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56% of LGBT students cite 'not fitting in' as main reason to drop out of uni

19th May 2014

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56% of lesbian, gay and bisexual students in the UK have named “not fitting in” at university as the main reason for wanting to drop out, according to NUS research.

The nationwide study into the lives of LGBT students at the country’s universities also found that one in five has experienced bullying and/or harassment on campus. 36.7% felt safe at university, compared to 43% of heterosexual students.

Slightly more gay (27.7%), lesbian (26.6%) and bisexual (30%) students were likely to consider dropping out of uni than heterosexual (25%) students, and those who had experienced a form of homophobic harassment were two to three times more likely to consider leaving their course.

According to the report, which gathered case studies from the universities of London, Bangor, Nottingham, Manchester Metropolitan, University College London, the University of London and Glasgow and paired them with national survey of 4,240 students, “only 9 out of 55 (16%) of students who have experienced homophobic or transphobic physical assault reported it to the police.”

Alongside not feeling like they fit in and harassment, LGBT students also cited personal, family and relationship problems as a reason for considering dropping out.

Students largely said that, although counselling services worked well at their universities, they could be better publicised and more specifically tailred to their needs. Better training for staff was also suggested.

Black lesbian, gay and bisexual students were also more likely to have considered dropping out than other ethnicities - 47.4% compared to 30.6% of White and 17% of Asian respondents.

In terms of student societies and involvement with their university, it is sports teams and religious societies that gay, lesbian and bi students are most likely to feel pushed out of.

Although they are likely to be involved student politics, LGB students are less likely to be involved in sports as “14% have experienced homophobia, biphobia or transphobia that has put them off participating in sport, and 19% were put off by gendered sports teams.”

Furthermore, “59%of LGBT young people that would be interested in joining a religious organisation did not do so because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In terms of joining LGBT societies, students pointed out fear of disclosure and lack of one to one meetings and advice rather than social events as reasons for not getting involved.

One student told the survey: “I think it’s really difficult for people who aren’t necessarily confident, like they’re not out, to walk up to a stall. You think at the time, everyone will see if I walk up ... everyone will notice, you know, they won’t, but that’s quite a big worry I think.”

NUS LGBT Officers Finn McGoldrick and Sky Yarlett said of the findings: “We hope that this work spurs on research into the experiences of students in further education. We hope that students’ unions and institutions rise to the challenge of proactively supporting LGBT students.  

“This report is the first step for many in understanding and working with LGBT students to change the world around them for the better, and the NUS LGBT campaign will be with you every step of the way.”

To see the full study visit the NUS site here.

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