The University of Cambridge has been named the UK’s most gay-friendly higher education institution.
It was one of six universities to feature in the annual Top 100 Employers list compiled by the gay rights charity Stonewall.
University College London, Cardiff University and the University of Liverpool also featured in this year’s top 100, as did Newham College of Further Education.
A total of 376 employers participated in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index 2013, which is based on self-assessment, interviews and staff surveys on issues such as whether an institution monitors how many of its staff are gay and whether it explicitly includes sexual orientation in policies on equality and bullying.
Almost 9,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) staff across all sectors completed the surveys.
The charity said that it was particularly impressed by Cambridge’s commitment to promoting leadership opportunities for gay academics, which included holding professional development workshops focused on LGB staff.
Charlotte Wheeler-Quinnell, Stonewall’s client account manager for workplace programmes, said that the presence of openly gay vice-chancellors in the sector may help other academic staff to make their sexuality known to colleagues and students.
“We have a few people in these senior roles who are quite happy to be out,” Ms Wheeler-Quinnell said.
“That is important as it suggests that sexual orientation will not be a barrier to getting on in your career.”
The growing number of networks for gay employees at universities in recent years suggests that higher education institutions are becoming more aware of the need to support gay staff, she added.
“It is good to have people who can campaign for change within an organisation, particularly if you can get strategic buy-in from top people and those at board level,” she said.