LGBTQ+ students report at least three homophobic hate incidents to their unis every month

‘Growing up LGBT+ is still unacceptably tough’

LGBTQ+ students are reporting at least three incidents of homophobic hate to UK universities every month, an investigation by The Tab has found.

In the last five full academic years, students reported 188 incidents of homophobia to UK unis – averaging at over 37 per year.

These findings come amongst a backdrop of high-profile homophobic incidents across UK campuses. Homophobic messages have been allegedly sent to university group chats by a society VP at UCL, and freshers at LSE. There have been multiple incidents of transphobic stickers found on Edinburgh Uni’s campus, over several years.

LGBTQ+ students have shared with The Tab their stories of queerphobia on campus, describing homophobic slurs, microaggressions, having drinks thrown over them in homophobic attacks, and being sexually assaulted.

Last year, a Bournemouth student was investigated by the uni after uploading a strong of homophobic and racist videos to TikTok. During lockdown, there have been a series of homophobic “Zoom bomb” attacks on uni societies at Manchester Met, Durham,  Edinburgh and Sussex.

The Tab contacted every university in the country, asking them about incidents of hate crime and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people at their uni. 23 did not respond, and five refused to provide information.

At Manchester, students made a total of 21 reports with a suspected cause of homophobia or sexuality. The university does not have records before 2017, so these numbers are from then until the end of the 2019/20, the last full academic year.

Keele had 16 reports of homophobia over the five-year period.

Bath doesn’t have records of the number homophobic incidents on campus until September 2018, but since then students at the university have come forward with 16 reports.

Sheffield Hallam similarly doesn’t have full numbers of the reports of homophobic hate before September 2018, and had at least 10 reports since then.

The full results can be found below.

This table shows the total number of anti-LGBTQ+ hate incidents reported to UK unis, from the 2015/16 to 2019/20 academic years:

As part of The Tab’s Pride reporting series, we asked students their experiences of homophobia on campus – and one in three told us they’ve experienced queerphobic discrimination at uni.

Many of these survey incidents happened out and about in a uni city, or in a club or pub, so it wouldn’t necessarily be expected for people to report these incidents to their uni. However, these numbers show the incidence of homophobic hate is far more widespread than university reports suggest.

Amy Ashenden, from LGBT+ young people charity Just Like Us, told The Tab: “Growing up LGBT+ is still unacceptably tough.”

She says LGBTQ+ young people feel less safe in school, “sadly then it is not surprising that some LGBT+ young people go on to face challenges at university such as feeling unsafe.”

A number of universities refused to provide specific figures, citing data protection concerns, and instead said only there had been fewer than five or three incidents in a certain year. These are shown in the table with an asterisk, and we have rounded figures down to 1.

However, using the highest possible value of these figures, the potential number of homophobic incidents reported on UK campuses rises to 313 – or over five a month.

An additional 13 universities were unable to tell The Tab how many reports of homophobia they receive, as they don’t specifically categorise reports as “homophobia”. Many of these list it under a broader category of “harassment”, or combine it with racist or sexist abuse.

The Tab’s Pride reporting series is putting a focus on highlighting LGBTQ+ issues and celebrating queer voices across UK campuses.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story you can contact Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ helpline, on 0300 330 0630 or visit their website. You can also find help through young people’s charity The Mix, and Galop, the LGBTQ+ anti-violence charity. 

If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s an incident of homophobia on campus, an experience you’d like to share, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]

More Pride stories recommended by this writer:

One in three LGBTQ+ students have experienced discrimination and queerphobia at uni

41 homophobic things straight people say every day without realising

Seeing queer people experience homophobia makes me scared to be myself in public

You can find all articles from The Tab’s Pride series here