One in 10 staff ‘intimidated over sexuality or gender identity’

Survey suggests 3 per cent of higher and further education workers have been physically assaulted because they are homosexual, bisexual or transsexual

February 17, 2016
Two men holding hands

One in 10 university and college staff who responded to a survey said that they had been threatened or intimidated at work because of their sexual or gender identity.

Three per cent of workers in further and higher education have been physically assaulted at work because they are homosexual, bisexual or transsexual, according to the survey, which attracted 575 responses in the UK.

The Forum for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Equality in Post-School Education said that 17 per cent of staff had experienced homophobic, biphobic or transphobic name-calling.

Only half of the staff who had experienced threatening or intimidating behaviour said that they had reported the incident.

Clare Pavitt, a senior policy adviser at the Equality Challenge Unit, said that the situation in higher education “appear[ed] to have improved” since ECU research conducted in 2008.

But she added: “There are still significant concerns that need addressing. The fact that staff are still suffering physical attacks because of their sexual orientation is unacceptable.”

The forum is made up of sector organisations including the ECU, the National Union of Students and the University and College Union.

Its survey found that one in three staff respondents reported that they had witnessed staff acting negatively towards colleagues or students because of their sexual orientation, and more than half witnessed students behaving in a similar way.

Twenty-seven per cent of staff respondents witnessed other staff acting negatively towards people because they were transgender, and 41 per cent said they had seen students exhibiting such conduct.

Helen Carr, head of equality at the UCU, said that better training needed to be provided on the issue.

“While much is being done to address bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity in colleges and universities, there is no getting away from the fact that it is still a problem,” she said.

Of the 575 respondents to the survey, 72 per cent worked in a higher education institution. Fifty-two per cent identified themselves as being heterosexual, while 34 per cent said they were gay or lesbian and 8 per cent said they were bisexual.

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