UK universities make big gains in Stonewall’s inclusivity top 100

Swansea University highest placed institution in list of LGBTQ+-friendly employers but some institutions choose not to take part

February 17, 2023
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A rising number of universities have been placed in the UK’s top 100 most LGBTQ+-inclusive employers by an annual ranking.

Swansea University was named the country’s most inclusive university by Stonewall, Europe’s largest charity for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer rights.

Its Top 100 Employers list is the UK’s leading ranking of employers from public, private and third sectors, based on how inclusive their workplaces are for LGBTQ+ employees.

A total of 14 universities made the top 100 for 2023 – up from 12 the year before, and matching the sector's tally in 2017.

It marks a significant improvement for the sector when just over a decade ago, no higher education providers cracked the top 100.

In 12th place, Swansea was the highest ranked education provider – climbing from 26th in 2022.

Judith Lamie, pro vice-chancellor for international engagement at Swansea, said this improvement showed efforts to make the university as inclusive as possible were “making a real difference”.

“This achievement not only represents where we currently are but also, importantly, where we are going, and we will build on this moving forward as we continue to effect change,” she added.

The Top 100 Employers list is compiled through submissions to a free, voluntary benchmarking tool, which are then marked against standardised criteria.

Employers are assessed on key areas including employment policy and practice, and the rating also reflects the results of anonymised staff surveys.

The University of Greenwich was the second highest university, and 20th overall – a leap of 55 places year-on-year.

Jane Harrington, vice-chancellor and chief executive officer, said the result was a “fantastic achievement” for the institution and a reflection of its inclusivity strategy.

De Montfort University climbed from 67th position in 2022 to 27th this year, which Susan Orr, pro vice-chancellor for education and university lead for EDI, said was partly the result of a new empowerment strategy.

She said staff had published new guidance highlighting ways in which colleagues could learn about inclusive events and updated the university’s policy on protecting and supporting trans, gender-fluid and non-binary staff and students.

Liz Ward, director of programmes at Stonewall, said the charity had helped schools, colleges and universities build inclusive workplace environments for more than 20 years.

“Our experience tells us that creating learning and working environments where we are all included makes for a safer, better and friendlier place for both staff and students,” she added.

“We’re incredibly proud to see so many universities joining this year’s list, who are committed to making LGBTQ+ people’s lives better.”

Cardiff University, which came seventh in 2022’s list, and King’s College London, which came 14th, both said they did not submit to the last round of the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index so do not feature in this year’s list.

Cardiff said this was “an active decision taken at a time where we are refreshing our structures and processes for equality, diversity and inclusion” and it was “still considering whether we can submit an application to the next round.” King's said it only “periodically” takes part.

The charity has faced a backlash in recent years due to its stance on the rights of transgender people amid concerns that some of its policies may inhibit academic freedom. Some universities have suspended or cut ties with the group as a result. 

Making up 16 per cent of the top 100, education was the second most represented sector in the list, behind financial services (21 per cent).

International law firm Clifford Chance took top spot overall, followed by professional services organisation Arup and the national charity Victim Support.

More universities making the list is a positive development, Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, told Times Higher Education – and comes in spite of “the Conservative government’s attempted culture war on university campuses”.

“However, LGBTQ+ university staff tell us they still have safety concerns in the workplace and employers can do more to ensure LGBTQ+ staff are treated with dignity and respect,” she added.

The UK’s most inclusive universities:

  1. Swansea University (12th place overall)
  2. University of Greenwich (20th)
  3. De Montfort University (27th)
  4. University of Manchester (30th)
  5. Wrexham Glyndwr University (41st)
  6. University of Plymouth (45th)
  7. Middlesex University (58th)
  8. Oxford Brookes University (84th)
  9. Birmingham City University (84th)
  10. Brunel University London (88th)
  11. University of Derby (93rd)
  12. Royal Holloway, University of London (93rd)
  13. City, University of London (97th)
  14. University of Huddersfield (97th)

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