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The Wellbeing of LGBTQ+ Students

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LGBTQ+ people throughout British society experience life differently to their peers. Although there have been notable improvements in recent years and decades to the rights and status of LGBTQ+ people in Britain, it is widely recognised that there remains a substantial journey to tackle discrimination and enable everyone to live a safe and fulfilling life, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The annual Pride month reminds us both that there is much to be celebrated, and of how far we still have to go.

People’s time at university can be a transformative one, in which they are able to explore and understand their identity, in many cases for the first time. However, we cannot pretend that student wellbeing and mental health are perfect. Living independently for the first time, under often challenging financial circumstances and in a high stakes academic environment, is undoubtedly challenging.

In this short paper, we analyse data from the Student Academic Experience Survey, which has been conducted annually by YouthSight on behalf of Advance HE and the Higher Education Policy Institute since 2005, with Wellbeing data collected since the 2013-2014 academic year, people’s sexual orientation captured since the 2016-2017 year, and their Trans identity since the 2020-2021 academic year.

Using this data, we will attempt to provide an account of the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people, where it is appropriate to do so; how it has both changed over time; how it compares to straight cisgendered people, and what we can learn about the LGBTQ+ student experience.