This university is tackling LGBT students’ isolation in a groundbreaking new way

The University of the West of England (UWE) is introducing a LGBT+ buddy accommodation scheme to “beat the sense of isolation” some LGBT+ students face.

The scheme will offer new students the opportunity to live with another LGBT+ student during their first year. It’s due to be launched in September 2020 and will be the first of its kind in the UK.

According to Ollie Ley, LGBT+ president of UWE’s student union, the scheme arose after complaints of discrimination.

“I know we live in a world where there shouldn’t be discrimination but it still happens,” he told the BBC.

“Last year we had some LGBT+ students say they felt flatmates were giving them the cold shoulder or were excluding them from meals, or nights out. We offer alcohol-free and quiet accommodation so this is another option.”

A recent study by Stonewall found that two in five lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans students (42 percent) have hidden their identity at university for fear of discrimination.

LGBT+ students can feel “isolated” at uni (Creative Commons)

Two-thirds of LGBT+ students (69 per cent) said their university had equalities policies that protect LGB people on campus, but often this protection does not extend to transgender people.

Shockingly, seven percent of trans students have been physically attacked by another student or member of university staff within the last year. One in seven (14 per cent) had to drop out of a course or considered dropping out of a course because of harassment or discrimination.

While some UK universities already offer mentoring schemes for LGBT+ people, the National Union of Students said UWE’s new LGBT+ accommodation will be the first voluntary buddy scheme tied to housing.

Vivienne Jowett, head of accommodation services at UWE, told the BBC it will be an “exciting chance to make the scary move from home a positive experience for new students.”

“We were very keen that we didn’t want to segregate LGBT+ students in whole flats, but this will help students who are starting out in a new environment,” she added.