Policy for Transgender Students
Brunel University London recognises and values the diversity of its students’ gender, gender identity and gender expression. The University therefore undertakes not to discriminate against transgender, transfeminine, transmasculine, gender non-binary and non-conforming students. It commits to creating an inclusive trans-friendly culture and learning environment, free from discrimination, harassment or victimisation, where all transgender and non-binary students are treated with dignity and respect in the gender in which they choose to present themselves.
Throughout this policy we use trans* as an umbrella terms to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, their sex at birth following discussions with our students. It covers a diversity of gender identities and expressions including non-binary people. There is a wide variety of terms used by trans* people to describe themselves including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, crossdresser, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, two-spirit, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois.
The aim of this policy is to set a framework for how the University will support students who express their gender identify different to their sex at birth or have commenced and/or undergone the process of gender reassignment at any stage of the student lifecycle. The policy will give more detail on how the University’s strategic commitment should be applied to and how it will provide support to members of the University in meeting their legislative duties.
As part of the Equality and Diversity agenda, Brunel University London is committed to the development of a culture where all students may live, study and work without encountering prejudice or discrimination because of any of the nine “protected characteristics” as defined by the Equality Act 2010.
The University aims to give support and understanding to those students who wish to take, or have taken steps, to identify as a gender different to their sex at birth.
The particular purpose of this policy is to ensure that a prospective student, a current student, or a graduate of Brunel University London will not be treated less favourably than any other, on the grounds of gender identity or expression. This policy of equality is to apply at any time before, during or after a course of study, and at any point in any process of transition, expression or any change (including reversion) of gender identity.
A glossary of terms is provided in Appendix B.
This policy applies to students who have indicated a wish to live in a gender other than their sex at birth (whether or not medical supervision or surgery is either involved or contemplated) and non-binary students. The policy serves students at all stages of gender reassignment, identity or expression, begun or complete throughout the student cycle. This encompasses application to Brunel, registration, every stage of their study or research to graduation.
The University will endeavour to undertake the following:
- No student will be denied access or progression to admission, registration, teaching, learning and research, or treated unfairly on the grounds of their gender identity or expression, or their participation or non-participation in any gender reassignment process.
- No student will be treated unfairly in relation to the awarding of scholarships, grants and other awards under the University’s control or the provision of student support.
- No student will be disadvantaged through any of the University systems including but not limited to health and safety, personal conduct, complaints or disciplinary procedures.
- In the provision of accommodation and other facilities by the University, each trans* student will be treated as an individual and their needs will be met as required, appropriately and sensitively.
- The current curriculum, reading lists and contemporary content examples should neither rely on stereotypical assumptions or contain any transphobic material. Any historical content or comparative content containing what is now recognised as transphobic material needs to be clearly labelled with a trigger warning.
- The University respects the confidentiality of each trans* student and no information will be revealed without the prior written agreement of the individual.
- The University will not tolerate harassment and bullying. Transphobic abuse, harassment or bullying is treated as a serious disciplinary offence and will be dealt with under Senate Regulation 6 and/or Staff Disciplinary Policy and Procedures s.3. Support will be provided to any student who experiences such behaviour.
- The University recognises the right of every individual to choose whether to be open about their gender identity and history. To “out‟ someone without their express permission may amount to a form of harassment and a criminal offence.
- Trans* issues should be included in University Equality and Diversity training and specialised transgender training should be delivered to those working with and supporting trans* students.
- Any student undergoing medical and/or surgical procedures related to gender reassignment will receive positive support from the University to meet any evolving needs during this period and all reasonable adjustments will be made as required.
- The University will anticipate and respond positively to the needs of each trans* student and alumni, providing a professional and consistent service so that all trans* students feel welcome, safe, valued and supported in achieving their individual potentials.
- The University commits to create and maintain an inclusive environment which demonstrates respect for each trans* student and all trans* students. The University guarantees equality across the whole student community with regard to the right to study with dignity, to use University facilities, and to preserve the name, personal identity of each trans* student. The inclusive and respectful environment will apply equally to associations (e.g. partner, spouse and family member, or ally), of a trans* student, and to an associate of any student who forms a part of, or identifies with, the wider-trans* community.
- The University recognises each students’ right to their individual gender identity and expression, and commits to respecting their privacy and treating their status confidentially and sensitively.
- The University commits to facilitating where possible that trans* and non-binary students are able to have access to appropriate facilities on campus i.e. toilets in line with their gender identity and / or gender neutral facilities.
No student is under any obligation to disclose that they wish to take, or have taken steps, to express themselves in a gender different to their sex at birth. However, they are encouraged to notify the University as soon as possible if they would like their new gender identity to be recognised on University systems, to ensure that the most appropriate support and advice is made available. Such notification may be made at any point of application, at registration or at any point in the course of study or research. In the first instance, the notification can be communicated to the University via a tutor and/or the Student Support and Welfare Team.
Making the University aware of their gender, gender identity or expression at an early stage will enable discussions, arrangements and support to be put in place if required.
Providing support to students during transition
The way each student may transition will vary depending on a range of factors, including whether a person chooses to socially transition but not undergo any medical treatment, opt for medical procedures, or alter their gender expression without undertaking any other steps of transition. The University recognises that all journeys are valid and all students will be supported.
The most important consideration is ensuring each student can express gender identity preferences in the most comfortable way.
The student is encouraged to discuss transition with a tutor and/or the Student Support and Welfare Team if they would like support but there is no onus to do so. A very important part of this meeting will be to determine how to support the student and who will liaise with other University staff as required with the student’s written consent. Detailed arrangements should be agreed in the form of a support plan (See Appendix E); it should be noted that this may entail a gradual and incremental process, with regular reviews and revisions, should be student lead and will be confidential.
The plan should be put into writing and the student should sign it alongside the staff member. A copy will be kept by the University for the duration of the student lifecycle after which it should be managed in accordance with data protection law. The details will not be shared without the student’s written consent.
The support plan and other arrangements should be monitored and reviewed regularly. Key review points are likely to include any time of significant change (whether personal or academic, or placement-related) but this does not preclude review and revision at any other time.
Communication with staff and students during transition
The student should consider when or whether to inform fellow students and appropriate staff about any point of transition, and what information should be given. Some students may choose to send a letter to their fellow students and/or staff, while others may prefer that an agreed statement should come from a tutor. Information should be pitched at a level and style appropriate to the audience, while respecting the individual’s wishes including their right to medical confidentiality.
It is common for a transitioning individual to take a short time away from work or study, then returning using a new name and expressing their gender in a new way. This period may be offered as an opportunity to brief people about the change. It remains, it must be stressed, up to the individual to decide the timing of any communication.
When someone transitions this may challenge fellow students and staff who have a fixed idea of gender identity. These others may need support and training in dealing with the situation and some may want to ask questions. While some individuals are very open about their gender identity or expression, they should not need to answer any intrusive questions if they do not wish. Others may want some help in dealing with other people’s questions. It may be helpful to be able raise these questions with the Student Support and Welfare Team who may refer to the Student Equality and Diversity Manager for expert knowledge.
A student who is on placement or who will be preparing to take up a placement, may need some support in informing the placement employer and colleagues, and to secure support and/or training for anyone involved in line with our policies.
Brunel University London respects the confidentiality of each of its students, and will not reveal sensitive information about trans* status without the prior agreement of the individual.
Change of name and/or gender
If a student would like, they are able to request a change of name and/or gender be applied to University records. Such a request may be made at any point in the student lifecycle onwards, and any point in any transition process.
The request must be made in writing to Student Centre, and must be accompanied by documentary evidence of the new name. For a home / EU student this could be a passport, a deed poll (this can be done free of charge), a statutory change of name. The date of change for current and accessible University records, and for the updating of current documentation, ID cards, etc., will be agreed in advance between the student and the University; confidentiality of historic data will be preserved as records are managed in accordance with standard principles of archiving and records management. The student will have the opportunity to register, within the student record system, a preferred name which differs from the legal or official name. Such changes are passed into other University systems. Current gender options in University systems are
- not specified
There is a requirement that, as part of the registration task, each student declare sex as assigned at birth, as well as current gender. Birth sex is stored in a field with strong access protection. No record will be changed without the permission of the student concerned.
After 2 years of living in their chosen gender, whether or not they have undergone surgery, the trans* student currently can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate should they want (for more information, see https://www.gov.uk/apply-gender-recognition-certificate). When issued, they will then receive a new birth certificate and they will have the right to request that all references to their former name and gender are removed and replaced with their current name and gender. Brunel will support this request and make the required change. However it is unlawful for the University to ask for the Gender Recognition Certificate. (It should be noted that this legislation is under review and is likely to change).
The University requires verification (e.g. passport, deed poll or statutory change of name) before considering the replacement or re-issue of a degree certificate for a graduate of the University.
International Students on a Tier 4 Visa and in the UK short term may wish to use a preferred name and gender within the University but make no changes to their documentation from their own country. If they want to make a formal change, fhe Home Office advises that transgender people who hold non-British passports in their former name and gender should align their passports and other identity documents to reflect their acquired name and gender so that they are using one name for all purposes. If a student is from a country where changes to name and gender in passports and official identity documents are not recognised, they could obtain a biometric residence permit in their acquired gender as long as they can demonstrate that they use their acquired name / gender for all purposes. Specialist external advice is recommended for these students.
A student may not choose to identify as man or woman, or may prefer to profess a more fluid gender identity, either during transition or permanently. For such a student, the field for preferred gender offers the non-specified/other options in the student record. This field is access-protected.
Protection from discrimination and harassment
The University recognises the right of each student to choose whether to express their gender identity and history. Staff and students should respect any transgender student in relation to:
- gender identity
- right to study with dignity
- name and personal identity
- privacy and confidentiality
To reveal a student’s transgender status without permission may amount to a form of harassment and a criminal offence.
Brunel University London takes a zero-tolerance approach to any abuse, harassment or bullying. Transphobic bullying and harassment could be regarded as grounds for disciplinary action, which may include expulsion under Senate Regulation 6 and/or the Staff Disciplinary Policy and Guidance s.3, or dismissal under the University’s Disciplinary Procedure 21.
Any student who undergoes transphobic abuse, harassment or bullying is encouraged to seek support from the Student Support and Welfare Team and to report the incident either through the Report and Support Portal and/or through the security team. They can also make a complaint via the Complaints Procedure – see below. The University takes any form of abuse, harassment or bullying very seriously and any complainant would be supported throughout the complaints process.
Trans* respect training
Training for fellow students and/or staff, academic and professional, is highly recommended and would be delivered by the Student Equality and Diversity Manager, or on behalf of. This should be conducted in such a way as to ensure participants are able to raise issues and concerns of their own; it is of paramount importance that they know what is expected of them.
The University will aim to co-create any training materials with trans* students in order to embed their first hand experience and knowledge.
Any student who considers that the University has failed to comply with this policy may use the University’s Complaints procedure under the grounds of dissatisfaction “…about the University’s action or lack of action, or about the standard of service provided by or on behalf of the University”. Such grounds may pertain to unfair treatment or disadvantage based on gender identity, repeated lack of respect for a preferred name or pronoun, and similar actions. The Complaints Procedure cannot be used to appeal against a decision of a Board of Examiners they should instead refer to Senate Regulation 12.
Before raising a complaint, the student is encouraged to read the Complaints Procedure and the accompanying Guidance Notes - https://www.brunel.ac.uk/life/supporting-you/student-complaints-conduct-and-appeals/complaints.
The student might find also it useful to refer to the Equality Challenge Unit guidance on Transgender. The Students Union at Brunel has an Advice and Representation Centre which can also provide ongoing advice and support. There are also a range of external specialist organisations – see Appendix C for further details).