By Dr Stephanie Mckendry & Dr Matson Lawrence, University of Strathclyde

Trans.Edu Scotland is a nationwide research project investigating the experiences of and barriers faced by trans people in Further and Higher Education. The year-long project is led by Dr Stephanie Mckendry and Dr Matson Lawrence at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, and will conclude in June 2017.

The UK Government Women and Equalities Commission recently reported that trans people face ‘unacceptable levels of bullying and harassment’ within UK colleges and universities. There is also increasing recognition within the sector of the barriers and challenges that trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people face in gaining and maintaining access to education and employment.

While previous empirical research has explored the experiences of trans staff (ECU, 2009) and students (NUS, 2014) within wider LGBT contexts, there is a lack of empirical evidence on the experiences of trans applicants, students and staff. The Trans.Edu Scotland research aims to address this lacuna, and will produce practical toolkits and written outputs to assist Scottish institutions in meeting their statutory and ethical requirements.

There are three distinct stages to the Trans.Edu Scotland project:

  1. Documentary analysis and mapping of current practice within Scottish HEIs and colleges.
  2. Empirical research investigating the experiences of trans applicants, students and staff.
  3. Development of practical toolkits and case studies to empower institutions to develop their policies and activities, alongside a peer-support Community of Practice for practitioners.

The project aims to engage with trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming applicants, students and staff members at Scottish colleges and universities. We recently launched an online survey to gather the perspectives of a wide range of trans-identified and experienced people. We will shortly begin conducting one-to-one interviews and focus groups in order to develop a more nuanced and in-depth understanding of the experiences of and barriers faced by applicants, students and staff. We will also seek to explore what institutions can do, in practical terms, to better support and provide for trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming students and staff members.

The Trans.Edu Scotland research also aims to engage with Scottish HE & FE practitioners to enable us to develop a picture of current equalities monitoring and guidance practices within the sector, alongside the forms and provision of support available for trans students and staff. We have instigated a dialogue with a number of Equality and Diversity practitioners across the sector, and have begun collating information on the monitoring and guidance practices currently in place for each institution.

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