LGBT+ students ‘more open’ at university

Analysis finds that LGBT+ students are more likely to declare a mental health condition and to research support services before choosing a university

September 24, 2021
Legs walking on rainbow crossing, LGBT+ inclusion
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Students intend to become more open about their sexual orientation and gender identity when they start university, according to a survey.

The study, carried out by UK admissions service Ucas, found that 82 per cent of students who identified as LGBT+ said that they would be open about their sexuality and gender when they entered higher education, compared with 62 per cent who said that they were open at school.

However, a significant minority – 13 per cent – said they were unsure how “out” they would be at university.

Of the 3,000 school and college students who identified as LGBT+ surveyed by Ucas, the majority appeared to be looking forward to a positive experience in higher education, with 53 per cent saying that they expected it to be “good”, and a further 24 per cent expecting it to be “very good”.

Ucas overall analysis of UK-domiciled applicants found that more than one in 13 identify as LGBT+, and one in 250 identify as transgender.

The report, a collaboration with the charity Stonewall, showed that the number of individuals who shared information about their LGBT+ identity has increased since Ucas introduced the questions on application forms in 2016, from 29,770 to 41,680 in 2020.

It also found that LGBT+ students are more likely to be from disadvantaged areas, with 17 per cent of LGBT+ students coming from the most disadvantaged areas, compared with 13 per cent of those who did not identify as LGBT+.

LGBT+ students were more likely than non-LGBT+ students to declare a disability – 30 per cent versus 12 per cent respectively – and a mental health condition; 13 per cent versus 2.9 per cent.

Forty-seven per cent of applicants who identify as transgender declared a disability, which includes the 22 per cent who declared a mental health condition.

The findings highlight that those who identify as transgender tend to have “a less positive experience, with these individuals being less likely to be open about their gender identity, more likely to have a mental health condition and achieve lower grades at school or college”.

“These findings indicate that specific attention should be given to this group of students to ensure that their experience is as positive as others,” according to the report.

The survey showed that LGBT+ students paid particular attention to support services when researching their choice of university. It found that 31 per cent paid specific attention to LGBT+ services, including mental health support services, with 47 per cent stating they were extremely interested and a similar amount looking at the institution’s reputation for equality and diversity.

It found that 30 per cent were extremely interested in LGBT+ societies and 21 per cent were extremely interested in support networks for LGBT+ students.

Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said the report highlighted that while significant progress has been made, “there is still work to be done” to create an educational environment where LGBT+ students “can feel free to be themselves, and experience education without fear of discrimination or being treated differently”.

“For employers and universities who are meeting this cohort of students for the first time, our report highlights the varying support needs of LGBT+ students, with mental health in particular a prominent concern and a key part of their decision-making process,” she said.

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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