What life is really like for LGBT students

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A new research project is exploring what university life is like for LGBT students.

An ongoing research project called “From Freshers’ Week to Finals” is being carried out by Sheffield Hallam University, researching the experiences of LGBT students at university.

The project has found that some students who faced bullying dropped out of university. Some 6% of students sampled “had ‘dropped out’ of university as a result of their experiences” and 19% felt “their ability to gain employment had been affected by prior experiences of bullying or discrimination”, according to Times Higher Education.

The negative experiences of some students has led Eleanor Formby, a senior research fellow at Sheffield Hallam, to say that these experiences should be of concern to universities.

The project is being supported by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Youth and Student Organisation (IGLYO), the National Union of Students, the SRHE and others.

Researchers also found that bullying related to a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity could actually have a positive effect on students. It gave some a “I’ll show you attitude” and they actually performed better at university.

The researchers compared the traditional ideas of university as “a site of diversity” to university being “a site of bullying, discrimination and sidelining – focussing on heterosexist and macho cultures”.

Michael Keenan, lecturer in sociology at Nottingham Trent University,  found that 89% of LGBT students felt accepted by fellow students but other students felt they were seen as “exotic”, “erotic” or “other”.