British universities becoming more gay-friendly, says Stonewall

 

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The Independent Online

British universities are becoming more gay-friendly, according to a major new study by a gay rights charity.

Stonewall has awarded top marks to six British universities for their work to “help and welcome” prospective lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.

The new Gay By Degree report 2014 used 10 measures to rank 158 British universities to see how well they support gay students, with Cardiff University, Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), Sheffield Hallam University, University of Essex, University of Glasgow and York St John University all scoring top marks.

Criteria included whether a university has a policy to tackle homophobic bullying, whether there are societies and events for LGBT students, and what steps they take to support lesbian, gay and bisexual staff.

However Stonewall warned that many universities are still failing to cater for LGBT students.

Chief executive Ruth Hunt said, “It’s particularly concerning that only 35 universities are monitoring student’s sexual orientation leaving them no way of telling if they’re providing a positive experience for gay students. We hope that this year’s guide prompts universities to do more to make campuses a welcoming place for all students.”

This follows a May report by the National Union of Students which found that homophobia is rife at British universities, with one in five LGBT students being bullied on campus.

A Stonewall spokesperson told i/the Independent that universities shouldn’t be “afraid of making a senior champion or figure” visible on campus who would support gay students and make clear that “homophobic language isn’t banter".

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who regularly speaks at British universities, told The Independent: “Anecdotal evidence suggests there is quite a lot casual homophobic and sexist banter on many university campuses. There is also a big problem with some universities hosting hate Islamist hate preachers who advocate the execution of gay people.

“Some student societies report LGBT posters being repeatedly defaced or torn down. This goes against the general impression that universities are places of liberal enlightened values. Some LGBT staff and students feel intimidated to the point where they don’t disclose their sexuality.

“All universities have excellent equal opportunity polices on paper, but a significant minority fail to enforce them when faced with examples of homophobia and transphobia. Universities UK need to be giving a strong lead in ensuring that all universities comply in practise.”

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