaluation and provide staff training and awareness raising. It will also publish a series of reusable, open access learning objects to be used and shared by staff and students’ associations within the UK. Materials will be developed in partnership with Equality and Diversity practitioners as well as trans staff and students to ensure authenticity and usability.
Progress and impact will be measured through initial piloting of the material and, subsequently, through the inclusion of an evaluative survey on the website hosting the resources. Web analytics will also provide insight into the level of engagement.
Proposed outputs, outcomes and impact
The outputs will be a series of resources for use by universities to support them in developing or improving their approach to trans students and staff. The intended impact is to assist higher education practitioners and leaders in meeting their statutory equality obligations towards this protected characteristic group, improving the experience and retention of trans people within the higher education community, increasing the profile of this group and empowering institutional champions.
The outputs will be of benefit to the University of Strathclyde and those institutions partnered in the pilot stage, as they will be involved in the creation of materials and can tailor these to their particular institutional needs. The final suite of resources will be made available to the wider higher education community, however, and will thus be freely accessible to support to any institution, individual member of staff, student or students’ association that wishes to develop or improve their trans policies and support. The Leadership Foundation will benefit by championing this, as yet, under-represented group in relation to workforce policies and practice for trans staff, as well as leadership development to ensure excellence in teaching, learning and engagement for trans students.
Start/end dates and milestones
Project begins with scoping meetings with two/three universities and the development of materials.
Workshop materials, audit tools and champion model piloted with partner universities and students’ associations. Materials are amended and further developed following feedback.
Project completion – publication of practice guides and materials, publicity materials distributed to raise awareness of resources.