A report by Ucas and Stonewall suggests LGBT+ students are four times more likely to have a mental health condition than their non-LGBT+ peers.
A survey of 3,000 UK-domiciled LGBT+ people starting university this term was conducted by Ucas for a report compiled with Stonewall. Over 1 in 13 applicants identify as LGBT+ – and 1 in 250 identifies as transgender, according to Ucas.
Thirteen per cent of these students have a declared mental health condition, more than four times the figure for their non-LGBT+ peers (2.9%). Eight in 10 (82%) said they are confident about being more open about their sexual orientation or gender at university – but more than 1 in 10 say they are “unsure about how ‘out’ they can be” when they start as freshers in a few weeks.
The chief executive of the admission’s service said the report shows “there is still work to be done by all of us to create an educational environment where LGBT+ students can feel free to be themselves”.
The survey found that 64% felt comfortable about being open about their identity at school. Twelve per cent had a negative experience at school – but this figure rises to 17% among transgender respondents. Bullying was the factor most commonly cited, the survey found.
For employers and universities who are meeting this cohort of students for the first time, our report highlights the varying support needs of LGBT+ students, with mental health, in particular, a prominent concern
– Clare Marchant, Ucas
The survey also found that LGBT+ students tend to be older than 18 – such as mature students or those coming to university after a gap year. Forty-four per cent of LGBT+ students are aged 18 – but this age group comprises 51% of the applicant cohort. Students that identify as LGBT+ are also more likely to come from disadvantaged areas, as defined by the POLAR4 measure. Seventeen per cent of LGBT+ applicants live in quintile one areas, compared to 13% of non-LGBT+ students – and 25% of LGBT+ students live in quintile five areas, compared to 29% of non-LGBT+ students.
Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said: “Ucas is committed to ensuring that education is accessible to all, and I am encouraged that the majority of the 3,000 LGBT+ students who responded to our survey are feeling positive about their next steps in education and many of them are seeing the transition to university or college as a moment of liberation where they can be more open about their sexual and gender identities.
“Our report highlights that whilst significant progress has been made, there is still work to be done by all of us to create an educational environment where LGBT+ students can feel free to be themselves, and experience education without fear of discrimination or being treated differently. This is especially the case when it comes to accommodation where students are suddenly living with strangers and working out how open they feel able to be.
“For employers and universities who are meeting this cohort of students for the first time, our report highlights the varying support needs of LGBT+ students, with mental health, in particular, a prominent concern and a key part of their decision-making process.”
Eloise Stonborough, associate director of research and policy at Stonewall, said: “At the turn of the millennium, teaching about LGBTQ+ subjects in schools was still illegal – this trailblazing research highlights the great progress made since then, with schools and colleges promoting LGBTQ+ inclusion.
“As a result, we are now seeing LGBTQ+ students thrive, with more students feeling confident to be out at university. But the report shows that many lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer young people continue to struggle at school. With under half of the LGBT+ students (47%) who took part in the survey describing their experience at school or college as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, there is still more that we need to do more to ensure that all LGBTQ+ students are taught in an environment that allows them to fulfil their potential.”