Back to news

NUS calls for zero tolerance to LGBT bullying

Monday 12 May 2014 LGBT

NUS research released today ‘Education beyond the straight and narrow’ reveals that one in five LGB+ students, and a third of trans students, have experienced bullying or harassment on campus, with NUS calling for LGBT specific zero tolerance policies in UK institutions.

Download the report here

The research, the first of its kind, explores the experience of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) students in higher education, focusing specifically on their everyday life on campus, their access to services and factors that influence their academic success and the completion of their studies.
The research showed that:

  • 20 per cent of LGB+, and a third of trans respondents, have experienced at least one form of bullying or harassment on campus.
  • Just two in ten trans students felt completely safe on campus – less than half the proportion of their heterosexual counterparts
  • Over half of trans respondents (51 per cent) have seriously considered dropping out of their course.
  • LGB+ students are more likely to consider dropping out than heterosexual students: 25 per cent of heterosexual have seriously considered dropping out of their course compared to 27.7 per cent of gay, 26.6 per cent of lesbian, and 30 per cent of bisexual.
  • More than half of LGB+ respondents (56 per cent) cited the feeling of not fitting in as the main reason for considering dropping out.
  • LGBT students who have experienced a form of homophobic or transphobic harassment are 2–3 times more likely to consider leaving their course.
  • A focus group with trans students found that the main difficulties faced on campus for trans students are the lack of gender-neutral toilets and facilities, the lack of policies to update their name and gender in the student register, issues with university security services; and the prevalence of transphobia.

One respondent explained that the use of homophobic terms such as “that’s so gay”, have become “so commonplace that I don’t feel justified enough in speaking out against it...even though it continues to feed the idea that being “gay” is bad.”
Another stated: “The general attitude on our campus is extremely anti-gay or bi, and I would not feel comfortable coming out to anyone.”
NUS is now calling for the enforcement of zero tolerance policies on campus specifically about homophobic and transphobic behaviour, harassment and bullying. Current zero tolerance policies can be vague and do not include rules about homophobic and transphobic bullying or harassment. Some institutions still do not have any zero tolerance policies at all.
NUS wants to see clear procedures put in place on campuses across the UK, with points of contact established so that students can easily report bullying experienced by themselves, or someone they know.
Other recommendations include more staff training on LGBT issues, more peer to peer support, and improving access to information and services on campus for LGBT students.
Sky Yarlett and Finn McGoldrick, NUS’ LGBT Officers, said:

“This research confirms our fears about the impact that isolation, discrimination and coming out, has on LGBT students. It’s appalling to hear that LGBT students don’t feel safe in an educational environment and are experiencing bullying just because of who they are.
“Many LGBT students continue to feel alone in education and society as a whole. Many suffer mental health and financial issues, and all too often we hear cases of LGBT students leaving education altogether as an indirect result of their identity.
“We can no longer ignore the plight of LGBT students. We absolutely need to enforce zero tolerance policies for homophobic and transphobic behaviour, “banter”, and bullying to make sure our campuses are inclusive and that all students, regardless of their sexuality or identity, have a chance to succeed.”
Luke Tryl, Head of Education, Stonewall, said:

“This rigorous research from the NUS makes plain that too many lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans students don’t feel safe whilst studying and that  too many universities haven’t yet taken the simple steps to make them feel both safe on campus and able to report harassment. We hope that all of Britain’s Higher Education institutions implement the recommendations of this report, and look forward to working with them and the NUS to make this happen”
Helen Carr, Head of Equality, University and College Union, said:

“There have been significant strides made both in society and on campus in recent years regarding LGBT equality, with students and staff often leading the way. However, it is of real concern that LGBT students feel significantly less safe on campus than heterosexual students.
“Universities should be welcoming environments that set an example to wider society about the importance of inclusivity and diversity. We would support initiatives to help foster relationships on campus and improve education and training for students and student officers.”
Dan Baker, METRO Youth Chances Manager, said:

“It is concerning that LGBT students continue to face discrimination and we need to respond to the particularly high level of abuse that trans* students are confronted with….the recommendations spell out the need to strengthen safer universities where diversity is embraced and it is great to see research feeding into practical steps to make progress.”

Download the report here