Searching for your perfect UK university is not always an easy task. There are many qualities that students need to consider beyond typical GPA requirements or ranking of a university. For instance, lifestyles, interests, academic goals, and career aspirations can vastly differ from student to student. Above all, it is important that students feel welcome and supported by their university regardless of age, gender, sex, or sexual orientation. As a result, LGBTQ2+ inclusivity and resources at UK universities are becoming extremely important aspects of a university experience!
LGBTQ2+ Equality in the UK
As of 2010, the UK has structured equality laws called “protected characteristics.” The Equality Act of 2010 protects citizens from overt discrimination due to the following characteristics: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation.
Pride in the UK
The UK has a prominent Pride scene – which is hard to discuss without mentioning Pride in London! To illustrate, Pride in London had 1.5 million spectators in 2019 and hosted over 120 events across the city, with more than half of those events free to attend. Additionally, an impressive 70% of these LGBTQ2+ events also supported charity or non-profit LGBTQ2+ organizations. Simultaneously, reducing float numbers also helped sustainability impacts in the city!
Not studying in London?
There are over 100 annual Pride events across the UK, which means that no matter where you end up studying, chances are there are LGBTQ2+ Pride events near you! You can visit https://www.pride-events.co.uk/ to see a full list of Pride events across the UK.
Researching LGBTQ2+ support at your UK university
Here are some ways that you can effectively research your university and ensure it has the LGBQT+ support to match your individual needs:
Look at the clubs and societies that are available
Joining a club or society is a great way to connect with your fellow classmates. To this end, most universities have dedicated LGBTQ2+ oriented clubs that pride themselves on inclusivity and creating a welcoming and safe environment for its members.
While some of these specific university club pages are only accessible to current students, most UK universities will have dedicated social media outlets for these groups (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). With this in mind, prospective students can look up and explore these channels to get an idea of what the environment is like!
Moreover, these pages are also great for previewing the events these clubs will have which can range from themed movie nights, to fundraising, to awareness campaigns within the university or community.
Most UK universities will also have additional events throughout the month of February to celebrate LGBTQ2+ History month!
Research the facilities that are available
UK universities, much like universities around the world, are actively trying to better themselves for the wellbeing of their students. Consequently, many have added facilities, such as gender-neutral bathrooms or changerooms to support their transgender students. This information is often readily available on a university’s website.
In addition, some UK universities will go beyond this and offer accommodation options for students who identify as LGBTQ2+. The University of Sheffield and Solent University for example both offer this option which is meant to be “a place of peer support where [students] can use their shared experiences to help harbour an inclusive and positive space.” Both universities state that they believe “everyone deserves to feel secure and respected in their own homes.”
Check to see if the university takes part in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index
Launched in 2005, Stonewall is Europe’s largest LGBTQ2+ dedicated charity. Significantly, they have developed a list of 10 criteria for determining LGBTQ2+ friendly universities and workplace environments. The criteria include:
- A harassment policy that specifically mentions sexual orientation
- Mandatory training of faculty on LGBTQ2+ issues.
- Having and highlighting an LGBTQ2+ staff network
(Depending on the university, this staff network can also be open to postgraduate students (including taught master’s and PhD students)
- Having a strong LGBTQ2+ student society
- Organizing LGBTQ2+ specific events for students
- Having information on LGBTQ2+ issues widely available throughout the university
- Ensuring that LGBTQ2+ counselling is available
- Consulting LGBTQ2+ students
- Offering LGBTQ2+ students targeted careers advice to help launch their future career
- Becoming a member of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme
Universities are encouraged to use Stonewall’s criteria to create inclusive environments for members of the LGBTQ2+ community, including staff and students. Stonewall’s site includes workshop toolkits and helpful resources to enable universities to develop and grow their inclusivity resources.
Additionally, universities submit various statistics to Stonewall for evaluation, and many of our partner universities have been moving up in Stonewall’s Equality Index based on the presented results. If a university actively has these resources available to staff members, they will often have similar resources available for students. Thus, they are more equipped to offer LGBTQ2+ student support!
How do I know my university participates in Stonewall?
Universities are proud to showcase their commitment to members of the LGBTQ2+ community. Look for the Stonewall membership emblem on your university’s website or dedicated information pages. For example, the University of Derby has a page dedicated to Stonewall to show their commitment to the criteria.
For more information, and to review the most recent results of the inclusive workplace lists, please visit https://www.stonewall.org.uk/
*Please keep in mind that Stonewall’s list changes each year and is not a complete reflection of the support available to students at any university.
To sum up, the LGBTQ2+ community in the UK has come a long way in its fight for equality and support. You can read about this history through the British Library’s article a short history of LGBT rights in the UK. No matter which university you choose, know that there is support available.
Choosing a university that offers necessary support for those who identify as LGBTQ2+ is equally as important as choosing a university ranked highly for items like research quality or employability. Above all, you deserve a university that can offer you the resources to feel safe and welcome in the UK and get the most out of your education so that you can become a leading professional in your chosen field.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! If you’re not sure where to find your UK university’s LGBTQ2+ support resources, ask your Across the Pond advisor!
If you are new to Across the Pond and don’t have an advisor yet, you can enquire here.