Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The University Challenge

Stonewall have launched a new online guide on their site ''. Check out the site here. The 'University Guide' is, according to Stonewall 'aimed at lesbian, gay and bisexual 16 and 17 year olds who are choosing which university to study at'.

Luke Tryl, Stonewall’s Education Officer, said: ‘With the introduction of tuition fees, students are increasingly consumers and as such expect universities to cater to their needs. For the first time, students can now compare how gay-friendly every UK university is by browsing this groundbreaking new guide.’

Stonewall claims that the site measures how gay-friendly each university is based on a range of factors, including whether there is a student LGB Society, if LGB specific careers advice is offered, membership of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme, policies and practices that counter homophobic bullying and specific events for LGB students.

You can pull up institutions by region or A-Z but there's no 'league table' as such. You simply have info on each institution reduced to a tick or cross. I've reproduced the criteria in full below - including the explanations (which do not appear on the institutions bit). I think it's a useful worthy guide. I do have some concerns though. Institutions are increasingly focusing on meeting this criteria (I know my own is) but this can be a mixed blessing. It means you can get more support for somethings but it also means the institution becomes focused on ticking the boxes. It's no good having all of this if staff are homophobic which on the basis of this criteria can still happen.

Let's take one example. Universities employ vast amounts of overseas staff in their academic ranks. many of whom still subscribe to very different cultural values. The challenge for universities is to address these. Universities are pretty good these days at providing spaces for worship (less good at broader spirituality) but what happens when those values clash with sexuality? Should a university confront a devout Christian and tell them they are wrong to hold homophobic attitudes? My view is "absolutely" but an institution that runs away from these issues could stills core very highly on Stonewalls system.

It's an important starting point - more than that actually, it's an important framework and Stonewall have taken an impressive lead on this issue, but Universities must come under pressure to do more, and make addressing issues of sexuality a deep policy, not just a box ticking exercise.

Here's the Stonewall criteria:

• A policy that protects lesbian, gay and bisexual students from bullying: Does the university have a harassment policy which makes explicit reference to homophobia? Does it indicate that there are appropriate sanctions for those who are homophobic? Is there protection for those who are victims of such bullying?

• Compulsory staff training on lesbian, gay and bisexual issues: Does the university train its teaching and support staff on lesbian, gay and bisexual issues as part of their diversity training? Is this training mandatory?

• Lesbian, gay and bisexual staff network: Is there a network group for lesbian, gay and bisexual staff which is supported by the university? Is this publicised so prospective students will know about it?

• Student lesbian, gay and bisexual society: Is there a specific student society for lesbian, gay and bisexual students which is active and provides a meeting point for lesbian, gay and bisexual students?

• Info for students on lesbian, gay and bisexual issues: Does the university or the student union provide specific information for LGB students, for instance in the form of a handbook or a DVD?

• Events for lesbian, gay and bisexual students: Does the university run specific events for lesbian, gay and bisexual students, for instance events during history month or social events for students?

• Explicit Welfare Provision for lesbian, gay and bisexual students: Does the university or the Student Union offer specific welfare support for lesbian, gay and bisexual students. This may be in the form of counsellors who are specifically trained in lesbian, gay and bisexual issues or in the form of LGBT society welfare reps.

• Consultation with lesbian, gay and bisexual students: Does the University ensure that it talks to lesbian, gay and bisexual students about their needs and include them in the decision making process within the University.

• Specific Career Advice for lesbian, gay and bisexual students: Does the University actively promote lesbian, gay and bisexual recruitment guides such as Stonewalls Starting Out? Or does it offer specific career advice for lesbian, gay and bisexual students either on their websites or through promotional events?

Share this:

Copyright © 2014 Law and Sexuality. Designed by OddThemes | Distributed By Gooyaabi Templates