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Research for further education and higher education

Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research report July 2010


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Contents Foreword

3

Acknowledgements

4

Executive summary

6

Introduction

10

Research methodology

12

Research findings

13

Staff survey

14

Learner survey

27

Summary of results

29

Interview and focus groups

34

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

34 38 41 52 55 56 57 58 61

Managing relationships Learner residences: a site of tension The learner experience and mechanisms for support Teaching, learning and assessment Strategic leadership and management, and the role of trade unions 5.1 Governance 5.2 Public secularism and private religion 5.3 Policies for recruiting international learners 5.4 Trade unions

Conclusions

62

Bibliography

64

Appendix 1 Research methodology

66

Appendix 2 Profile of research participants

2

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Foreword I am delighted to present Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith. This resource looks at the experiences of employers, staff and learners in managing the needs and relationships between people of different sexual orientations and religions or beliefs. At Lifelong Learning UK our role is to support lifelong learning employers, including those in further and higher education, to recruit, retain and develop suitably skilled and effective employees at all levels. We believe that equality and diversity should be at the heart of everything we do. A diverse workforce drives creativity and innovation; inspiring learners and staff to achieve to their full potential. Promoting and advancing sexual orientation and religion or belief equality is still in its infancy within the lifelong learning sector. There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating how learning providers are promoting inclusion and tackling competing issues related to these diverse groups. This resource acknowledges that managing diversity brings its own challenges, and in order to provide safe and inclusive work and learning environments it is vital for us to ensure that the whole workforce is appropriately trained, has the flexibility to respond to changing needs and is recruiting the best people from a wide talent pool. It is our vision that the UK lifelong learning sector will be the best in the world, and we believe that with continued hard work and commitment we can achieve this.

This research, supported by the Forum for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Equality in Post-School Education, seeks to understand the relationship between sexual orientation and religion or belief equality, and to identify good practice in managing the relationship between the two. We welcome your comments and warmly encourage you to provide feedback to us about this resource at equalityanddiversity@lluk.org.

Sue Dutton Chief Executive Lifelong Learning UK

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Acknowledgements “We were very happy to participate in the preparation of this research and the accompanying guidance. We believe that together these resources will enable further education managers to deal more confidently with their responsibilities to manage the entitlements of staff and learners under the religion and belief and the sexual orientation strands of equalities legislation.” Dr John Wise, Chief Executive of the National Council of Faiths and Beliefs in Further Education “We welcome the research and guidance developed by Lifelong Learning UK and partners which offers a real opportunity for further education to integrate these issues more systematically and meaningfully into its culture and practice.” Margaret Adjaye, Programme Director – Equalities and Diversity The Learning and Skills Improvement Service

“Equality and diversity has been at the heart of the work of the Learning and Skills Council, and we are pleased to have supported the development of this innovative project. We hope that it will help colleges and providers to promote cohesion between learners from all groups, and enable them to achieve even better outcomes.” Dan Simons, Policy Manager – Equality and Diversity Learning and Skills Council “We welcome this report and the research, and believe that colleges strive towards being inclusive institutions where all staff and students are able to work and study without fear of harassment or bullying and are valued as individuals. It is clear from this research that this is a sensitive area where there are particular challenges. AoC is pleased to have been involved in this joint project, which we hope will enable Colleges to meet these challenges in a positive and constructive manner.” Evan Williams, Director of Employment and Professional Services Association of Colleges

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

“The Equality Challenge Unit supports higher education to realise the potential of staff and students whatever their age, race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief. We are therefore extremely pleased to welcome this research and the guidance that will help organisations manage the interface between sexual orientation and religion or belief. The research shows that at times this can be a difficult area, but also that there are extremely positive messages that can be used to tackle prejudices and preconceptions in these areas.”

“The University and College Union supports LGBT members and promote good relations in Universities and Colleges. UCU welcomes this research and guidance as a way of enabling our reps and members to ensure that staff and students can work and study in our institutions free from discrimination and harassment. As a national Union we continue to work towards a real experience of equality and diversity and welcome the findings and recommendations as a contribution to the knowledge and understanding that can further guide our work.”

Chris Hall, Senior Policy Adviser Equality Challenge Unit

Laura Miles NEC LGBT FE rep and Chair of the LGBT members’ standing committee University and College Union

“The Forum’s guiding hope from initial idea to delivery has been that in the hands of practitioners, at every level, this research and guidance may support and develop good relations and promote understanding in our Universities and Colleges. Using this valuable resource previous difficulties may be overcome and advances made within and between these two equality areas. We welcome its production and commend it as a tool to progress equality work and develop active approaches throughout post school education.” Seth Atkin Chair The Forum for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Equality in Post School Education

Lifelong Learning UK would like to thank the Sexual Orientation and Faith Advisory Board for their input to this research. The board was made up of members from the following organisations: Association of Colleges (AoC) Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) Learning and Skills Council (LSC) Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) National Council of Faiths and Beliefs in Further Education (FBFE) National Union of Students (NUS) University and College Union (UCU)

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Executive summary • Since 2003, it has been unlawful to discriminate against an employee because of their sexual orientation or religion or belief. In 2006 and 2007 the law was extended to ensure that any company or organisation providing a service, including learning providers, cannot unlawfully discriminate against their service users based on their sexual orientation or religion or belief. The Equality Act 2010 will require all public bodies and institutions to actively promote equality in all identified equality areas known as protected characteristics, including sexual orientation and religion or belief. • Lifelong Learning UK, supported by the Forum for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Equality in Post-Education (The Forum) and the National Council of Faiths and Beliefs in Further Education (FBFE), commissioned this research to gain a better understanding of the experiences and challenges facing learning providers and learners in handling sexual orientation and religion or belief inter-relations in the workplace and learner environment, to highlight good practice and identify solutions to challenges faced in the management of these issues. • The research aimed to address an overall gap in research into managing the interface between sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief, particularly in the further and higher education sectors. This study sought to investigate the gap from a position of not assuming that conflict exists between the two equality groups. The interplay between these two groups impacts on sector employment, teaching and learning, and the experience of working and studying in the sector for many staff and learners.

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• Carried out across the lifelong learning sector in England, the research found a limited amount of existing good practice, a good deal of uncertainty about how to proceed, and a high degree of anticipated difficulty and conflict between the two protected characteristics. A clear finding was that the anticipation of difficulty is significantly greater than any actual experience of difficulties or conflict. • A guidance document to accompany the research has been produced which addresses key issues including managing relations, conduct, policy and application within the learning provider environment. Both the research and guidance have been developed to support anyone working and studying in the further and higher education sectors, including work based learning and adult and community learning providers. • A mixture of quantitative and qualitative research methods were employed, including a literature review and online surveys with staff and learners in further and higher education. Interviews and focus groups were also held with a range of staff, learners and members of stakeholder organisations working with the sector. To maximise participation the research was publicised at appropriate sector events and to sector organisations. • Twenty per cent of all staff participating in the survey thought there were particular challenges in managing or supporting relationships between lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and staff of different faiths or beliefs in their place of work. The survey results suggested that the attitudes and behaviours of some staff and the nature of staff relationships generally are important factors that influence whether lesbian, gay and bisexual staff of faith or belief express both these aspects in the workplace.


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

• Thirty-one per cent of staff did not think that there were tensions or conflicts between lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and staff of faith or belief in their place of work, and that are related to their sexual orientation or faith or belief. The survey analysis supported this finding; overall, only a small number of staff have experienced, seen or known about tensions or conflicts between staff and learners of different sexual orientations and different faiths or beliefs, based on these characteristics. • Where tensions or conflicts were experienced or identified in a workplace, the survey results suggested that there was no clear evidence of structured approaches to resolving them based on established policies and procedures. The findings highlighted a clear need to communicate and raise awareness of policies and procedures for managing the interface between sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief, and explain that these are not incompatible protected characteristics with unavoidable tensions and conflicts. • Forty-one per cent of the learners surveyed thought that mutually respectful relationships exist between lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and learners and those of different faiths or beliefs in their place of study. Learners who indicated that the mutually respectful relationship was absent stated that it was due to ‘conflict of values in their place of study’, ‘lack of accurate information’ and ‘people in general do not get on well with each other’. • The external perception of lesbian, gay and bisexual learners included a mixture of inaccuracies, uncertainties and inconsistencies. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people tended to be perceived by others – particularly those of some religions or beliefs – in terms of behaviours or perceived behaviours.

• Only a small proportion of learners (less than one in ten) had experienced or seen tensions or conflicts between staff or learners of different sexual orientations and those of different faiths or beliefs, which were based on these characteristics. In the small number of situations where learners had been involved in incidences of conflict or tension in the learning environment, the responses indicated that they had to resolve them themselves or they were left unresolved. • The learners’ responses suggested the absence of clear policies and procedures on managing incidents involving staff and learners because of their sexual orientation or religion or belief at organisational level. • Managing relationships between people with different religions or beliefs and those who are lesbian, gay or bisexual was seen as potentially problematic in promoting equality in the workplace and learning environment. Little or no proactive leadership in managing the relationship between the two groups sharing the protected characteristics was found. • College and university authorities tended to avoid intervention when there were potential or actual tensions between sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief. Situations that arose involving these two groups were often assumed by college and university authorities to be especially challenging and not amenable to resolution by standard means. • The confident application of standard complaints or mediation or disciplinary procedure was shown to be highly effective in resolving tensions or conflicts. Staff commented that training was crucial in empowering staff to apply policies and procedures.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

• Anticipation of conflict between the two groups, unsupported by experience or evidence, was a significant inhibitor of action to enforce or promote equality of the two groups sharing these protected characteristics. • University halls of residence were found to be a site of significant tensions between learners of different sexual orientations and religions or beliefs. Such tensions arose in both open access halls and those that were denominationally selective. These incidences often resulted in lesbian, gay or bisexual learners leaving the halls of residence and finding their own alternative accommodation. • There was little evidence of existing guidance to manage these tensions, and little evidence of university or residence authorities playing a role in resolving or preventing tension or conflict. • Some lesbian, gay or bisexual learners regarded the fracture between the two groups sharing these protected characteristics to be irreparable and did not seek to achieve any unity between the two, rejecting any involvement with religion or belief. • Some learners who identified as having a religion or belief and being gay, lesbian or bisexual experienced a high degree of personal turmoil over their identities. This resulted in some learners continuing to practice their religion or belief but hiding their sexual orientation in order to do so. • Some lesbian, gay or bisexual learners who held religious beliefs avoided contact with their lesbian, gay or bisexual student societies for fear of being ‘outed’ to their co-religionists. • Some learners with religions or beliefs felt oppressed by what they experienced as a secular establishment, incorporating many lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals. They

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considered that they were being marginalised because of their religion or faith and did not feel that they were able to fully participate in the organisation. • Some religiously motivated homophobia was amenable to challenge and discussion, and open debate was seen as a valuable way of challenging views. Debates that focused on lesbian, gay and bisexual speakers sharing their life experiences, rather than the assertion of opposing principles, proved successful in engaging audiences. • Students’ unions and student services/learner support were identified as important mechanisms with a vital role to play in building bridges between the two communities. Joint campaigning within the students’ union or students’ union sponsored debates were identified as effective bridge-building activities forging positive links between the groups sharing the protected characteristics. • College and university based interfaith chaplaincies were well placed to challenge religiously driven homophobia with some chaplains seeing identifying, challenging and taking a lead in opposing religiously motivated homophobia as a key priority for their chaplaincies. However this was not always a shared perspective within chaplaincy teams, which it was thought could compromise the capacity of chaplaincies to play this role effectively. • The relationship between sexual orientation and religion or belief equality had an impact on the quality and conduct of teaching and learning in colleges and universities. This manifested itself through the thinking and actions of some lesbian, gay or bisexual individuals for whom there were unresolved tensions between their identities as being


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

lesbian, gay or bisexual and having a religion or belief. • The relationship also impacted on the thinking and actions of some individuals who adopted dogmatic religious positions including being homophobic, which sometimes led to disruption and blocked academic discourse. However, there was evidence to suggest that some incidences of disruption, if openly challenged at the time, could lead to learning and development. • Staff identified the need for an anticipatory approach with a clear policy framework and suitable relevant training to enable them to intervene effectively and manage the relationship between the two groups sharing these protected characteristics. • There was little recognition of governing bodies and university senates playing an effective strategic leadership role in promoting equality and diversity generally or in assuring the effective management of the interface between sexual orientation and religion or belief equality. • There was some confusion about the nature of “secular” colleges and universities. Having a secular status was sometimes seen as necessary as a way of avoiding clashes between groups who share these two protected characteristics.

• It was suggested that the recruitment policies of some learning providers might be limiting their compliance with equality legislation because of untested fears that if they do not do so, they will lose income associated with recruiting overseas learners with different religions or beliefs. There was some evidence to suggest that overseas learners with particular religions or beliefs would not make decisions about studying in the UK or at particular organisations based on the visibility of lesbian, gay or bisexual people. Some learning providers may be prioritising equality on the grounds of religion or belief over equality on the grounds of sexual orientation. • Some staff identified their trade union as supportive of sexual orientation equality, often in circumstances where the wider organisation was not seen as supportive. However, the work of trade unions in this area was acknowledged to be on the basis of separate groups sharing a protected characteristic rather than on the relationship between groups sharing protected characteristics. There was also sometimes a mismatch between national trade union policies and branch level practice on equality and diversity and on the management of the interface between sexual orientation and religion or belief equality.

• Some people with a religion or belief considered that secularism in learning providers marginalised them and diminished their role and full participation in the organisation. They thought that removing them from corporate life as a group could create the basis for the exclusion of other groups.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Introduction Since 2003 it has been against the law to discriminate against an employee because of their sexual orientation and religion or belief1. In 2006 and 2007 the law was extended to ensure that any company or organisation providing a service, including learning providers, cannot unlawfully discriminate against their service users based on their sexual orientation or religion or belief. The new Equality Act 2010 will oblige all public bodies and institutions to actively promote equality in all identified equality areas, including sexual orientation and religion or belief. The main provisions of the Act will come into force in autumn 2010 and the public sector equality duty will come into effect in April 2011. The legislation has led to a feeling of vulnerability among some employers and service providers who perceive there to be a potential conflict between sexual orientation and religion or belief equality. In response to this, Lifelong Learning UK, supported by the Forum for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Equality in Post-School Education (The Forum), commissioned this research to: • gain a better understanding of the experiences and challenges facing learning providers and learners in handling sexual orientation and religion or belief inter-relations in the workplace and learner environment • highlight good practice and identify solutions to challenges faced in the management of these issues. This study aimed to address a gap in research into managing the interface between sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief, particularly in the further and higher education sectors. Research by Stonewall (2007) suggests that there are significant gaps in information about the scale

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of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. These gaps include primary research among current lesbian, gay and bisexual learners about the issues they face, and their views on how the education system could better support them and meet their needs. The Stonewall research suggests that policy makers and educational professionals would benefit from up-to-date evidence of the scale of such discrimination in English further and higher education. Evidence of this sort could enable and inform dialogue between government and education professionals, designed, for example, to drive forward initiatives to combat homophobic bullying. Specifically the following research gaps identified included: • identifying solutions to conflicting freedoms; for example, between sexual orientation equality and equality on grounds of religion or belief • assessing the impact on lesbian, gay and bisexual people of permitted discrimination, such as the law that allows religious organisations to discriminate against lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the provision of goods and services. Whilst this research sought to investigate these gaps, it did so from a position of not assuming conflict exists between the two equality groups. Carried out across the lifelong learning sector in England, it found a limited amount of existing good practice, a good deal of uncertainty about how to proceed and a high degree of anticipated difficulty and conflict between these two equality areas. A clear finding is that anticipation of difficulty is significantly greater than any experience of it. The interplay between these two areas impacts on sector employment, teaching and learning and the experience of working and studying in the sector for many staff and learners.

Throughout this report religion/belief includes all faiths and philosophical beliefs as well as people with no religion or belief. Additionally, ‘religion’ and ‘faith’ are used interchangeably.

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While sexual orientation and religion or belief provide the focus for this research report, its findings have implications for equality work more broadly. It provides an approach to looking at multiple areas of equality rather than working in each area independently, moving to a genuinely joined-up approach. Inequality does not exist in silos and therefore neither should remedial research and actions. This report is the result of research within the further education and higher education sectors, including work based learning providers and adult community learning providers, and is supported by a companion guidance document which addresses key issues including managing relations management, conduct, policy and application within the learning provider environment. The report is organised in the following sections: • methodology for the research • the results of the staff and learner surveys • key themes gathered through the interviews and focus groups • conclusions • recommendations. Throughout the report the term learner is used which should be taken to include learners and students. This report is intended for anyone working or studying in the further and higher education sectors, including work based learning adult and community learning providers.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Research methodology The research methodology employed to complete this project drew on established approaches to research into lesbian, gay and bisexual issues and issues relating to religion or belief across the further education and higher education sectors.

The data gathered was analysed and the findings are summarised in the following sections of the report. The analysis focused on identifying common themes, and contradictory themes and developing an interpretation of these patterns and findings. All responses have been anonymised.

A mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods were employed including:

The results of the interviews and focus groups have also been supplemented with key findings obtained through the literature and desk review.

• a literature and research review • two online surveys targeted to all staff and learners in further and higher education • one-to-one interviews with staff, learners and members of stakeholder organisations that work with the sector (43 in total) • ten focus groups, also with staff, learners and members of stakeholder organisations that work with the sector. The researchers sought to engage appropriate numbers of participants and ensure the views and experiences of the individuals taking part in the research were illustrative and representative of the sector. In order to maximise participation the research was publicised at appropriate sector events with the support of stakeholder organisations. A flyer outlining the aims of the research and encouraging individuals to take part was also distributed to sector organisations for promotion.

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The findings are presented without prejudice and reflect the issues raised in the analysis of the various data sets. Further details about the methodology used and research tools applied are described in Appendix 1.


Research findings This section outlines the key findings and results generated from analysing the data collected throughout the research. The results of the staff and learner surveys are firstly summarised individually. The interview and focus group results are then considered in relation to a number of key themes. • Managing relations • Learner residences – a site of tension • The learner experience and support mechanisms

• Strategic leadership and management, including: – governance – public secularism – recruitment policies – trade unions. The findings from the interviews and focus groups are supported with information collated through the literature and research review.

• Teaching, learning and assessment

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Staff survey Key findings • Twenty per cent of all staff participating in the survey thought there were particular challenges in managing or supporting relationships between lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and staff of different faiths or beliefs in their place of work. • The results showed that the attitudes and behaviours of some staff and the nature of staff relationships generally are important factors that influence whether lesbian, gay and bisexual staff of faith or belief express both these aspects in the workplace. The fear of discrimination and harassment were also important factors impacting how staff expressed themselves in the workplace. • Around a third of staff (31 per cent) did not think that there were tensions or conflicts between lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and staff of faith or belief in their place of work. The research overall supports this view – only a small number of staff have experienced, seen or been aware of tensions or conflicts between staff and learners of different sexual orientations and different faith or belief, based on these characteristics. • Where tensions or conflicts do arise in a workplace, the survey found no clear evidence of structured approaches to resolving them based on established policies and procedures. • Under a third (30 per cent) of staff in the survey stated that, based on their experience, relations between staff and learners of different sexual orientations and those of different faiths or beliefs in their workplace are good. Four per cent disagreed with this view.

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The findings reinforce the importance of communicating and raising awareness of policies and procedures for managing the interface between sexual orientation equality and equality on grounds of faith or belief and emphasising that these are not incompatible equality strands with unavoidable tensions and conflicts. The aim of the staff survey was to gain an understanding of the experiences of staff of different sexual orientations, faiths and beliefs in the workplace, the relationship between these equality strands and the issues that can arise. These include the challenges faced when such issues are associated with areas of conflict or tension. The questions in the survey were structured under the following headings: • About you • About your work • Staff relations • Staff and learner relations • Training • Supporting information A total of 797 completed staff surveys were received. Please refer to Appendix 1 for a detailed outline of the methodology in regards to undertaking the survey. A copy of the questionnaire is also included in the appendix.


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Summary of results Profile of staff respondents An outline of the key characteristics of the staff sample is outlined below. A more detailed summary of the staff profile is presented in Appendix 2. • Fifty-five per cent of the sample were female and 43 per cent male. The remainder preferred not to say what their gender was. • There was a spread of respondents across all age groups ranging from 16-19 year olds to 55 years and over. • Ten per cent of respondents considered themselves disabled with two per cent preferring not to say. • Seventy-eight per cent were white British, with further nine per cent stating they were from a further white background. Staff from Indian, Pakistani, Caribbean and mixed backgrounds were also represented but in proportions of less than two per cent in each case. • The greatest proportion of respondents had no particular faith or belief (42 per cent). Just over a third (37 per cent) were Christian. Muslim staff represented 2.6 per cent of the sample and a further 2.4 per cent were Humanists. Less than three per cent (2.3 per cent) preferred not to whether they had a faith or belief. • Forty-three per cent of respondents identified their sexual orientation as heterosexual. Twenty-seven per cent identified themselves as gay men and 15 per cent identified themselves as a lesbian/gay woman. Five per cent preferred not to say or did not indicate their sexual orientation.

• The sample included staff who were lesbian, gay or bisexual and also had a faith or belief. For example, 20 per cent of Christian staff were gay men and 12 per cent were lesbians/gay women. • All nine English regions were represented in the sample in relation to the location of participant’s main work. The highest proportion was based in London (16 per cent). The smallest groups were located in the East Midlands and North East (each provided less than 5 per cent of the survey participants). • Universities and further education colleges provided the highest proportion of survey participants with 42 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. Less than two per cent were from work based learning and adult and community learning providers. • A quarter of the survey participants did not indicate their main role in their organisation, however, of those who did the largest group were in teaching, training, tutoring or academic roles (19 per cent). Sixteen per cent were managers and 15 per cent were administrators. Challenges in managing relations between staff Twenty per cent of all staff participating in the survey thought there were particular challenges in managing or supporting relationships between lesbian, gay or bisexual staff and staff of different faiths or beliefs in their place of work, though 31 per cent did not think this was the case. A further 15 per cent stated they did not know. A significantly high proportion of participants did not respond to the question (39 per cent).

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This question was further examined in order to determine whether the results differed significantly across staff groups of different faiths or beliefs. Since nearly 80 per cent of the sample indicated that they either did not have a faith or belief (333 staff representing 42 per cent) or were Christian (298 staff representing 37 per cent), breakdowns for other faiths or beliefs such as Muslims, Humanists or Buddhists were not provided as the volume of respondents was too small to draw any conclusions from. A quarter of Christians and 13 per cent of those with no particular faith or belief think these challenges exist. One-third of Christians and nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of those of no particular faith or belief think there are no particular challenges in managing or supporting relationships. Overall, participants across these faiths or beliefs tended to provide a ‘don’t know’ response to this question. The survey analysis also showed that people of faith and belief and lesbian, gay and bisexual people were more likely to be perceived or treated negatively in the workplace than people who did not have a faith and belief or who were

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heterosexual. In their comments following specific questions, some of the survey participants acknowledged a general perception amongst some staff in their workplace that anything other than heterosexuality is ‘wrong’ or ‘not natural’; which runs alongside a degree of suspicion of people with particular faiths or beliefs. These can lead to such challenges across the sector as identified by staff below: There is ignorance, misunderstanding and confusion as to the differences between beliefs or faiths and how sexual orientation can be openly discussed in the college. This creates and intensifies the challenges that emerge in the organisation. University, West Midlands We have some staff and volunteers with strong Christian or Muslim beliefs which mean they find issues of sexual orientation difficult. Sixth form college, North East At the University [named] there is a heavy focus on the Catholic belief system. This undermines the views of LGBT staff and students. Further education college, South East


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Whilst some staff identified particular challenges between lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and staff of different faiths and beliefs, others explained how these emerge mainly from assumptions and traditional views about faith and belief and sexual orientation – that is someone who is lesbian, gay or bisexual is not likely to have a religion or belief: There is an assumption that lesbian, gay and bisexual staff are not religious. I am Christian and bisexual. I get harassment from both straight and gay people all the time for having a belief in the first place, or for making a mockery of their beliefs by not being straight. University, Greater London The following comment also suggests that perceptions rather than actions play a large part in defining a situation as hostile or friendly. It is easy for LGB people and people of different faiths to fall into traps of being unsupportive or unthinking; it’s also easy for anyone to fall in the trap of feeling persecuted by people who are dissimilar to you by imagining they hold certain views about you. However, largely people are open and treat each other with respect and consideration. This has been an effective solution which I imagine would be more effective than trying to legislate how to manage relationships in detail. No-one makes a good relationship using a rule-book – good relationships are built on respect and consideration. Sixth Form College, North West The suggestion that good relationships can exist without applying the weight of the law is helpful. Experiences of staff The research explored whether staff of faith or belief who were also lesbian, gay or bisexual find it easy to express both their faith or belief and their sexual orientation in the workplace.

Overall, 16 per cent of participants indicated that they think staff with a faith or belief who are also lesbian, gay or bisexual find it easy to express both their faith or belief and their sexual orientation in their place of work; 17 per cent did not share this view. Another 38 per cent provided a ‘don’t know’ response and 39 per cent left the question blank and did not respond. Across lesbian, gay or bisexual participants more than half in each case gave a ‘don’t know’ response or did not respond to the question. The responses from participants across faith or belief categories showed a similar pattern. The comments staff provided helped to give an insight into why they might or might not express these aspects of their identity. The following comments reveal a mixture of conflict within the individual and that associated with the requirements of their role, for example, staff whose faith teaches them that same-sex relationships are ‘wrong’ leading or mediating discussions on subjects of sexual orientation. The following examples explain this further. The problem is my atheism. I find myself placed in embarrassing situations when there is an expectation to take part in religious activity. I am not out at work generally but if I was I feel that if my sexuality was known, this combined with my rationalist belief would place me at a disadvantage. University, North West We had a gay Methodist minister as the University Chaplain but she felt she could not advertise her sexual orientation outside of the Union exec because it might compromise her ability to work with representatives of other faiths within the University. University, South West

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Relations with other staff and learners also affect the extent to which lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and staff of faith or belief can express their sexual orientation or faith or belief in the workplace. The following comments exemplify this. When I ran LGBT History Month last year a Nigerian female Christian lecturer refused to discuss it in the classroom and pass info on to students as she said it was against her religious beliefs. Further education college, Greater London A member of staff used their beliefs (Christian) as a reason why they should not associate with lesbian staff beyond the absolute essential. Staff will show private support for gay staff but will not publically challenge homophobic assumptions or attitudes. I think to a great extent they know that in challenging homophobic attitudes they will run up against the ‘homosexuality is morally wrong – all the major religions say so’ argument and fear that by supporting gay staff they will be discriminating against those with religious beliefs. University, Yorkshire and Humberside The results suggest that the attitudes and behaviours of some staff and the nature of staff relations generally are important factors that influence whether lesbian, gay or bisexual staff of faith or belief express both these aspects in the workplace. The fear of discrimination and harassment were also important factors.

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Tensions or conflicts between staff related to faith or belief and sexual orientation The survey asked sector staff to indicate, from their experience, whether tensions or conflicts exist between lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and staff of faith or belief in their place of work, related to their sexual orientation or faith or belief. Overall, 31per cent said they did not think it was the case; 12 per cent thought there were such tensions or conflicts in their workplace. The majority of staff across all sexual orientation and faith or belief groups indicated a ‘don’t know’ response or did not respond at all. The numbers do not show the full extent of feeling among staff on this issue or the differences in perception of particular situations which were gathered from the text responses provided. For example, some staff commented that they were subjected to name-calling and insults but were not sure if that would be considered harassment or discrimination or warrant a complaint when clearly it could. Half of respondents said they had not witnessed or experienced any tensions or conflicts in the workplace between lesbian, gay or bisexual staff and staff of faith or belief that were based on these characteristics. Ten per cent stated they had experienced such conflicts in their workplace. Of the staff who did identify the tensions or conflicts as incidents these ranged from ‘mild disagreements and discussions’, ‘insults’, ‘creating an intimidating atmosphere’, to ‘ignoring and avoiding’ others because they were lesbian, gay or bisexual or because of their faith or belief. The following examples were supplied from staff across the sector.


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Some staff members refusing to eat or drink in the same room as gay staff. University, Yorkshire and Humberside Heated discussion which silenced the individual and left an atmosphere of non-acceptance. Work based learning provider, South West From my previous places of work, my experience is that the issue does not surface openly – [it is] easier for it not to. So little, open tension or conflict due to it not being talked about. Tensions remain below the surface. University, East of England While a relatively small number of staff highlighted incidents of tension or conflict in their workplace, the incidents were nevertheless significant and have taken a variety of forms. This variation needs to be taken into account in developing ways of promoting equality on grounds of sexual orientation and faith or belief. The survey analysis suggests that overall, only a small number of staff have experienced, seen or know about tensions or conflicts between staff and learners of different sexual orientations and different faith or belief, which are based on these characteristics. Eight per cent of staff in the survey reported encountering such incidents and 42 per cent reported they had not; half of the survey participants did not give a response to this question. Of those who said they experienced, saw or knew about such incidents, similar proportions saw their role as mediator, victim or witness. Staff indicated that they encountered these tensions or conflicts directly or indirectly in a variety of roles including that of counsellor, observer, tutor and trade union representative, as explained below in the comments from across the sector.

It was brought to my attention that a student didn’t know what to do about the situation when staff didn’t deal with report of conflict. University, East of England [I] have been told of incidents occurring among student groups (i.e. campaign against known lgbt student running for students’ union; information on Christians being defaced) and of students objecting to information on abortion rights, sex education and lgbt rights being taught in the classroom. University, Greater London Occasionally, because I teach texts that deal with same-sex sexualities and the exploration of sexuality as part of one of my courses, there will be the odd comment on evaluation forms that suggest one or two students aren’t comfortable with this. The reason given is often “because of my faith”, whichever faith that is. University, West Midlands One example was a person who never declared her sexuality and only one or two people in the workplace knew. I never discussed the reasons with her. I experience tension on faith matters as a nonbeliever attempting to promote faith tolerance. Sixth form college, North East With specific reference to their current workplace, less than one in ten (nine per cent) of staff taking part in the survey felt that tensions or conflicts arise between staff and learners because of the staff and learners’ sexual orientation or faith or belief at their workplace. More than double this proportion (20 per cent) disagreed with that view and 21 per cent said they did not know. Only half of the survey participants responded to this question.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

As 9 per cent of staff felt such tensions or conflicts were evident, these staff respondents were asked to identify in which forms did the tensions or conflicts take place. Six per cent said there were ‘individual disagreements and arguments’, another six per cent said they were ‘spontaneous reactions in a situation involving individuals and groups’ and 2 per cent said they were ‘organised disagreements involving groups rather than individuals’. A small group of staff respondents (five per cent) said they, or colleagues faced challenges from individuals or groups outside their organisation in relation to issues or policy involving lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and learners, and those of different faiths or beliefs. One third (33 per cent) said they or colleagues had not faced such challenges. The incidents staff noted with external parties involved drunken youths and groups from different schools in conflict. Further details of the incidents follow below: An incident occurred whereby an individual saw anti-homophobia badges and began to slander homosexuality from a religious evangelical Christian perspective. She then dropped her books on the floor and blamed this on homosexuality and that this was a sign from God she shouldn’t be talking to sinners. This happened a year ago, I did not follow up on this. University, South East

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Members of the Synod put up posters and leaflets objecting to civil partnerships in an area for stands and displays during their meeting in York. The area was one through which graduates and staff still in York had to walk to get to some departments, and people found this upsetting. They were politely reminded by the university that they had an obligation to work under the university’s policies and that they were infringing them. The posters came down. University, Yorkshire and Humberside Managing and resolving tension and conflict in the workplace The results of the analysis did not show clear evidence of structured approaches based on established policies and procedures specific to resolving tensions and conflicts between these two equality strands. Where there were responses, they tended to be ad hoc responses to particular incidents. The one-off approaches do not help to establish effective strategies for dealing with similar incidents. The incidence of ‘intolerant’ behaviour by some individuals, as identified in the examples above, does not mean the comments and behaviours are tolerated or go unchallenged within the organisation in all cases. The significant differences in the ways similar types of incidents are dealt with – and differences in the range of people involved in their resolution – highlight inconsistencies within and across organisations.


While different incidents might require different approaches to resolving them, the range of approaches used by staff in the survey showed inconsistencies and the potential for frustration resulting from supporting members of one group in a different way to supporting people from other groups. Examples of the approaches to resolving incidents included the following: A quiet conversation with the individual concerned to ascertain the nature of the problem and get them to think about it, without making such an issue of it that the person felt that they couldn’t change their behaviour without creating a bad impression of their beliefs. University, Yorkshire and Humberside

Continual and ongoing discussion about the power of the majority – keeping the focus on the values and attitudes which contribute to a lack of acceptance, encouraging individuals to recognise their own prejudices and how this may contribute to discrimination in unconscious ways, creating a learning environment where it is safe enough to talk about your own identity and beliefs. This is a challenge, as so many discussions seem to close down rather than open up the debate and shared learning. Work based learning provider, South West Overall, 22 per cent of staff respondents stated that their employer had taken steps to manage tensions involving sexual orientation equality and faith and belief equality and the possible conflicts that may arise in the workplace. Another 19 per cent said this had not happened in their workplace; 40 per cent did not respond. The following chart illustrates how staff in the survey rated their employer’s efforts.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Figure 1: Staff rating of the steps their employer may have taken to manage sexual orientation equality and faith or belief equality and the possible conflicts that may arise between these characteristics in the workplace Very effective Quite effective Slightly effective Not effective Not applicable

Issuing guidance Providing training Used staff induction to reinforce equality Invited input from outside religious and or lgb organisations Supported actions from trade unions Supported actions from student unions Curriculum development to explore the relationship Management support Board/governor level leadership External stakeholder guidance Other actions 0

10

20

30

40

50 %

60

70

80

90

100

Note: Less than a quarter of survey participants responded on each item in the table, therefore the percentage figures are based on very small sample sizes.

Considering the small proportions of staff represented in the above table, the result suggests that the most effective steps taken by employers were those that improve understanding and awareness of the issues from a basic level, along with the leadership and management of this interface. The results also suggest there is potential for unions and external stakeholders to play an important role in helping an organisation in promoting and managing faith or belief and sexual

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orientation equality. Forty per cent of staff declared that they felt employers who had supported action from trade unions was either very effective or effective in managing possible conflicts. Thirty-three per cent of staff rated ‘external stakeholder guidance’ as very effective or effective in managing conflicts. Please note the percentage figures are based on very small numbers of responses and the results have been quoted to highlight emerging trends rather than conclusive points.


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Staff identified examples of their employer’s actions to managing tensions and conflicts across these equality strands. New staff are well informed about all equality issues and expected standards of professional behaviours. All staff participating in recruitment and selection panels must have attended a training course which includes an update of equality legislation; other staff have been invited to use an online information quiz. University, South West The college is beginning to take key steps to supporting LGBT colleagues and students; however we are aware that we have a ways to go; including setting up a Pride group. Around faith and belief, I believe the college to be very good in celebrating and promoting diverse religious celebrations and also in working with external religious organisations from a multitude of faith backgrounds. Further education college, South West Staff and learner relations Under a third (30 per cent) of staff in the survey stated that, they think there are good relations between staff and learners of different sexual orientations and those of different faiths or beliefs in their workplace. Four per cent disagreed with this view, 16 per cent stated ‘don’t know’ and the majority (50 per cent) did not give a view. More than four in ten (42 per cent) of staff of Christian faith and 22 per cent of those with no faith or belief agreed that good relations between these groups existed in their workplace. Between 22.1 per cent and 24.1 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual staff also agreed that good relations between these groups existed in their work place.

Defining ‘good relations’ as being open and tolerant of others’ sexual orientations and allowing people to be themselves, I have to say no. This is because people are fearful of being identified as LGBT. In a college which is largely Asian Muslim and blackCaribbean, homophobia is a serious problem. The cultural homophobia of the Caribbean culture is probably more potentially violent than the faith opposition of the Muslim beliefs. Further education college, West Midlands In certain areas of the college, there are out staff members and the students are comfortable with them. In other areas we have had incidents where a tutor has been ousted against their wishes and stalked by a student and shot at by another student. Further education college, East Midlands Those who think there are good relations between staff and learners of different sexual orientations and those of different faiths or beliefs in their workplace do not all attribute it to these factors specifically. For example, a staff member suggested that as they had not noticed any discrimination on the grounds of faith or sexual orientation, the seeming good relations that exist were based on working together in a positive way. I don’t think staff view learners as different because of their faith or sexual orientation so therefore relations are good. If relations were bad I think it would be as a result of academic issues as opposed to narrow mindedness. University, Greater London I think the university is just a generally tolerant environment for such issues. Because the issues aren’t pushed by any particular side, they don’t become focal points for discussion. University, North West

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Seeking good practice from the sector and wider The survey asked staff to indicate any good practice they were aware of for managing and promoting good relations between lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and those of faith or belief. The results showed different ways in which organisations tackled this issue. Fourteen per cent of staff in the survey indicated that they know of good practice in their organisation, or in other organisations, for managing and promoting good relationships between sexual orientation equality and faith or belief equality; 34 per cent stated they were not aware of any good practice. The following example of practice in sector organisations was typical of the kinds of practice in use across the sector overall. We have a very good chaplaincy service which welcomes all religious groups to use space allocated for the purpose of worship. This also includes space for LGBT religious groups. There are seminars and workshops with religious themes – not specifically focusing on sexuality but looking at religious tolerance between faiths. University, South West

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An example of collaboration is cited where the lesbian, gay and bisexual staff network in a university has a good relationship with the new staff faith network. They worked together and invited each other to meetings of networks. There was also mention of discussing equality in general terms during induction and other equality and diversity training. However, in general there was an absence of good practice in managing and promoting good relationships between sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of faith or belief. Staff taking part in the survey were asked to select from a list (see figure 2) the mechanisms which they thought would support managers and staff in their workplace to manage tensions or conflicts based on grounds of sexual orientation and faith or belief. ‘Staff training’ was the most popular support mechanism identified to manage tensions or conflicts, followed by ‘application of equality and diversity policy’. A targeted ‘staff induction dealing with this issue’ and the ‘application of anti bullying policy’ were also considered to be important mechanisms. Some of the least popular methods were ‘online discussions’, ‘active support from the chaplaincy’ and ‘management supervision’.


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Figure 2: Suggested mechanisms for helping to manage tensions or conflicts in the workplace Application of equality and diversity policy Staff induction dealing with this issue Application of anti-bullying policy Events that bring lesbian, gay and bisexual and faith and belief staff together Active support managers and senior staff Strengthening the equality and diversity policy Active support from faith or belief and lesbian, gay or bisexual organisations Active support of staff unions Active support of students’ unions Strengthening the anti-bullying policy Application of disciplinary policy Staff debates Active support from the chaplaincy Management supervision Online discussions None of the above 0

5

10

15

20

25

30

35

%

Note: This question was multi-choice therefore respondents had the option of selecting more than one. The following comments were made in relation to identifying what would support managers and staff in their workplace of work to manage tensions or conflicts based on grounds of sexual orientation and faith or belief. Application of disciplinary policy may be necessary, however I have seen this used in an extremely unhelpful way and it did not achieve its objective. Further education college, South East Remove all the policies that promote equality and start again from scratch, but this time make sure that all the policies are interlinked and support society and not individual groups in society. Further education college, West Midlands

There are often policies in place that in reality are not used because individuals are worried about placing complaints about other individuals and the university has been proven to be very unwilling to act quickly and diligently on these issues. University, South West Common among comments throughout the survey responses was the suggestion that sexual orientation and faith or belief should not be issues in the workplace. Some staff suggested that neither sexual orientation nor religion should have a place on campus other than possibly in academic courses of study. There was a strong feeling that lesbian, gay or bisexual people should not be forced to try and respect staff or learners who do not respect them and who do not believe in true equality in every respect.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Some respondents said that the training that their employers provided contributed to the development of mutually respectful relationships between people of different sexual orientations and different faiths or beliefs. The training included: • general equality training (26 per cent), • equality guidance (16 per cent) • specific sexual orientation and faith or belief equality training and equality conference (four per cent). In addition to the items listed, staff indicated that their employer provided other mechanisms to contribute to developing mutually respectful relationships between people of different sexual orientations and different faiths or beliefs, including: • deployed champions • diversity in the workplace e-learning module • online training on equality and diversity; level 4 course for managers (compulsory for senior managers) and level 2 course accessible for all • promotional events around sexual orientation and religion or belief equality • visit from Stonewall & Terrence Higgins Trust • becoming a Stonewall diversity champion and receiving help from them. A relatively small 14 per cent of staff in the survey said the training was successful; 3 per cent said it was not successful. Fourteen per cent did not know and the vast majority, 69 per cent, did not respond. Some of the 3 per cent who said the training was not successful provided the following reasons for their response.

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Think it was only partly successful as it wasn’t mandatory, therefore probably missed those who most needed it. The online training/questionnaire does not enable staff discussion to take place. However, the written policy was helpful, although the sexual orientation policy has disappeared off the portals recently. University, South West Sexual orientation was dealt with from a defaultstraight perspective, subtly “othering” any queer staff in the training session, and although the possibility of tension between sexual equality and religious equality was mentioned, there was a sense that it was considered highly unlikely by the trainer. University, West Midlands Training staff who happen to be white, straight and Christian or atheist, need a greater understanding of how their “default settings” can subtly work to reinforce the status quo, and alienate the very people they are trying to help integrate fully into the workplace. University, West Midlands Responses highlighted the need to acknowledge possible tensions or conflicts and provide examples of how to resolve them as part of any training aimed at resolving such situations. Some respondents suggested that recognition that measures to address equality were not tokenistic gestures helped to make the training they received successful. Others felt that the opportunity to discuss a range of issues kept the audience interested and succeeded in helping them to absorb the information. There was commentary that the sexual orientation and faith or belief interface is a minefield for management; in which management can only lose. Another similar comment suggested that this was a divisive issue that is downplayed at an institutional level where possible.


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Learner survey Key findings

• Forty-one per cent of the learners surveyed stated that mutually respectful relationships exist between lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and learners and those of different faiths or beliefs in their place of study. Learners who indicated that the mutually respectful relationship was absent gave the following reasons for why it was the case: ‘conflict of values in their place of study’, ‘lack of accurate information’ and ‘people in general do not get on well with each other’. • Less than one in ten (nine per cent) of learners had experienced or have seen tensions or conflicts between staff and learners of different sexual orientations and those of different faiths or beliefs in their place of study, which were based on these characteristics • The learners’ responses suggested the absence of clear policies and procedures on managing incidents involving staff and learners because of their sexual orientation or faith or belief at organisational level. • In the cases where learners were involved in incidences of conflict or tension in the learning environment, the responses indicated that they were to resolve them themselves or they were left unresolved. Where other people helped to resolve such incidents, they included teachers and other learners. The organisation itself or its processes were not featured among the responses. • The learners’ responses suggest the absence of clear policies and procedures on managing incidents involving staff and learners because of their sexual orientation or faith or belief at organisational level.

• The external perception of lesbian, gay and bisexual learners included a mixture of inaccuracies, uncertainties and inconsistencies. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people tended to be perceived by others – particularly those of some faiths or beliefs – in terms of behaviours or perceived behaviours. Apart from coverage of equality in their induction, the learners did not indicate that they received any specific training on faith or belief equality or sexual orientation equality. This in turn was presented as justifying the right of others to criticise and question such behaviours. This finding is crucial to promote good relations in the place of learning. The aim of the learner survey was to capture the views and experiences of learners of different sexual orientations, faiths and beliefs in the learning environment, the relationship between these two equality strands and the issues that can arise. The questions in the survey were structured under the following headings: • About you • Your learning • Learners and staff • Learner relations • Training • Supporting information A total of 262 completed learner surveys were received. Appendix 1 provides a detailed outline of the methodology in regards to undertaking the survey. A copy of the questionnaire is also included in the appendix.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Profile of learner respondents An analysis of the profile of respondents is included in Appendix 2, with an outline of the key characteristics below. • Fifty five per cent of learners in the sample were female and 42 per cent were male. A small proportion did not indicate their gender. • The majority of learners were aged between 16 and 24 year old. • Nine per cent indicated that they were disabled whereas 87 per cent stated they were not. • The ethnic profile shows that nearly threequarters (73 per cent) were white British, with a further seven per cent from other white backgrounds. All other major ethnic groups were represented but in small numbers. • The largest group of learners indicated that they were Christian (41 per cent), followed by those with no particular faith or belief (40 per cent). Five per cent preferred not to state which faith or belief they followed. Three per cent were Muslim and two per cent Buddhist. • More than half (53 per cent) described their sexual orientation as heterosexual. A further 16 per cent indicated they were a gay man and 13 per cent stated they were a lesbian/gay woman. Twelve per cent were bisexual with five per cent preferring not to say.

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• As was the case across the staff survey sample, learners participating in the survey also represented learners who were lesbian, gay or bisexual and also had a faith or belief. For example, 12 per cent of Christian staff were lesbians/gay women and eight per cent were gay men. • All regions in England were represented in the sample, and a significantly high proportion of learners indicated they were mainly studying in the South West (41 per cent). More than a quarter (27 per cent) were studying in the South East and a further 13 per cent were in the North West. • The higher education sector (i.e. universities) provided the vast majority of learner participants, representing 71 per cent of the total sample. Twenty-one per cent of learners were studying in further education colleges. Learners studying in work based and adult learning providers were also represented in the sample.


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Summary of results Staff and learner relations Forty-one per cent of the surveyed learners believed mutually respectful relations exist between lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and learners and those of different faiths or beliefs in their place of study; 12 per cent stated they did not think this was the case. A quarter (25 per cent) stated they did not know and 23 per cent did not give an opinion on this point.

Due to the small number of learners included in the various sexual orientation and faiths or belief categories in the data, the percentages above may be based on very small numbers. Therefore they are presented in order to provide an indication of trends rather conclusive findings. The small representation of other faiths or beliefs does not allow a reliable breakdown of the views of those survey participants.

When the results were examined across learners of different sexual orientation and religion or belief, the responses showed that:

Those learners who stated they think there are mutually respectful relations in their place of study were asked to indicate, from a list of options provided, why they thought this was the case. An outline of the results is presented in the following table. The two most popular reasons selected by learners were: ‘people just seem to get on with each other’ (30 per cent) and ‘commitment to diversity and inclusion’ (27. 4 per cent).

• forty-four per cent of Christians considered this the case whereas 13 per cent did not • forty per cent of those with no faith or belief considered this the case whereas 27 per cent did not • thirty-nine per cent of heterosexual participants considered this the case whereas 11 per cent did not • forty-eight per cent of bisexual learners considered this the case whereas 13 per cent did not • sixty-one per cent of lesbian learners considered this the case; the others did not say • thirty-four per cent of gay men considered this the case whereas 24 per cent did not.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Figure 3: Reasons learners gave for mutually respectful relations People just seem to get on with each other

Commitment to diversity and inclusion

Effective equality and diversity policies

Support from student unions

Strong shared values in their place of study Access to reliable good information about both communities Effective supervision and support

Support from managers

Support from trade unions

0

5

10

15

20

25

30

35

%

Note: This question was multi-choice therefore respondents had the option of selecting more than one.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

The following chart shows the views of the 12 per cent of learners who stated they did not think there are mutually respectful relationships between lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and learners and those of different faith or belief in their place of study. The main reasons indicated by learners for an absence of mutually respectful relations included conflict of values in their place of study, lack of accurate information and people in general do not get on well with each other. Figure 4: Reasons learners gave for thinking there are not mutually respectful relations in place of study Conflict of values in place of study

Lack of accurate information People in general do not get on well with each other Ineffective equality and diversity policies Lack of commitment to diversity and inclusion Lack of support from student unions

Lack of supervision/support

Lack of support from managers

Lack of support from trade unions

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

%

Note: This question was multi-choice therefore respondents had the option of selecting more than one.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

In addition to the above, the reasons respondents provided for the absence of mutually respectful relations in their place of study included the lack of interaction between lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and learners and those of faith or belief. The relationship between lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and learners and those of Muslim faith is most frequently cited as the factor involved in incidents of tension and conflict. The survey findings suggested learners were unsure of how they should engage in discussion or debate on the relationship between sexual orientation or faith or belief. The following comment reflects the broad view on this issue. I am a potential victim, in that I often feel as though I would like to explain my religious beliefs and conscientious concerns about certain practices, but could even be criminalised for apparently stirring up hatred when that is not my desire at all. I fear to openly debate matters because my expressions would be wrongly seized upon by the very intolerant advocates of tolerance and diversity, and berated for their narrowness. I feel there must be recognition that diversity is two sided, and that widely held religious [view/beliefs] must be accepted. University, South East Such uncertainty either leaves the individual unlikely to engage with the topic or can be a cause of conflict or tension. Incidence of conflict or tension in the learning environment Less than one in ten (9 per cent) of learners have experienced or have seen tensions or conflicts between staff and learners of different sexual orientations and those of different faiths or beliefs in their place of study which were based on these equality characteristics. This is in contrast to nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) who said they had not experienced or seen such tensions or conflicts; just over a quarter (26 per cent) did not give a response. Of those learners who said they had witnessed or knew of tensions or conflicts, there was a balance of learners who identified

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themselves as either being victims or witnesses of the situation. Overall, respondents referred to very few incidents that occurred because of sexual orientation. The examples that were provided were instead specific to tensions between faith groups. For example, ‘tension between two Christian groups and some atheists’. Scientists (learners) are generally against faith of any sort; especially if the faith is generally socially shunned; for example Paganism or Witchcraft. Then religious debates can flare up’. University, South East With regards to sexual orientation, apart from mentioning ‘homophobic comments’, the learners stated that there were ‘no problems with sexual orientation’. Overall, no significant levels of conflict or tension were thought to exist between staff and learners in relation to the two equality groups. At my previous place of study (a sixth form college) disagreements that I knew of between homosexual/ bisexual learners and people with a faith never affected learning, as both parties “agreed to disagree” on their beliefs. This often seems like a good approach when dealing with people who believe homosexuality is morally wrong. University, South West Impact on learning The majority (60 per cent) of respondents said the relationship between lesbian, gay and bisexual equality and faith or belief equality has had no impact on the quality of learning they receive in their place of study. Seven per cent said it had a positive effect and 4 per cent said it had had a negative effect on their learning; 29 per cent did not respond to the question. There is the potential for conflict between what is required for learners to succeed in some curriculum disciplines and their view of what their faith or belief requires of them; or how they feel their faith or belief or sexual orientation is


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

represented or misrepresented in the learning they are receiving. This can be mediated by individual tutors’ views and expectations in many cases. The results can be the difference between failure and success within particular courses. A friend of mine who is a Christian was doing media and his course had lectures that he considered to cross the line between criticising Christianity with an open-mind and not attempting to give definite right or wrong answers (which is acceptable) and targeting Christianity and its beliefs and teaching this as fact. My friend did not challenge the teacher and did not perform well in the module. University, North West There appears to be a view among learners that heterosexual learners are welcomed and supported in the learning organisation whereas ‘homosexual males are seen with less worth’. Other males within their group were treated very favourably by the female lecturers and that this was also reflected in the grades given. University, West Midlands There is also the view that ‘no one can discuss religion or sexuality any more for fear of discrimination’. However, incidents occur in class as cited below. My university has a support group for LGBT students and staff and regularly hosts events to inform other students of their presence on campus. Homophobia is not a real problem as the university is very liberal. The only problems I have ever encountered are ignorant comments during class debates and these are usually ideas people have construed from the media when they are misinformed about people of different sexual orientation. University, North West

The learners were asked how incidents involving lesbian, gay or bisexual staff and learners and those of faith or belief that were based on these equality characteristics were settled, who was involved in settling the incidents and how they were settled. The results suggest that people involved in incidences of conflict or tension in the learning environment tend to resolve them themselves or they are left unresolved. People often resolve discussions within lessons calmly and rationally after disagreeing – they are often unaware of the implications of their comments which may be offensive to gay/lesbian people or those of faith. University, South East Where other people helped to resolve such incidents, they included teachers and other learners. It was noticeable that the organisation or its processes did not feature among the responses. Some learners explained that some incidents were not settled. Training in sexual orientation and faith or belief equality Apart from coverage of equality in their induction, the learners did not indicate that they received any specific training on faith or belief equality and sexual orientation equality. As learners were not able to report that they received any specific training they were unable to say which training was successful or unsuccessful or what could improve it. The survey findings suggested that external perception of lesbian, gay and bisexual learners included a mixture of inaccuracies, uncertainties and inconsistencies. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people tended to be perceived by others – particularly those of some faiths or beliefs – in terms of behaviours or perceived behaviours. This in turn was presented as justifying the right of others to criticise and question such behaviours.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Interview and focus groups Interviews and focus groups were carried out in a range of learning contexts in different parts of England to capture the views and experiences of staff and learners in the further education and higher education sectors.

10 focus groups were held involving 111 participants:

The participants discussed issues in relation to the following topic areas.

• 3 stakeholders.

• 48 learners

• Good practice

The focus group participants included 81 who were lesbian, gay or bisexual with 30 preferring not to say. The participants had a range of different religions or beliefs and included Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Muslims, Pagans; with 46 having no religion or belief. A full breakdown is provided in Appendix 2.

• Professional development and training

1. Managing relationships

Participants were invited to share their experiences, both positive and negative, and to identify what works well and what the potential areas of conflict and tension are in the workplace. The participants were all assured of confidentiality throughout the research.

Key findings

• Demographics/identity • Mutually respectful relationships • Managing relationships and dealing with tensions and conflicts

Please refer to Appendix 1 for a detailed outline of the methodology for conducting the interviews and focus groups. Profile of interviewees and focus group participants Forty-three one-to-one interviews were held with: • 26 staff • 10 learners • 7 stakeholders. 25 of the interviewees declared they were either lesbian, gay or bisexual, with 18 preferring not to say. The respondents had different religions or beliefs and included Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, Pagans, Hindu; with 18 having no religion or belief. A full breakdown is provided in Appendix 2.

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• 60 staff

• College and university authorities tend to avoid intervention when there are potential or actual tensions between sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief. • Little or no proactive leadership in managing the relationship between these two equality groups was found. • Situations that arise involving these two equality groups are often assumed by college and university authorities to be especially challenging and not amenable to resolution by standard means. • The confident application of standard complaints or mediation or disciplinary procedure is shown to be highly effective in resolving tensions or conflicts. • Staff training has been vital in empowering staff to apply these procedures. • Anticipation of conflict between the two groups, unsupported by experience or evidence, is a significant inhibitor of action to enforce or promote equality on the grounds of these two strands.


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Difficulties in managing relationships between people with different religions or beliefs and those who are lesbian, gay or bisexual is shown to be problematic in promoting equality in the workplace and learning environment. Stonewall (2008), found that equality and diversity managers express confusion about the law, with many only having a very basic understanding of legislation regarding sexual orientation and religion and belief and feeling unsure about how to implement the law. Those who did express a clear understanding of the law and how to manage conflicts, had less confidence in the ability of other managers to do so. The Stonewall survey also showed that a failure to identify potential conflicts as equality issues resulted in underreporting from both staff and service users. These findings demonstrate the need for clear policies and guidance and good quality staff training. The need to implement policies and procedures Issues that emerged through the research highlighted the potential tension, either perceived or real, between people with different religions or beliefs and those who are lesbian, gay or bisexual. Below are examples from two institutions which show different approaches to managing specific situations. In the first case study, a Hindu university chaplain explained how she worked happily within the equality and diversity policy of her institution and how her religion made little or no distinction between heterosexual and homosexual people or sexual activity, being based on a deep reverence for all living things. She described an incident that she had been called on by human resources to help to resolve because one of the staff complainants shared her religion.

Some of the cleaning staff were cleaning in a hall of residence and when they came into a kitchen there were two boys kissing each other. They did not stop when the cleaners came in. They kept kissing and ignored the cleaners. Both of the cleaners felt very uncomfortable about the boys kissing and when they didn’t stop they left the kitchen uncleaned. They complained to HR who contacted me to speak with one of the ladies who is also Hindu. The HR people were worried that we had “an incident” on our hands and because it seemed to combine sexual orientation and religion they were scared – I’m not sure why. When I listened, the cleaner was just embarrassed by the boys’ behaviour. She wasn’t complaining that they were two boys who were kissing but that they did not stop kissing while she was there. I myself think this is just rude. If it were a boy and a girl I think it would have been appropriate and respectful to stop kissing. The lady felt better for discussing it with me. I spoke to the boys and they accepted that their behaviour had been rude and I arranged for them to apologise to the cleaner and the matter was solved. I was surprised that the HR people could not have sorted this out themselves. But they seemed to be terrified because religion and sexual orientation were both involved. This was not really anything to do with me. I am a chaplain not a mediator. I was glad to help I suppose. Hindu university chaplain This case study demonstrates the apparent lack of confidence of a human resources department in resolving staff complaints of this nature. There was a perceived fear on their part that there was somehow a ‘conflict’. However, this was more a case of inappropriate behaviour in a public area rather than a conflict between religion and belief and being gay. The fact that the situation involved these two equality groups seems to have influenced the professional judgment of the

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

human resources staff which prevented them from properly managing the situation. Instead, they transferred the responsibility to a helpful, skillful but non-professional mediator, who found that the situation was easily resolved. The second case study provides an example of the confident application of college rules to resolve a clash between the two equality groups described during a focus group held with staff at a further education college in the East Midlands. Two gay lads were snogging in the main entrance of the college in full view of everyone else. Most people completely ignored them. Then a group of lads came along, some white and some Asian. I assume that some were Christian and some were Muslim. They gathered round the gay lads and started shouting at and abusing them and telling them that they were committing a sin. It looked nasty. So I went up to the lads and immediately stopped the abuse. I told them that this was offensive and unacceptable. I took their names and later made arrangements for their tutors to speak with them, to explain why their behaviour was wrong and to discipline them. I also spoke to the two gay lads. We wouldn’t accept a boy and a girl snogging like that in the main entrance – perhaps I’m old fashioned. I told them that kissing like that was not on and I also asked them what they expected to happen. The response they got wasn’t right, but it was predictable. In other circumstances they could have put themselves in danger. They accepted that, and thought about it, and agreed that kissing was not good manners in public parts of the college. They apologised to me and undertook not to repeat the behaviour. I also explained what I had done about the lads who had abused them. Senior manager, further education college, East Midlands

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In this case, a college manager acted swiftly to defuse a potentially serious incident of bullying and harassment. He simply applied the college rules. He did not allow the fact that the incident involved sexual orientation and religion or belief to obscure his judgement. He stopped the bullying and set college disciplinary procedure in motion. He also encouraged the gay learners to reflect on their behaviour and learn from the incident, while ensuring that they knew that the harassment they experienced was going to be dealt with appropriately. He identified staff training on equalities as the source of his confidence in intervening. The two case studies reinforce previous research undertaken with principals from further education colleges (CEL, 2006) on the use of different approaches in managing relationships involving people with different religions or beliefs and people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual. In the CEL report, the need for ensuring clear guidelines for implementing policies to manage the relationship between the two equality strands is identified, as is the importance for clear, effective communication. The CEL report also recognised the need for active intervention by learning providers to mediate and manage the interface between the two equality groups, and to highlight the inadvisability of remitting such intervention. The chart below, taken from the CEL report, illustrates the key preferences identified by further education principals for managing relationships relating to sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief.


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Figure 5: Further education college principals’ suggestions for managing the interface between sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief 70 60

Total % respondents

50 40 30 20 10 0

Ensuring Communicating Clear public written into information statements policies to staff and from college students leaders

Brokered discussions

Use of College rules

Relationships with lesbian, gay and bisexual organisations

Source: Equality and sexual orientation: the leadership challenge for further education (CEL, 2006)

The need for clear, official, corporately led intervention is also clear, with staff stating that they did not have confidence that their institution would support them where disputes arose between individuals or groups on the grounds of sexual orientation and religion or belief (CEL, 2006). With regard to managing relationships and potential conflict with staff, guidance from ACAS (2009) suggests that the employer should consider whether their policies and procedures respect the sensitivity of the individual’s sexual orientation and the importance of maintaining a high level of confidentiality. Lesbian, gay and bisexual workers and those of different religions or belief should feel welcome and safe in their workplace and the dignity of all should be respected.

The organisations most confident about responding to and preventing conflicts between the equality strands are those that have clear equality and diversity policies that all staff, suppliers and service users understand. Successful organisations have thought in advance about how they might respond to issues of conflict, and have established what is meant by acceptable expression of faith and unacceptable discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people in employment and service delivery. Such organisations ensure that senior staff, governors etc. agree with that position. Successful organisations communicate these policies to all staff, and work with their lesbian, gay and bisexual staff, and those who are part of religious networks, to find out how they can work together effectively (Malik, 2009).

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Expectation and reality The expectation of conflict or particular difficulty arising between the two strands, even if perceived rather than actual, emerged as a theme throughout many of the interviews. This is a very important piece of research. It’s addressing the unspoken fear so many people have – how can we reconcile sexual orientation and religion or belief equality? It’s difficult. Equality manager, further education college However, on further questioning this respondent was unable to identify any examples of tension between the two strands in his college. In fact he was able only to provide examples of mutually respectful relationships between the strands. A head of department in a further education college in the North of England took a similar approach. We have very large numbers of Muslim learners in the college and this is going to make it difficult for us to promote equality based on sexual orientation. Head of department, further education college Again, on further questioning he was unable to provide any examples of pressure against sexual orientation equality or any examples of homophobic behaviour from any Muslim learners on any site of the college. The fear of conflict often appears to be in excess of the real likelihood or real experience of conflict. This is reinforced by findings from the CEL report (2006) where it refers to college based perceptions and expectations – rather than experiences – of pressure from religions organisations and individuals that inhibited the pursuit of sexual orientation equality.

Expectations, which appear to be based on false assumptions, show that they could act as a barrier to promoting good relationships between the two equality groups, and as the findings demonstrate, such assumptions which are not supported by experience should provide a firm basis for enforcement and promotional activity led by learning providers, rooted in their equality schemes and policies. Research into managing conflict in the workplace (Goodwin, 2009) found that whereas most employers included faith or belief in their employment policies, only a small minority made provision for specific religions or religious practice. The study also identified mediation and taking a more inclusive approach as helpful in resolving and managing conflict situations. Guidance from ACAS (2009) suggests that the employer should consider whether their policies and procedures respect the sensitivity of the individual’s sexual orientation and the importance of maintaining a high level of confidentiality.

2. Learner residences: a site of tension Key findings • University halls of residence are the site of significant tensions and conflict between sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief. • There is little evidence of university or residence authorities playing a role in resolving or preventing tension or conflict. • Such tension arises in open access halls and in halls that are denominationally selective. • There was little evidence of existing equality and diversity guidance relating to halls of residence being implemented. • These tensions led to lesbian, gay and bisexual residents leaving halls of residence and were usually religiously driven.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Further and higher education providers have a duty of care for their learners and staff. It requires them to provide a safe working and learning environment free from bullying, harassment and discrimination. The duty applies to the workplace and the classroom, and covers the learner’s experience while studying with the provider and the employee’s experience while working for the provider. This duty of care also covers the provision of accommodation for learners which the research showed to be a site of tension and conflict. Learner accommodation is a key space within learning organisations within which there will be an active and sometimes problematic relationship between sexual orientation equality and equality on grounds of religion or belief. Learner testimony gathered in focus groups and interviews indicated a consistent experience of tension and conflict between the two equality groups in university halls of residence. I had endless hassle in my hall of residence. All the people on the corridor have had partners to stay over. This never caused any comments or difficulty. When my boyfriend came to stay I got a lot of grief. Lots of crude name calling, and two learners seriously told me that they could not be my friend any more because of this and that I would burn in hell for being gay. They were both born-again Christians and something like that. One of them kept putting little tracts from a bible society under my door with all sorts of stuff about the ‘abomination of homosexuality.’ Then they started pinning them to the door. I was surprised how difficult I found it. I thought about leaving, but in the end I got a flat-share in town with a lesbian friend. The hall was really crap.

A similar finding emerges from within a denominational hall of residence, in which heterosexual co-religionists made it difficult for a lesbian, gay or bisexual residents to remain in the hall. I got a place in a Jewish residential hall. Everyone there is very straight. I came out at a house meeting and there was just complete silence. Shocked! Someone said I would ruin the reputation of the hall. I was gobsmacked. No one challenged that. A woman suggested that we need to be careful about the impression we give to others and that homosexuality was not where we wanted to be. I asked her if the hall was a resource for Jewish learners or just for some Jewish learners. She actually said that the whole argument is settled in the Old Testament and Leviticus and that this was a pointless discussion. I have moved out of the hall. The conflict between religion or belief and sexual orientation, and its impact on an individual learner’s ability to make use of university residences, is further illustrated by the following young Muslim learner. Being gay caused him difficulties from fellow Muslim learners who regarded him as ‘bringing shame’ on to their religion. I am a Muslim. I hated living in halls because of the bacon people cooked and because everyone always seemed drunk at weekends. I tried to get a flat with some other guys who are Muslims, but they wouldn’t live with me. They knew I was gay – it’s pretty obvious – (laughter) so I was stuck. And whenever I saw these guys they were aggressive. They told me I was a disgrace and that I brought shame on Islam. It’s very hard to hear this. It’s odd, but it’s made me feel more of a Muslim in my own way. I moved out of halls. It is clear from these testimonies that the learners concerned did not raise these issues with the university authorities or with residence wardens. They resolved the issues themselves, on an individual basis, by withdrawing from residence.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

This supports previous research (ECU, 2009) which identified the importance of learner accommodation as a site of possible tension between the two equality strands, especially between individuals rather than groups. A couple of weeks ago, it came out that one of the room mates was homophobic and that’s caused a lot of difficulties in our house ... it’s more of a religious issue with my flatmate ... I mean we were sort of good friends ... She was more of a friend of a friend last year, and we hung out and stuff, and she didn’t seem to have any difficulty with it. But this year she’s been very stand-offish about not wanting to hang out with me and not being comfortable with sharing the house with me, and locking her room and that sort of stuff. So it’s been a bit stressful at home. But, I mean, I have another friend who is religious as well, who I’m sharing with, and although she has issues with it, you know, she handles it ... So I’ve sort of got, you know, the extreme version and the less extreme version. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender learner focus group (ECU, 2009) This study (ECU, 2009) also identified the feeling that conflicts or tension were more likely to arise in institutions or disciplines with a strong Christian ethos, or where there is a high intake of Muslim or international learners. The duty of care which all providers have for their learners is an important factor in shaping their approaches in relation to sexual orientation and religion or belief equality and to the relationship between the two. Guidance on the provision of learner accommodation published by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU, 2008) illustrates how the duty of care can apply in an area that has high importance for the relationship between sexual orientation and faith or belief equality. It provides

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a checklist for accommodation providers which states they should: Ensure the allocation process considers learners’ diverse needs and that there is sufficient range and flexibility to ensure learners can be accommodated in appropriate accommodation avoiding lifestyle clashes with other learners. Although the Equality Challenge Unit guidance is designed for universities, further education colleges, land based colleges and specialist independent colleges providing learner accommodation will, nevertheless, also find this guidance relevant. They will be able to apply it to ensuring that relationships between learners in residence of different religions or beliefs and different sexual orientations are respectful and appropriate and could use it to guide action needed to deal with problematic relationships between the two. For those participants discussing living in university residences, either majority culture violated religious and related cultural norms, or in a religiously observant setting homophobia violated the ability to live free from harassment. A tendency for learners to leave residences because of the failure of residence providers to respond to the needs of both equality strands, coupled with a low level of learner recognition that the residence providers might have been prevailed upon to find solutions, suggests that many learners may be failing to benefit from the provision of learner residences on equal terms to their peers if they are lesbian, gay or bisexual or from a minority religion.


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

3. The learner experience and mechanisms for support Key findings • Some lesbian, gay and bisexual learners regard the fracture between the two equality groups to be irreparable and do not seek to achieve any unity between the two, rejecting any involvement with religion or belief.

• A small number of religious lesbian, gay or bisexual learners reported supportive relationships with their chosen religious communities – although this was outside of provision made by their learning providers. • Students’ unions and student services/learner support have a vital role to play in building bridges between these two communities.

• Some learners continue to practice their religion or belief and hide their sexual orientation in order to do so.

• Joint campaigning within the students’ union or students’ union sponsored debates was identified as effective bridge-building activities.

• Some lesbian, gay and bisexual learners experience tensions and difficulties in their relationships with those with strongly held religions or beliefs.

• Students’ union debates about religion and sexual orientation in which secular lesbian, gay or bisexual speakers have joined with ‘moderate’ people of religion or belief to challenge religious dogma have forged positive links between the two equality groups.

• Some religiously motivated homophobia was amenable to challenge and discussion, and open debate was seen as a valuable way of challenging views. • Some learners with religions or beliefs felt oppressed by what they experienced as a secular establishment, which they saw as incorporating many lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals. • There was a clear disproportionality in the direction of tension and conflict between the two equality groups – with most of it emanating from those with rigid and dogmatic religions or beliefs and directed towards lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals and groups. • Lesbian, gay and bisexual learners who had a religion or belief were particularly conflicted and pulled in opposite directions by each of these characteristics. • Some lesbian, gay and bisexual learners who held religious beliefs avoided contact with their lesbian, gay and bisexual student societies for fear of being ‘outed’ to their coreligionists.

• Debates of this sort that have focused on lesbian, gay or bisexual speakers sharing their life experiences, rather than the assertion of opposing principles, have proved successful in engaging audiences. • It is important for staff to deal with potentially difficult situations with confidence and when managing debates. • The need for an anticipatory approach with clear policies and guidelines in place is important, rather than being reactive to incidents. • College and university based chaplaincies are well placed to challenge religiously driven homophobia. • Interfaith chaplaincies that are defined by their openness to all can be particularly well placed to play this role.

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• Some chaplains identify challenging and taking a lead in opposing religiously motivated homophobia as a key priority for their chaplaincies. • This is not always a shared perspective within chaplaincy teams, which can compromise the capacity of chaplaincies to play this role effectively. • Chaplains seek clear policy guidance on all equality and diversity matters from their colleges and universities, especially on the relationship between these two equality groups. • Colleges and universities that host chaplaincies should take a clear lead in establishing the inclusive and equality supporting character and mission of their chaplaincies. Attitudes of learners Learners that took part in the interviews and focus groups were invited to discuss their experiences of equality on the grounds of religion or belief and being gay, lesbian or bisexual. Whilst a minority reported a positive relationship between sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief, and of feeling accepted by their fellow learners, the majority identified certain tensions and difficulties operating at a number of different levels. Some of the learners identified specific support mechanisms that they considered had enabled them to participate fully as a learner. These included student services, students’ unions, students’ societies and chaplaincies which they considered well placed to play a key role in resolving tensions and in managing relations well.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

This section looks at the learner experience, both positive and negative, using a variety of different testimonies. The first learner talks positively about his experience of being gay and belonging to a particular religion. He not only talks about feeling accepted and included by his contemporaries but feels totally comfortable in being able to practise his faith. I am a Catholic and I am from Italy. I study mathematics at university. I pray at the local Catholic Church and in the Catholic prayer space at the uni. I go to the LGBT Society. I met my boyfriend at the LGBT Soc. He is Jewish. I have been to the Jewish Synagogue with him. Everyone was very friendly. He has come to the Catholic prayer space. No problems. My fellow mathematicians know I am gay. They have met my boyfriend. This is absolutely fine. Religion has not come into it. I think the priest who comes to the uni prayer space is gay. No one has mentioned this except me when I am telling my boyfriend about it’. This example shows a learner who is comfortable with being gay and Catholic and sees no tension between the two. The next example, from a volunteer equality and diversity champion working in a further education college demonstrates a less positive attitude to the relationship between being gay, lesbian or bisexual and having a religion or belief. ‘Standing at the LGBT History Month stall in the college foyer we had learners coming up to us saying that this was a disgrace and an insult to Christian learners. It’s a very strongly Catholic college. Some were prepared to discuss things and others weren’t. I think this is good because that is partly why we were there – to challenge attitudes and to discuss things. Mind you, lots of learners just passed by and others came up to us because they were positively interested’.

Holding a LGBT History Month stall in this Catholic college challenged the attitudes of those learners who showed a lack of tolerance for being gay, lesbian or bisexual. Whilst the interviewee notes it was good in that it gave an opportunity to discuss and challenge their views, it may also have prevented others from approaching the stall to find out more due to perceived tension at the stall. One learner at a university who identified as being heterosexual and Christian in the same focus group felt that there were no issues with being gay, but found it difficult to be a Christian at university. Gay is seen as cool, I think boys try to be a bit camp because it’s trendy. Lots of my girlfriends say they are bisexual. I have never heard any religious things said about gay people at uni. But I have heard a lot of prejudice against Christians, sometimes from gay people, but not just them. Christianity is seen as anti-gay and definitely uncool. I find this very upsetting. It’s difficult to be a Christian at uni, but this isn’t because of gay people. I have got gay friends but I never discuss religion with them. If I didn’t go to the chaplaincy group I would never meet any other religious people. The experience this learner describes exemplifies learner experiences relating to anti-religious behaviour and sentiment that was consistent across a number of focus groups and interviews. It was registered with significantly less frequency than religiously driven homophobia and was most often not identified as emanating from lesbian, gay or bisexual learners in particular. Rather it was identified by some learners as the result of a broadly secular consensus in learning providers of which lesbian, gay and bisexual people were a part.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

The personal struggle between being gay, lesbian or bisexual and having a religion or belief A specific strand of experience was identified relating to religious learners who were themselves lesbian, gay or bisexual. These learners often felt a personal inner conflict and talked of being ‘pulled in different directions’. Here’s an account by one learner who struggled with belonging to a church and also wanting to identify as being lesbian, gay or bisexual, and the negative response that the learner received from others including the pastor of the church: I am from Africa. When I came to England I joined the LGBT Society during freshers’ week. Another learner from my country saw me standing at the LGBT stall and told other learners from home. When I went to church they turned away and told me I was a witch. The pastor came up to me and told me never to come back. I was scared that my parents would find out. I miss going to church, but I have left it behind. I am standing to be elected to the students’ union as the LGBT officer. The high degree of personal turmoil and confusion over identity experienced by learners who identify themselves as having a religion or belief and being gay, lesbian or bisexual is further highlighted by a Christian male, who describes how he felt he had to live in an artificially and stressfully compartmentalised way due to the negative attitudes of others. This learner had denied part of his own identity to each of the two groups he identified with. I am ‘in the closet’ as a gay man to my Christian friends and ‘in the closet’ as a Christian to my gay friends. I find it very painful. It makes me want to cry sometimes to be honest. The church, which I love, is horribly homophobic. Most of my gay friends hate the church – they hate religion. They see it attacking them. They have taken refuge in secularism, although I think it will let them down in the end. A lot of my gay Christian friends are leaving the church’.

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Clearly, he found it easier to ‘manage’ his identity by separating out being gay and being Christian, but it was at considerable personal and emotional cost. He also recognised how others in his position were managing the inner conflict by removing it through opting out, for example in leaving the church. Not all lesbian, gay or bisexual learners who were religious experienced such personal struggles. Here is an account of one learner who asserted the positive link between their religion and sexuality, although this operated outside of a college or university context. I became a Pagan at sixth form college. I knew I didn’t fit in at my Church of England Sunday School, and it left me cold. But I am a spiritual person. When I met other Pagans I liked their openness, their love of the earth and their acceptance of people. My sexuality is respected by other Pagans. Actually sexuality in general is celebrated and I think this is great. Until I came to this [focus] group I didn’t understand how homophobic other religions can be. Another learner talked of feeling accepted as being gay within his religious community but treated with some suspicion at the college Islamic society. I converted to Islam. In my Mosque there is real pain caused by the fundamentalists, and fear. We are not like them – at all. The people at my Mosque have welcomed me. I’m the only white person there. Also I’m a convert from Christianity. I have not said – “I am gay” – but it’s understood, and this hasn’t altered anything. I have a boyfriend who is secular. He thinks I’m mad to go to a Mosque because he has accepted the myths and lies about Islam. It is a religion of great respect for people… respect for the individual. No one ever judges me like they did in my old church. When I attend the Islamic Society at college some of them are suspicious. They don’t trust me. But over time this has changed. But there are a small number that won’t have anything to do


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

with me. I think this is political, not homophobic. Most of the lesbian, gay or bisexual learners who were religious experienced behaviour from either fellow lesbian, gay or bisexual people who were not religious or from people of religion or belief who were heterosexual that led them to artificially and often painfully divide these two central parts of their identity from each other. This finding is reinforced by research published by the Equality Challenge Unit (2009) which shows acute tension experienced by those who are lesbian, gay or bisexual and also from a religious or faith community. Managing the tension The focus groups and interviews included participants with a range of different views about how to best manage with religiously motivated homophobia. Some, from a secular point of view, considered the gap between the two to be unbridgeable. What’s the point in taking this on? I have got better things to do. I don’t understand how gay people can stay in organisations that hate them. Why torture yourself? Get a life. Others took a similar view from a religious perspective. It’s wrong to confuse organised religion with a love for God. I am not going to let a bunch of fundamentalists in the Christian Union stop me being part of the church…..I can’t constantly be at war, so I just carry on. I go to church. I get a lot from it. I keep quiet about the gay thing. These learners had found a way of learning to cope with the tension albeit by having to make adjustments. In all of the scenarios, the role or potential role of the learning provider in finding appropriate solutions or brokering agreements is absent.

Interviews and focus groups held with staff suggested that a key determinant of whether relationships between religion and belief and being gay, lesbian or bisexual were mutually respectful or conflicted was the degree to which a culture of inclusion and respect for difference was genuinely embedded throughout the functions and policies of learning providers. This was supported by research carried out by ACAS (2009). It is noteworthy for stressing the strategic and operational importance of an overarching organisational culture and ethos that acknowledges and respects difference as a major contribution to preventing or containing tension or potential difficulties between these two equality groups. While this relates to staff rather than learners there is clearly a significant degree of transferability between the two, since the policies and procedures to encourage a culture of inclusion and an ethos that acknowledges and respects difference would apply equally to the learner experience. Key mechanisms highlighted include: • staff training • regular staff briefings on equality issues and tasking managers to cascade these briefings • effective mainstreaming of equality and diversity into the life of the organisation • an emphasis on respect for all • clear and effective discipline and grievance procedures that have the confidence of all • early intervention in situations that have the potential to escalate • accessing chaplains and chaplaincies that are able to discuss issues with individuals whose religion or belief has brought them into conflict with others because of their sexual orientation.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Bridging the gaps and building cohesion: mechanisms for support The learners in the research discussed some of the mechanisms that they found useful in providing them with support and playing a key role in the development of cohesion between the two equality groups. These included the role of student societies, students’ unions, student services departments and chaplains. The role of students’ unions and student societies Student societies such as LGBT societies and religious societies provided vital support on the grounds of sexual orientation or religion and belief. None of the learners identified a society to which they could turn which was specifically for lesbian, gay or bisexual people with a religion or belief, although a minority did identify religious organisations open to all which were supportive and welcoming to lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Below are examples of the role that student societies can play a part in encouraging debate and openness, which the learners found useful in contributing to resolving or managing the tension. LGBT History Month is a good time to have debates between LGBT Society and religious societies. We had a big debate on religion and sexuality and we had straight Christians speaking with us to oppose traditional Christian and Muslim speakers. The audience supported us, but we didn’t change the minds of any speakers for the other side. But, debate is not for them, it’s for a wider audience.

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and not our views. No one is going to say that bullying is a good thing. Everyone can see how difficult it would be not to be able to introduce your partner to your parents. If they see you as a person, not a category, you can begin to change minds. The role of students’ unions in providing the platforms for debates and sponsoring events marking LGBT history month often with student services departments, was seen as vital in building bridges between these two equality strands. The relationship between the two equality groups played itself out in a variety of ways within the workings of students’ unions – some positive and others not. Islamic Society tried to have our funding (LGBT Soc) stopped because they think we are perverts. Nothing happened but they tried. I think they looked stupid. The LGBT Society supported the Islamic group to campaign for an alcohol free zone in the union, and we got it. This was the first time some of them had ever spoken to an out gay man before. Actually, it was the first time that some of us had spoken to a religious Muslim. I think we both found it a bit odd – a bit scary. But it worked. It was like politics brought us together. We drafted motions together, and had a laugh. I think there is mutual respect now. Before everyone just steered clear.

There were views on the most effective terms on which debate might take place.

The second scenario demonstrates the role of two student societies in promoting learners to work together. This built bridges between the two groups, and developed an understanding and tolerance between the two. The learners engaged with each other and saw beyond their identities as being lesbian, gay or bisexual and of being Muslim.

There’s no point having a “gay is good”/”gay is bad” discussion. It gets nowhere. They say the Koran or the Bible makes this bad. We say it doesn’t. You get stuck. It’s better to begin to discuss our experience

Election to students’ union posts was identified as a possible source of tension as it was suggested that if the learner population is influenced by whether they are lesbian, gay or bisexual or


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

belong to a particular religious group this can impact on the outcome, as the perceptions of the learner below. I stood for union president on a political ticket that Islamic Soc would usually support. But they did not vote for me because I am gay. I lost because of that. I don’t think a gay person can be elected in a university like this [with a significant Muslim learner population]. They have a veto because of numbers. They control things. However a different experience was shared with the learner in the next testimony. The guy who is union president is a Muslim. I don’t think he understood anything to do with gay learners. His biggest supporters were the Islamic Students’ Association. They are very homophobic. He wasn’t comfortable with the LGBT officer. But to be honest, he was fine. He has supported us because we are part of the union. We can speak to him without it being difficult. We are relieved. I think he has grown. The majority of participants saw the students’ union as a source of support; helpful in protecting members from religiously motivated homophobia. Students’ union activity sometimes brought religious and lesbian, gay or bisexual learners together in contexts other than those specifically defined by these two equality groups. In such circumstances new relationships and alliances were formed that began to break down barriers and create connections for the first time. The result seems to suggest that relationships between the two can improve and develop, in both directions. In some cases fixed ideas or beliefs do not change but actual relationships and behaviours do. No participants identified their college authorities or college chaplaincies offering similar opportunities for contact, growth and social cohesion.

Holocaust Memorial Day 27 January 2010

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The impact and significance of these issues and the importance of students’ unions is confirmed by findings from the Equality Challenge Unit research which shows tension between individuals can be reflected in tension between students’ union funded groups. This study identified the role that learning providers can play in dealing with these issues. The challenge for all learning providers is to deal with these complex relationships in ways that ensure the values and presence of both groups are respected, whilst at the same time neither group feels unfairly treated or discriminated against. (ECU, 2009) The role of college and university chaplaincies In further education colleges, chaplaincies (where they exist), are often managed within the student services department. This tends not to be the case in higher education institutions, where chaplaincies are more independent of provider management, however they can still be seen to be providing a valuable learner service. A focus group for religious staff at a university in the North West of England described how staff with different sexual orientations and different religions and beliefs worked together, celebrated and mourned at an event organised by the multifaith centre of their university2. The multi-faith centre, which meets the needs of staff and learners from a variety of religious backgrounds, hosted a special commemorative event for the Holocaust Memorial Day in partnership with all of the university staff equality networks. These comprised networks for black and minority ethnic staff, disabled staff, female staff and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff. This cross-strand approach grew out of the work being undertaken at the university to develop a single equality scheme.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Among the contributors to the commemoration was a contribution from the coordinator of the staff lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender network, commemorating those victims of the holocaust who were lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. In separate focus groups at this university for staff with different religions and beliefs and staff who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, there was common agreement that new friendships, acquaintances and alliances had been formed through attending this event, across all the equality groups but especially between people with different religions and beliefs and people who were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This successful event applied the approach recommended by lesbian, gay and bisexual learners in an earlier focus group – that is to share experiences rather than exchange mutually exclusive principles. In this example, the historical experience of persecution and loss was shared and commemorated. Although some of this university’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff expressed pain and anger at their perception of the homophobic nature of religious belief, nevertheless, there was unanimous agreement at the powerful and positive nature of the memorial event. In a focus group with some this university’s staff from different religions or beliefs the view was expressed very strongly that a core purpose of the multi-faith centre is the promotion of equality, and support for those that need it. In general, staff with different religions and beliefs found the success of the diverse nature of the event much more understandable and less counterintuitive than the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff, who came to it with a deep and abiding suspicion of religion and belief. Nevertheless, a significant degree of transformation in preconceptions and relationships was set in motion by these events.

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Developing a powerful role A focus group was held with the interfaith chaplaincy of a large general further education college in the East of England. Eight chaplains, including the full-time chaplaincy coordinator, attended. The group comprised men and women, representatives of different Christian denominations (including Unitarian, Catholic and Church of England), a Quaker and a Humanist. The Muslim and Hindu chaplains could not attend. The focus group was initiated by the Chaplaincy Coordinator. The group was unable to offer a shared view of the relationship between the two equality groups. Below are a range of different perspectives expressed by some of the chaplains. This is not an issue I come across. There must be gay learners out there but I don’t come across them. (Chaplain 1) Young people are so comfortable with the gay world today I am not sure there is a “problem” as such. (Chaplain 2) My own children are fascinated by gay things. They see gay people in the media. They have gay friends. “Gay is good” is the general feeling I think young people have. (Chaplain 3) One of the chaplains expressed a clear view of the role of college chaplaincy in relation to sexual orientation, describing the chaplaincy as an organised centre of support for gay people and of opposition to homophobia. We are here to celebrate the whole person as a unique human being. This includes their sexuality, whatever it is. We should oppose homophobia. That should be part of our job. We have not always been good at this. There is homophobia within religious communities. I think that stops gay learners coming to see us and it’s up to us to go out to them. Chaplain 4


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

In response to questioning about how religiously motivated homophobia impacted on their ability to function well and how they responded to it the same chaplain saw their role as promoting debate: We need to take the argument out there – there are contested interpretations of scripture on this issue. I just don’t accept that religion drives us towards homophobia and we need to make that case and to challenge those with a more rigid view. I welcome and celebrate committed and monogamous gay relationships. Chaplain 4 While this expressed the general view of the majority, differently nuanced responses were forthcoming from within the same chaplaincy group. I am uncomfortable with promiscuity. I have heard about pornographic films being made in which they torture the actors and humiliate them. This is terrible and evil. I can’t get used to it. Chaplain 5 Although this statement was unconnected to the question asked, it appeared to signify a deep discomfort with homosexuality and an assumption that it comprised exotic, extreme and criminal behaviour. This was a minority view. For the majority of the focus group who did not seem to share fully the clarity, focus and commitment of Chaplain 4, but who were, nevertheless, agreeable to being led by it, a working compromise was sought through the application of policy and procedure. This was expressed by Chaplain 5. There will always be uncertainty in this area. There will be different views. Some of this is scriptural. Those of us who are younger find this easier. Those of us who are not find it more challenging. We share

a commitment to support people as we find them. We need a clear policy and set of rules to work with. And we have got that. We work within the college equality policy. That is very helpful. We have signed up to that. Chaplain 2 This chaplain goes on to describe his early working experience and how he saw it as relating to his role now in working to promote cohesion between these two equality groups. I worked in South London in the ‘70s and the church was involved in the race issues of the day. We supported black people and that wasn’t popular. We are used to that and I am not going to pass the buck on this issue either. But I do need some help with it. Chaplain 2 This chaplaincy is located within the college student services directorate and the chaplaincy coordinator has, as part of their job description, a lead responsibility for equality and diversity and for community cohesion. This has anchored the chaplaincy to a role in which, if it is to succeed on the terms established for it, has to challenge religiously motivated homophobia. The role is made more complex by potentially contradictory pressures within the chaplaincy itself and between the chaplaincy and some of its external sources of support and sustenance. In interviews with national officials working with further education colleges and university chaplaincies this was explored further. I’m not optimistic about the future direction of the Church. The liberal view, the inclusive view, is now marginal and it will wither. This will impact on the direction taken by chaplaincies. They need to be interfaith, inclusive and open. I am not sure that will be sustainable going forward. National official

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

The officials agreed that scriptural challenge to religiously motivated homophobia was vital and that chaplaincies were well placed to lead this challenge. They both saw this as a legitimate and important task for chaplaincies and chaplains. They made the link between this and community cohesion. A similar range of views was expressed by participants in another focus group for college chaplains in the north west of England where one Anglican chaplain argued that it was difficult for chaplaincies to take a lead role in challenging homophobia. We are so muddled on this issue as a church. We still find it hard to even think about having women bishops, or gay bishops, so taking a lead in the college is a problem. We don’t have the consistency to do so, unfortunately. I can support gay individuals as an individual chaplain, and I do, but that is not the same as taking an upfront leadership role as a chaplaincy. Precisely what type of support might be provided to individual lesbian, gay or bisexual learners by chaplaincies was discussed. This tended to confirm a lack of consistency on this matter between Christian denominations as well as within them.

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approve of or consider a gay relationship to be of the same order as a heterosexual one. While he asserted that bullying of lesbian, gay or bisexual learners was entirely unacceptable, he judged and believed God judged gay relationships that were sexual also to be unacceptable. He was asked if he felt that this distinction ‘between the sinner and the sin’ influenced the support he might be able to offer a lesbian, gay or bisexual learner. I hope not. I can only be true to my beliefs. In the college it is almost the done thing to be gay. The president of the students’ union is gay. Some gay staff are very assertive. I have no problem with that, but my Christian beliefs are sometimes squeezed out. I am not homophobic. One of the college equality champions asked me to wear a red badge [Stonewall badge] during induction week saying ‘Some people are gay – get over it.’ But I don’t think people are born gay, so I refused to wear the badge. My colleague then shouted ‘homophobe, homophobe’ at me across the hall very loudly. And I am not.

The Anglican chaplain described how she offered positive support to a lesbian learner who was tortured by the thought that God did not love her. She assured the learner that she was loved as much by god as anyone else, and that god celebrated the love the learner and her female partner had for each other. The chaplain was clear that this relationship was as important and valid as any heterosexual relationship might be.

Whilst the staff saw the value of the role of chaplaincies in providing support and in developing cohesion between the two equality groups, the learners indicated that they did not see college chaplaincies as sources of support for lesbian, gay or bisexual people or as centres of organised opposition to homophobia. A lesbian, gay or bisexual learner in need of guidance or spiritual support on issues relating to their sexuality might not believe that they could obtain wholehearted support from a chaplain who believed that their sexual choices were fundamentally wrong and sinful – irrespective of how loving that chaplain might be to the learner as an individual.

A Pentecostal chaplain in the same group, however, stressed that while he might love an individual who is gay, he did not necessarily

If the struggle of the lesbian, gay or bisexual person was to integrate their sexuality into their life and identity, the distinction between ‘sin and

Stonewall are a campaigning and lobbying organisation for lesbian, gay and bisexual equality

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

sinner’ could be seen to be the very antithesis of what they needed. A Sikh chaplain at the same focus group pointed out that while Sikh holy texts do not vilify homosexuality in any way, culturally amongst Sikhs homosexuality is unacceptable. He expected that this might influence the attitudes and behaviours of Sikh chaplains. He also, in common with fellow chaplains participating in the group, offered an explanation for the relatively small numbers of chaplains attending, since the focus group was held as part of a regularly scheduled, usually well attended, regional meeting. I think we have low attendance because this discussion is on the agenda. People are wary of having the discussion. They feel uneasy and will try to avoid it. That’s very disappointing. This is very important and the people who are not here are the people who need to discuss it the most. This focus group, in common with the participants in the East of England focus group and the church officials, made a robust case for colleges and universities deliberately and systematically determining the character and role of their chaplaincies and carefully selecting chaplains in line with that. This character should be defined within the context of equality and diversity policies and anti-discrimination legislation. The chaplaincy should be interfaith, open to all and engaged with a range of concerns including equality and social cohesion. They argued that challenging homophobia should be seen as a key component of this package. This vision of chaplaincy, it was argued by the officials and by the chaplaincy coordinator quoted above, could be implemented through the creation of appropriate terms of reference, appropriate line management arrangements within the college and job descriptions and person specifications for chaplains that require appropriate actions and appropriate skills.

The nuances, stresses and strains within chaplaincies in connection to the relationship between the two equality strands might be seen to characterise the relationship itself between the two strands – complex, contradictory, positive, painful, difficult, faltering and at the mercy of powerful external influences and constraints. The potential for chaplaincies to challenge religiously driven homophobia is considerable. The conditions that would enable that potential to be met may not be fully in place and may or may not come fully to fruition. Nevertheless, colleges and universities may wish to give full and careful consideration to how they develop and deploy chaplaincy. An interview with a Hindu chaplain from a further education college in the North East of England explored the impact on the work of the interfaith chaplaincy of including in the panel of participating chaplains a minister of the Metropolitan Community Church, which is a church ministering predominantly to lesbian, gay and bisexual congregations. The chaplaincy arrangements are relatively new. They are bedding down. Having the MCC on board is a very good idea. All the chaplains are getting to know each other and barriers are coming down. We have not yet had a discussion about our collective approach to homosexuality, or if we can have one. We need that discussion. I would like to see it happen soon. The MCC chaplain, like the rest of us, is involved with getting our programme of public events up and running. We have been very busy, but as things settle down I will press for a discussion of sexuality and I think some of us will find that more challenging than others. It’s good to know that we could refer a gay learner to the MCC chaplain for pastoral support if we needed to, although any of us should be able to provide it. I don’t know if the MCC chaplain sees themselves as taking a lead on that or whether they are just part of the team with no lead constituency.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

4. Teaching, learning and assessment • The relationship between sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief does impact on the quality and conduct of teaching and learning in colleges and universities.

individuals far beyond the lecture theatre or classroom. The evidence from the focus groups and interviews in this study identified how the relationship between being lesbian, gay or bisexual and having a religion or belief can have an impact at two different levels in teaching and learning. One is at a personal level and usually private, the other organisational and public.

• It impacts on the thinking and actions of some lesbian, gay or bisexual individuals for whom there are unresolved tensions between their identities as being lesbian, gay or bisexual and having a religion or belief.

A university professor leading a department of social care studies exemplified how the personal and the private can impact on the more public role, affecting their personal feelings and sense of ease and their professional behaviour and performance.

• It impacts on the thinking and actions of some individuals who take up dogmatic religious positions that include homophobia.

My father was a Baptist minister, real fire and brimstone stuff. It dawned on me slowly that I was a lesbian and I only really began to get in touch with that side of myself after I left university. I met my partner at an academic conference and we have been together for twenty years now. We have a civil partnership. We have gay friends. We are a successful lesbian couple. But, I still carry in my head – possibly my heart – lots of fear about it all. That stems from my religious upbringing. I have never come out at work. I have never taken my partner to any university functions. Sexuality is a curriculum issue. We explore sexuality critically from a variety of theoretical perspectives. We prepare learners to work with gay clients. This is just standard stuff. But I never, ever, comment at departmental meetings on any curriculum issue connected to this. Never. I understand my power in the department, and in the university. And yet, I reduce myself to silence on this issue. It is strange to reflect on this.

Key findings

• It leads the latter sometimes to disrupt and block academic discourse. • It sometimes leads to the expression of religiously motivated homophobia that can be challenged and engaged with, leading to learning and development. • The disruption of academic discourse calls into question the core purpose of a place for learning and opens up the prospect of exclusion from the place of learning for those disrupting unless engagement and discourse can be established. • Staff need the support of policy and training to intervene effectively. • There is a need for careers service to understand equalities monitoring systems of employers and explain importance of such to learners. Staff and learners were asked about their experiences in teaching and learning which is a fundamental function in all learning environments and the quality of the experience and issues which emerge from these experiences can impact on

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A similar conflict was described by a postgraduate learner who talks about the influence of an earlier religious upbringing on the way she approaches and develops in her learning. I am here from Sweden doing my doctorate in sociology. I am a lesbian. I am forty five years old. I have learned from my supervisor how I allow my


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

assumptions to influence my academic work without knowing. I have been researching different family structures and my supervisor pointed out how I always privilege the traditional, nuclear, heterosexual family. And this made me realise that my Catholic childhood still influences me in this way. The pictures in the books in Bible classes, the sermons, how we talked about Mary and Joseph in Sunday school, all this has got into me. I am an atheist adult. I am a happy lesbian. So I was surprised to be shown how these ideas are still with me, and stopping me developing my work and my thinking. An undergraduate learner studying theology explored a more public conflict between sexual orientation and religion and belief, raised as an issue identified through course content. During a lecture human sexuality was addressed and the lecturer was contrasting different interpretations of scripture on homosexuality. There was a group of about four or five learners who announced that they were from the Christian Union and they said it was unacceptable to deviate from the position taken in Leviticus. Homosexuality is not acceptable. It is a sin. That was not up for liberal reinterpretation. That was their line. They insisted that no other view could be acceptable. They don’t accept that everything of this sort is to be interrogated. That is what academic work is. It must be free to critique, to question, to examine and interpret. In the end the lecturer moved on. There was no resolution. A small number of National Union of Students (NUS) focus group participants, from both further and higher education, reported similar experiences affecting a variety of curriculum areas, with both Christian and Muslim learners being disruptive.

A church official discussed this experience of homophobic academic disruption. This begs the question of what is a university for? We have to defend the liberal notion without apology, that it is a place for debate and open enquiry. It should be a place of intellectual torment, argument and contest. This sort of homophobic fundamentalism is completely at odds with this understanding of the university’s role. Yes, we need to challenge the fundamentalist position from a religious viewpoint, and from a liberal secular position come to that. But if they do not buy into this they should be shown the door. They must be allowed to express their views. They must also accept that their views can be challenged. If they can’t accept this they must leave the university. Maximising learning potential through critical engagement between the two equality groups The next example illustrates the experience of a health and social care learner in a further education college in Yorkshire, and the issues that arose when discussing the needs of gay clients. When the tutor was discussing the needs of gay clients some of the Muslim girls started going “Ugh! Disgusting!” And they looked at me because they know I am bisexual. I find that a bit embarrassing. The tutor turned it into a debate. She asked the girls why they thought it was disgusting and they didn’t have an answer. One of them said her religion said it was disgusting. At the end of the debate the girls were ok. They had thought about it for the first time probably. This shows the value of debate within teaching and learning, not only in raising issues and bringing them into an open forum, but also in influencing and challenging existing attitudes often based on misunderstanding and ignorance.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

A live and complex relationship between sexual orientation and religion and belief can be seen to be present and influencing some important aspects of teaching and learning. For some learners the disruptive intervention of dogmatic religious views prevents rigorous academic discussion and learning taking place and this seems to remain unresolved by the learning providers. While instances of such disruption were not commonly reported, they were reported with some consistency. Given how much they contradict with the core mission and values of a learning provider, this should be seen as a significant issue and as a challenge in need of a firm and consistent issue solution. Key to finding a solution may be the confidence and preparedness of academic staff to deal appropriately with such challenges if and when they arise. A member of teaching staff at the Yorkshire focus group suggested that the learning potential of the challenge from Muslim learners had been maximized in the scenario (above) shared by the learner because the staff member concerned had the confidence and skill to take the arguments on in an engaging and nonconfrontational way. The staff member also observed that most staff in the college would not have the confidence to do this. It may be inevitable that the increasingly confident assertion of religious views and beliefs and the increasingly common open assertion of visible lesbian, gay and bisexual identities will impact on the life of learning providers. The development of equality legislation both reflects and drives these developments. It seems congruent with the core mission and values of any learning provider that critical engagement between these two equality groups should be encouraged and facilitated. But, this needs to be managed within a shared framework of respect for all views, respect for individuals

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and a commitment to open dialogue and debate. Staff and learners will require opportunities to develop the skills needed to take such an engagement forward. Learning providers should consider how best to support the development of such skills. A broad consensus was identified in favour of recognising that organised attempts by groups of religious learners or staff to stifle debate, or to intimidate those who may hold particular views, are an affront to the core mission and values of a learning organisation that could ultimately result in exclusion from the organisation. However, open, robust engagement was the preferred option. The need for an anticipatory approach A participant in a staff at a university in the South West of England stressed that even for learning providers where such disruption was not taking place there was a need for anticipatory planning and the development of a clear policy framework for dealing with it if it did arise. The participant noted that in sports studies some learners with strongly held religious beliefs objected to close physical contact with fellow learners known or thought to be lesbian, gay or bisexual. The lecturer held the opinion that such tensions were likely to intensify over time and felt that they did not have the skills or confidence to deal with them. We need to anticipate the likelihood of this type of problem getting worse. I need a university policy to help me deal with it and then I need training to help me implement the policy effectively. I want to be able to put gay learners at ease and make sure that no one is allowed to exclude anyone in the group. I will need to challenge the homophobia, and that is quite scary. This is where the core values of the university take precedence over diversity. We are being asked to choose between competing differences. Whose


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

freedom takes precedence here – the gay learner or the religious learner who objects to being in contact with them? The university equality policy should make this clear and confront this type of issue. We are not talking about an approach to diversity that is about the survival of the fittest. It should be about respect for difference, within a context of academic and other policy laid down by the university. These findings are supported by findings by ECU (2009) that identified tensions between religious staff and learners and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in teaching spaces. Focus groups and individual interviews reported several examples where learners had interrupted classes to challenge lecturers or tutors presenting lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender materials, on the grounds of their religion or belief. Managing or responding to these kinds of situations can be particularly difficult for early-career staff or postgraduate tutors who have relatively limited teaching experience. Likewise, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender learners can feel unsafe when they are in classroom situations where homophobic views are openly expressed. These experiences bring the purpose of a learning organisation into question and sharp focus. They seem to contradict the role of a university or college as a site of open debate and discourse, where ideas are discussed and contended freely. Whilst the above experiences relate to teaching, learning and assessment, the following scenario illustrates the value of an anticipatory approach which should extend to all staff working in the further and higher education sectors. This is the experience of a member of staff working as a career adviser at a university in the North West of England.

I was working with a young Muslim man who was applying for a job with a large public sector organisation. He was concerned about an equality monitoring form attached to the application which invited him to identify his sexual orientation. He asked why this was being asked, and if homosexuals worked for the organisation he was applying to. I tried to explain why equality monitoring was done, but he couldn’t get beyond not wanting to work with gay people. He said that in Muslim countries this would not be allowed. I took the approach that it was in his interest to recognise that in the UK homosexuality was legal and accepted and that he would need to find ways of living with that if he wanted to get a job. I even said that this need not affect his personal opinions. But, he could not get beyond this point, and decided not to apply for the job because of this. All I could do was give him information and leave the choice to him. The relations between these two equality groups can, at times, be seen to have a significant negative impact on effective teaching and learning. This finding makes the absence of organisational policy, action and procedure to deal with this relationship all the more inappropriate and costly.

5. Strategic leadership and management, and the role of trade unions Key findings Governance There is little recognition of governing bodies and university senates playing an effective strategic leadership role in promoting equality and diversity generally or in assuring the effective management of the interface between sexual orientation equality and equality on grounds of religion or belief.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Public secularism and private religion • There is some confusion about the nature of “secular” colleges and universities. Where this claim is made, it usually means that an organisation is non-denominational and provides space for religious practice of different kinds. • Secular status is sometimes seen as a way of avoiding clashes between these two equality groups. • Others suggest that open, liberal multi-faith approaches to religion are the best approach to managing religious dogmatism and religiously motivated homophobia. • The secular consensus within some learning providers is experienced as oppressive by many people with a religion or belief. • Both people of religion or belief and people without religion or belief support learning organisations in being secular. • Both people of religion or belief and people without religion or belief oppose learning organisations being secular. Recruitment policies for international learners • Some learning providers may be limiting their compliance with equality legislation because of untested fears that if they do not do so they will lose income associated with recruiting overseas learners with different religions and beliefs. • Some learning providers may be prioritising equality on the grounds of religion or belief over equality on the grounds of sexual orientation. • Some evidence suggests that overseas learners with particular religions and beliefs will not make decisions about studying in the UK or at particular organisations based on the visibility of lesbian, gay or bisexual people.

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• Orientating overseas learners to life and study in the UK can include learning about the requirements of further education and higher education institutions regarding different equality groups. Role of trade unions • Some staff identify their trade union as supportive of sexual orientation equality, often in circumstances where the wider organisation may not be. • The work of trade unions in this area is recognised on the basis of separate equality groups rather than work on the relationship between different equality groups. There is sometimes a mismatch between national trade union policies and branch level practice on equality and diversity and on the management of the interface between sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief. This final section considers the role of governance, defining an organisation as secular, policies on recruitment of international students and the role of trade unions, and how these can shape and influence the strategic direction and management of an organisation.

5.1 Governance College governors and university senates and courts have a vital strategic role to play in the leadership, direction and implementation of promoting equality and diversity in their organisation. They have overall responsibility to ensure their organisation complies with the equalities’ legislation and as such may be expected to play a similar role in assuring the effective management of the interface between sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief.


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

This research was not able to identify any evidence that this role was currently being played effectively in the further and higher education sectors.

belief equality in sector organisations to a greater extent than they do currently.

In the staff survey one participant commented that the chair of governors for their institution ‘holds widely publicised homophobic views’. This participant does not provide details but comments further to say that the institution has distanced itself from these views. Such views, if allowed, could certainly be very damaging to the overall strategic lead in promoting equality and diversity for an organisation, and need to be considered when considering the membership of the governing and executive level boards.

5.2 Public secularism and private religion

Another such conflict is highlighted below, arising from the views held by the governing body and the potential impact this had for staff and learners who were lesbian, gay or bisexual. Both faith and sexual orientation are low profile. However, at my previous college it was a constant problem, as the faith-dominated board of governors blocked any LGBT initiative. And some teachers with strong faith views were not supportive of sexual orientation issues. Sixth form college; South East Another staff respondent referred to the role of governors and senior management with regard to training and induction. I am aware of training and induction input; but less so of any senior management/governor level input on this topic. I imagine these [equality] issues are on the tutorial programme for learners, but I am unsure how much these particular topics [sexual orientation and faith or belief] are. Further education college; North West The research results suggest there is a significant role to be played for the governance of an organisation to play a more significant role in managing sexual orientation equality and faith or

A strong strand emerged in both the focus groups and interviews that advocated defining the college or university as a secular organisation. Below are some of the views from a staff focus group held with the diversity forum of a large general further education college in the East Midlands. I think we have to be a secular college. People have their beliefs but the college can’t represent all the religions represented in it. We have learners and staff who are Christian, Mormon, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and some we probably don’t know about. There will be tension between them and tension between all of them and gay staff and learners. So, we need a level playing field. Religion is left outside the college. Vice principal, further education college Religion and belief is probably the least developed of all our equality strands, and we need support from others to make this a real equality strand. We are in contact with local religious groups and with the National Council of Faiths and Beliefs in Further Education and the question of whether or not to establish a college chaplaincy is under review. I think there are different views on this. Religion and belief champion There is not any tension between the two groups that we are aware of. I think this is because we take a secular position. We do have a very small number of staff who refuse to undergo equality and diversity training on sexual orientation on religious grounds and we are in active discussion with them about it. But this is a handful of people in the whole college. There does not seem to be any real tension between the strands. Vice principal 2, further education college

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

A gay university lecturer, who was originally from the United States, explored a similar position. I have seen the influence of the religious neoconservatives on campuses back home. It’s a nightmare. They have shifted the whole paradigm towards their position. Staff like me are running back into the closet. Being gay can affect tenure. People are afraid to challenge them. In the UK you can defend the secularism of public space. You must be mad if you give up on that. I guess people will always have their religions but they have to play by different rules in society at large. Religion is a private matter. When it becomes public it tramples on the rights of others. A different view was expressed in the focus group with the interfaith chaplaincy of a further education college in the East of England. You can’t expect people to leave religion at the college gate. It’s part of who they are. You can try to call the college secular, but religion will bubble merrily away in the staffroom and the learners’ common room all the same, including fundamentalism. A college interfaith chaplaincy is vital. It can occupy the space that fundamentalists will occupy otherwise. There needs to be an alliance against fundamentalism between secular liberals and those of us who have a liberal approach to religion. This is vital to building community cohesion. The chief executive of a Christian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organisation went further by identifying secularism as being linked with religious dogmatism. Fundamentalism has been one of secularism’s unintended consequences. The secular position has been so overwhelming that religious people have often felt ignored and disempowered. Eventually the need for a religious voice has felt it had to force itself into the public sphere with sufficient strength to overcome a historical secular consensus. This sense of being suppressed has led to the distortion

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we are calling fundamentalism with all its homophobia and inability to deal with difference. The counter to fundamentalism can’t be secularism. It is a liberal and inclusive religion. A similar view was expressed by a learner contributing to a focus group in Yorkshire, suggesting that secularism is about asking people to omit part of their own identities. It would be terrible to say “leave your religion outside.” How can someone do that? It’s who they are! If you ask someone to leave their religion at home you can also ask them to leave their sexual orientation outside college too. That’s wrong. Discussion in focus groups and interviews indicated that there was a degree of confusion in the minds of some of those who advocated corporate secularism. In one group at a further education college, a senior member of staff stated that the college was a secular organisation. But fellow staff members disagreed. It became clear that no policy decision had been made by the college management or corporation to define the college as secular. What the senior colleague had meant was that the college was not officially denominational. From that position it did, nevertheless, provide a quiet/prayer space and supported a religion and belief equality champion, and provided staff training on the beliefs and needs of different religions. There seems to be some strength to the argument that requiring one particular equality group to be somehow removed from corporate life is unfair, and creates the basis for the exclusion of other such equality groups – again, unfair and possibly inconsistent with the spirit and requirements of equality legislation. A consistent theme emerging in this research from people with religious beliefs is that secularism in learning providers can marginalise them and in some ways diminish their role and


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full participation in the organisation. This was reinforced in the focus group held with college chaplains in the North West of England: There is definitely a feeling that most right thinking people in the college look down on religion or at best think of it as a nuisance that has to be dealt with – usually very patronisingly. They are either socialists, or liberals, or feel that they are superior in some way to all this “superstitious” stuff. They might call in the chaplain if there is a learner in crisis and they don’t know how to handle it. But they really want to ease religion out of the picture and that excludes spiritual people, including me. There is evidence that people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual and those who have religions and beliefs feel threatened and excluded by people from the other group. The clear absence of organisational interventions to manage these relationships makes it difficult to see how such suspicions, where they exist, can be managed and removed. For most learning providers, a non-denominational rather than a secular stance would appear to be appropriate. That need not and should not preclude the creation and nurturing of a space for inclusive, open, engaged religion and religious practice within the organisation, any more than it should preclude the expression and organisation of any other equality group.

5.3 Policies for recruiting international learners A focus group for managers at a university in the North West of England reported that senior college managers had discussed at some length their reluctance to encourage a high profile for equality on the grounds of sexual orientation at the university because they considered that this would harm the university’s capacity to successfully recruit overseas learners, particularly those with learners with religions and beliefs.

We obviously earn a huge amount of money from overseas learners. This is big money we are talking about. Senior staff were really worried that if we were seen as having lots of gays the Muslim learners would just go elsewhere. It’s as simple as that. The government spending cuts have made this type of thinking more influential. Focus group participants were asked how the senior staff intended to align this position with their legal duties in relation to equality on the grounds of sexual orientation. I think real-politics takes over. Money is the driver that moves things. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think that we will be prosecuted for not promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history month. We may lose out in the money department if we do promote it, or so the thinking goes. However, some focus group participants confirmed that there is some uncertainty in relation to this hypothesis. It remains untested. We don’t know what they think, or if they do feel strongly about gay people whether that would actually stop them coming here. This attempt to balance out financial disadvantage against promoting equality had manifested in some other practical ways. There was all that debate about whether it was possible to display the rainbow flag during lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history month. Displaying the flag was forbidden and a lot of people felt offended by that decision. The argument was that flags can’t be displayed because once one flag is out then any number of other flags could be out…..I’m not sure why that’s a problem now I think about it…..I think it was because they want to avoid any tension between nationalities or other groups that are in conflict internationally. They don’t want that spilling on to the campus.

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Participants were invited to consider that the rainbow flag is not a national symbol, but almost the opposite – an international symbol of the presence and resilience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. There was just a lot of flag distress in general and it was banned. There really is huge sensitivity about it. They did allow a history month banner to be displayed but it had to be clear that it definitely was a banner and not a flag! It was difficult to gauge what impact income generating concerns actually had on the state and promotion of sexual orientation equality in the university. The university supports a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff network, and a similar one for learners. Both groups play a visible part in the public life of the university. The view was expressed by focus group participants that the impact was subtle but definite, in that it was likely to impose limits on the extent and type on university support for sexual orientation equality rather than to eliminate it. The seriousness with which this interface between sexual orientation equality is taken is signalled by the seniority of those who discussed it. This interface may be operational in the life of other learning providers facing financial challenges and able to recruit widely from abroad. It suggests that equality strands are ranked in importance and influence by some university officials, in this case with religion or belief taking precedence over sexual orientation. This ranking is reinforced by the income generation associated with overseas learners, who are seen, in this context, as an important part of the solution to the existential, financial threat to the survival of the university itself. This scenario echoes to some extent the question raised by the church official, quoted above, who suggested that academic disruption by religiously dogmatic learners forced a

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reappraisal of the very purpose of universities and other places of learning. Should an untested assumption about the attitudes of some sources of funding be allowed to limit or influence the degree, type and visibility of expression and organisation by any other constituent part of the organisation? If it is, some may argue that the fundamental mission of the organisation is compromised. A focus group for staff in a further education college in the East Midlands described how some learners from a Middle Eastern country had been picketed by a local lesbian, gay and bisexual group protesting against the policies of the Middle Eastern government towards gay men. The college authorities sought to end the protest and were concerned that activity of this type would prove to be a disincentive to other fee paying overseas learners from joining the college. Staff explained to the overseas learners what the protest had been about and discussed with them the legal and social position of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the United Kingdom. This came to be seen as part of the orientation to the UK for these learners, who responded to the information with polite interest. There has been no evidence of this issue impacting on overseas recruitment. While this scenario does not include the visible presence of lesbian, gay and bisexual learners on the campus, it seems to provide, nevertheless, an instructive counterpoint to the untested assumptions made by the university officials referenced above. Overseas learners proved to be interested in learning about life in the UK, including the position and rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. This may or may not have impacted on their own views on this matter, but they proved able to accommodate UK norms without feeling excluded or removing themselves from their place of study or the country.


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This may suggest that overseas learners are far better able to accommodate difference and diversity in the UK and within learning organisations than some college and university officials believe. If this is true it provides a basis for rebalancing the thinking, ranking and priorities of officials in ways that would open the way to a more thorough and visible approach to sexual orientation equality in universities and colleges. These two scenarios illustrate how the subject of this research has potential implications for the international relationships of learning providers and, potentially, for their income. They confirm the importance of the theme already established; that preconceptions and untested assumptions are significant drivers of practice. And the second scenario suggests that when tested, some key assumptions lose their credibility and because of this can no longer be used to justify or define limiting approaches to sexual orientation equality.

5.4 Trade unions While the research results suggest that sector organisations in general are not focused on actual or potential tensions or conflicts based on sexual orientation and faith or belief, there is acknowledgement that the trade unions have a key role and work to help resolve tensions and conflicts that are based on these equality groups. In the survey, staff comment that they feel they can be open about their sexual orientation in their unions when they are not comfortable to be open in this way to other staff in the organisation. Staff survey returns also identified a strong desire for trade unions to play a strong role in this. A union caseworker and union representative comment that they have not yet encountered any cases involving such tensions or conflicts, as they have not been raised officially. Conversely, others say that they experienced such tensions or

conflicts in dealing with incidents involving lesbian, gay or bisexual people and those of faith or belief in the role of trade union representatives. In addition, some staff did mention that they received informal support from the union in dealing with tension or conflict based on sexual orientation and faith or belief. We had a gay Methodist minister as the university chaplain but [they] felt [they] could not advertise [their] sexual orientation outside of the union executive because it might compromise [their] ability to work with representatives of other faiths within the university. Trade union branch chair, South West Staff also commented that the trades unions are very effective in supporting training and ensuring policy and procedures are explicit and robust, and in providing training. Where training has been lacking in the organisation, the unions have supported staff that were uncomfortable with approaching Human Resources staff in the organisation. Within one institution, it is suggested that the union is trying to change the situation where the university ‘pays lip service to equality’ by inviting managers to its equality training. They cite trade unions as a source of training and support in managing relationships between lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and those of faith or belief. However, there was some evidence from interviews and focus groups held with college and university staff which indicated that there may be a degree of mismatch between national policy on sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief, and action on that policy at local branch level. There was also view that national policy could perhaps better address the relationship between these two strands as well as addressing each separately.

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Conclusions The findings from the research study indicate that this research and accompanying guidance is both timely and welcomed by staff from all parts of organisations in the further and higher education sectors. The study focused on exploring issues in relation to the relationship between staff, between staff and learners and between learners themselves. One of the key findings was the importance of having an anticipatory approach, with clear guidelines and policies in place to manage the interface between equality on the grounds of religion and belief and sexual orientation equality. Below is a summary of the overall conclusions: Managing the interface • There is a very limited amount of good practice in the sector relating to managing the interface between equality on the grounds of sexual orientation and equality on the grounds of religion or belief. • Both of these equality groups, in common with all equality groups, tend to be managed and lead separately from the others. The interface can be identified within individuals, between individuals and between groups. • Good and mutually respectful relationships between the two groups have tended to be developed by events and activities in which individuals can express and explore their personal experiences, rather than rehearse fixed and opposing principles.

Anticipation of conflict and tension • While there have been high profile legal cases dealing with clashes between these two equality groups, the degree of anticipated conflict is disproportionate to the actual conflict found in practice. • This anticipation of conflict can exert a powerful inhibition on strategic and operational leadership and work on the two groups both separately and together. • Religiously motivated homophobia is present in the sector and appears to be more common than anti-religious actions driven by lesbian, gay or bisexual people. • There are significant numbers of lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and learners who have religious beliefs in the sector. They often feel conflicted and split between these two groups. The role of chaplains • College and university chaplaincies are well placed to counter religiously motivated homophobia. • The effectiveness of chaplaincies in playing this role can be compromised by lack of unanimity within them about the priority and emphasis to be given to such work. Impact on teaching and learning • Religious learners from different religious communities have, in some further education colleges and in some universities, sometimes disrupted academic discourse and refused to engage in critical examination of human sexuality or family structure. • Responses to academic disruption have been indecisive and uneven, often inhibited by a fear of increasing conflict between the two equality groups.

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Strategic leadership and management • Governing bodies and university senates are well placed to play an effective strategic leadership role in promoting equality and diversity generally or in assuring the effective management of the interface between sexual orientation equality and equality on grounds of religion or belief. • There is some evidence that learning providers tend to rank and prioritise the different equality groups and may give greater priority to religion and belief than to sexual orientation. • There is a widespread failure to apply existing procedures and policies to managing the interface between sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief. • Some learning providers believe that adopting an officially secular corporate stance is the optimum position from which to avoid tension between the two groups. Individuals from both equality groups disagree and agree with this in apparently more or less equal measure.

• The interface between the two groups has an international dimension driven by an untested concern that prominent sexual orientation equality activity may dissuade overseas, fee paying learners from different religious communities from studying at particular colleges and universities. • When conflicts between the strands do arise they are best dealt with using prompt application of existing standard procedures. Role of the unions • Student unions can play a significant role in bridging the gap between these two equality groups, through organised activity and their ongoing political and organisational functions. • There is sometimes a mismatch between national trade union policies and branch level practice on equality and diversity, and on the management of the interface between sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief.

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Bibliography Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) (2009) Management handling of sexual orientation, religion and belief in the workplace, London: ACAS Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) (2003) Guidance for employers, London: ACAS Centre for Excellence in Leadership (2006) Equality and sexual orientation – The leadership challenge for further education, London: Centre for Excellence in Leadership Department for Communities and local Government (2007) Guidance on new measures to outlaw discrimination on grounds of religion or belief in the provision of goods, facilities and services, Part 2, Equality Act 2006, Wetherby, West Yorks: Communities and Local Government Publications Department for Communities and Local Government (2007) Guidance on New Measures to Outlaw Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation in the Provision of Goods, Facilities and Services, Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, Wetherby, West Yorks: Communities and Local Government Publications Diamond, P (2008) Religion or belief: the right to be wrong, Equal Opportunities Review. April 2008 Ellison, G. and Gunstone, B. (2009) Sexual orientation explored: A study of identity, attraction, behaviour and attitudes in 2009, London: YouGov Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) (2009) Handbook for student accommodation providers: support for equality and diversity, London: Equality Challenge Unit Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) (2009) The Experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans staff and students in Higher Education, London: Equality Challenge Unit Faiths and Further Education (2008) Welcome to Chaplaincy – A Training Programme for Multi-Faith Chaplaincy in the Further Education Sector, London: National Council of Faiths and Beliefs in Further Education (fbfe) / Learning and Skills Council (LSC) Goodwin, K. (2009) Religion at Work – an EOR Survey, Equal Opportunities Review, 24 April 2009 HM Stationery (2006) The Equality Act, London: The Stationery Office HM Stationery (2009) The Equality Bill, London: The Stationery Office House of Commons Research Paper 03/54 (2003) Employment Equality Regulations: Religion and Sexual Orientation, 9 June 2003. Hunt, R., Stonewall Workplace Guides (2009) Religion and sexual orientation – how to mange relations in the workplace, London: Stonewall Javaid, M. (2009) Ruling on homophobic banter opens up a ‘Pandora’s attic’, People Management Magazine, 29 January 2009 Lambeth UNISON News (2009) LGBT Report, Unison, 6 January 2009 Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (2009) Briefing by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement on The Equality Bill: LGCM

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Malik, M. (2009) From conflict to cohesion: competing interests in equality law and policy, Equal Opportunities Review, April 2009 Newman, D. (2009) The Equality Bill: Part One, unpublished paper McLellan, J. (2008) How inclusive is the university for staff and students with different sexual orientation? Oxford: Oxford University Peacock, L. (2009) EAT rejects religious discrimination claim of Christian counsellor. London: Personnel today Potbury, T. (2009) Dangers of homophobic banter. Construction News. 2 March 2009 Rubenstein, M. (2009) The Equal Opportunities Review guide to the Equality Bill: part 1 – general principles, Issue No: 189, June 2009 Stonewall (2007) Sexual Orientation Research Review, The Equalities Review The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, Department for Communities and Local Government: London. Trades Union Congress (2009) Sexual orientation and religion or belief cases University and College Union (UCU) (2007) Sexual orientation and religion or belief cases – latest, UCU Equality Extra, No. 7, October 2007 Wragge & Co LLP (2009). Employment Law 2009 review/2010 preview: Part 1 Legal update. Available at: http://www.wragge.com Wragge & Co LLP. (2009) Law Briefing. Available at: http://www.wragge.com Wragge & Co LLP. (2009) Employment Law 2009 review/2010 preview: Part 1, Legal update. Available at: www.xperthr.co.uk/blogs/employment-intelligence

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Appendix 1

Research methodology The research project used methods that would make quantitative, statistical research representative and make the findings and conclusions both reliable and valid. This enhanced the qualitative research, adding depth, capturing diversity and mapping relationships in the research populations. Without both of these approaches the research findings would have been unlikely to capture and reflect the real views and experiences of the populations being researched. Together, the quantitative and qualitative methods were successful in gathering information and generating the research results presented in this report. The research methodology comprised quantitative and qualitative methods. • Literature and research review • Two online surveys targeted to all staff and learners in further and higher education • Forty-three one-to-one interviews with staff, learners and members of stakeholder organisations that work with the sector • Ten focus groups with staff, learners and members of stakeholder organisations that work with the sector Online surveys for staff and for learners The quantitative method comprised of two confidential online surveys: one for staff and one for learners. The surveys were targeted to all learners and staff in further education colleges, universities, work based learning and adult and community education providers, regardless of their sexual orientation or religion or belief. The online surveys were designed to ask a range of questions to elicit the respondents’ views and experiences of the interface between equality on the grounds of sexual orientation and on the grounds of religion or belief. The questionnaires were structured in themed sections, with both

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staff and learner surveys beginning with an ‘About you’ section to capture information on the profile of respondents. A copy of the staff and learner questionnaires are available at the end of this appendix. The surveys were designed online using the specialist survey software Surveymonkey, and were live between November 2009 and mid January 2010. Both surveys were promoted on Lifelong Learning UK’s website (http://www.lluk.org/managing-equality.htm), and further promotion was carried out at appropriate sector events with the support of stakeholder organisations. A flyer outlining the aims of the research and encouraging individuals to take part was also distributed to sector organisations for promotion. The survey completions were monitored on a weekly basis. When it was observed that insufficient responses were forthcoming from particular respondent groups, attempts were made to target those groups that were underrepresented in the returns. The partners in the research used their networks to promote the research further. Targeting was used to capture a range of respondents by gender, age, ethnicity and sexual orientation and religion or belief diversity. A systematic, deliberate and transparent approach was taken throughout, for example, making participants aware of the purpose of the research and their role in it. A total of 799 questionnaires were submitted for the staff survey; after carrying out quality checks on the data 797 were completed sufficiently to be considered in the analysis. Overall then, the final staff sample size was 797. A summary profile of staff survey respondents is available in Appendix 2. In relation to the learner survey, 263 questionnaires were submitted however the final


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learner sample size was 262 after one entry was removed as it was not sufficiently complete. A summary profile of learner survey respondents is also available at Appendix 2. Statistical analysis of the quantitative data was undertaken using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software to explore a series of relationships using descriptive statistics and cross tabulations. In line with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998, the tabulations presented in the report were designed to prevent disclosure of personal information and prevent any individual from being identified from information used in the report. Interview and focus groups The qualitative methods comprised of confidential one-to-one interviews and focus groups with lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and learners and with staff and learners with a range of religions and beliefs. Interviews with college and university chaplains were also undertaken to supplement the faith or belief perspective. Participants in the interviews and focus groups were recruited through existing staff and learner networks organised by sector students’ and trade unions and some sector agencies. The online surveys were also used as a means of inviting participants to volunteer for a focus group or interview. In order to maximise recruitment, the overall research was publicised by stakeholder organisations and promoted at events hosted and attended by sector organisations. A flyer outlining the aims of the research and encouraging individuals to take part was distributed to sector organisations. Some of the organisations used this to help organise staff and learner focus groups across England.

Interview questions used with staff and learners were based on the online survey questionnaire but administered in an open-ended way in order to capture detailed information which provided a robust qualitative basis for the research. A copy of the interview questions is provided at the end of this appendix. This enabled participants to explore individual experiences in more detail and to offer personal insights into how the relationships and interfaces between sexual orientation equality and equality on the grounds of religion or belief are experienced by a wide range of individuals. The focus groups explored experiences, feelings and ideas in relation to the theme of the research and probed for good/effective practice. The focus groups resulted from invitations from providers, project partners and individuals, with the latter sometimes being identified and/or activated by the online questionnaires. The discussion questions of the focus groups were themed similarly to the online survey questionnaire to ensure that the quantitative and qualitative approaches were complementary. Interviews and focus groups were carried out between November 2009 and early February 2010. Forty-three one-to-one interviews and ten focus groups involving 111 participants were undertaken. A breakdown of the profile of participants in the interviews and focus groups is available at Appendix 2. The research was conducted according to the Market Research Society Code of Conduct and the project leader was present at the interviews and focus group sessions to ensure correct administration and to act as a point of reference and future follow-up for respondents.

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Literature and research review Primary research was supported by a systematic review of research reports, legislation, policies and guidance related to the relationship between the two equality strands in question. The purposes of the literature and research review were to:

All information was assessed for relevance to the further and higher education sector. This included identifying poor practice and highlighting good practice from other sectors in managing relationships between lesbian, gay and bisexual people and those of different religions or beliefs.

• gather relevant legislation and existing research

The sources considered for the review included equality legislation and Codes of Practice and guidance, journals and other publications, legal case examples/digests, newspapers, websites, documentaries, workbooks, training materials, good practice guides and evaluations.

• gather existing guidance and materials in this and related fields • capture good practice and poor practice • enhance the methodological rigor of the primary research. The review criteria included legislation and information relating specifically to equality on the grounds of sexual orientation or religion or belief; particularly in relation to further and higher education it covered: • staff and learners and their interactions during their work and learning in the sector • relevant perspectives from within and outside of the sector • the relevance of the information to the sector and the effectiveness of any practices found • guidance, both statutory and non-statutory • as far as possible, the six functional areas of further and higher education • sources providing information that help to develop the methodology for undertaking the primary research.

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A. Staff online questionnaire

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B. Learner online questionnaire

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C. Interview and focus group questions This section contains the briefing notes used by those conducting the interview focus groups.

• What management or other intervention would/has help/ed? Any agencies/groups/ organisations?

C1. Staff one-to-one interviews

• What would help you in this situation?

All interviews begin with reaffirmation of research aims and objectives. Email them a flyer if appropriate. Guarantee confidentiality Questions take a broad approach and allow interviewees to expand on anything arising from the online questionnaires. Written notes are taken. Topic 1 – demographics/identity • Monitoring info • Place and type of work

Topic 4 – good practice • Please give examples of good practice – either that you know of or have experienced • How did this arise/develop? • Who was its main promoter/originator? Topic 5 – Professional development and training • What training have you received relevant to this topic? • Was it/how was it helpful?

Topic 2 – mutually respectful relationships • What is your experience /sense of the relationships between staff of different sexual orientations and different faiths or beliefs in your organisation?

• Why?

• How would you describe these relationships?

• Anything else?

• What evidence have you of mutually respectful relationships?

C2. Learner one to one interviews

• Give examples • How does this impact on teaching and learning?

• Who provided it? • How could it have been better? • Do you know of any other relevant training?

All interviews begin with reaffirmation of research aims and objectives. Email them a flyer if appropriate. Guarantee confidentiality

Topic 3 – managing relationships and dealing with tensions and conflicts • How does your organisation manage to develop and maintain mutually respectful relationships between staff and learners with different sexual orientations and different faiths or beliefs?

Questions take a broad approach and allow interviewees to expand on anything arising from the online questionnaires.

• How best do you think relationships might be managed if they are tense or difficult?

• Place and type of study

Written notes are taken. Topic 1 – demographics/identity • Monitoring info

• Please give examples

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Topic 2 – mutually respectful relationships • What is your experience/sense of the relationships between learners of different sexual orientations and different faiths or beliefs in your organisation? • How would you describe these relationships? • What evidence have you of mutually respectful relationships? • Give examples • How does this impact on teaching and learning? Topic 3 – managing relationships and dealing with tensions and conflicts • How does your organisation manage to develop and maintain mutually respectful relationships between learners with different sexual orientations and different faiths or beliefs? • How best do you think relationships might be managed if they are tense or difficult? • How this impacted on you? • Please give examples • What intervention would/has help/ed? Any agencies/groups/organisations? • What did/could your place of study have done/done differently? • What would help you in this situation?

Topic 4 – good practice • Please give examples of good practice – either that you know of or have experienced • How did this arise/develop? • Who was its main promoter/originator? Topic 5 – What would you like in an ideal situation? • Open question • Anything else?

C3. Questioning scheme for focus groups All focus groups begin with a reaffirmation of the research aims and objectives. Every effort will be made to ensure that participants have seen or are given the flyer. Confidentiality is assured. The focus groups take a broad approach to questioning, allowing experiences and views to be identified and explored. They are based on asking a selection of the following questions Focus groups timed for approx one hour, with one facilitator taking handwritten notes. Expressing your identity • How free do you feel to express your identity at your place of work/study (faith or sexual orientation)? • What sorts of responses do you get from others in your place of work/study when you express your identity (faith or sexual orientation)? • Why is it like it is? • How would you like it to be? • Experiencing the identity as a lgb person of faith or belief (needs careful handling in a group)

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Relationships between lesbian, gay and bisexual staff/learners and those of faith or belief • How do the relationships between people of different sexual orientations and different faiths and beliefs in your place of work/study affect teaching and learning? • Why is this the case? • If relationships need to change what would help achieve the changes you would like? • Examples of good and bad relationships • How have good relationships been established/managed? • How have conflicts been resolved? • How could they best be resolved? Supporting staff and learners • What would you like to see made available from leaders, managers and organisations to support the development of good relationships? • Are there any agencies, groups or organisations internal or external that play a positive or negative role? • What do you think is key to creating and maintaining a productive teaching and learning environment that benefits learners of faith and those of different sexual orientations working together? • Examples of good practice? • What to avoid? • Anything else?

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Appendix 2

Profile of research participants Staff survey respondents A total of 797 staff surveys were completed and submitted. An outline of the characteristics of the staff who responded to the survey is outlined in the following summary. Key characteristics of age, gender, disability, ethnicity, religion or belief and sexual orientation are identified, with further information provided on the location and organisation where staff were employed. Age and gender Overall, there was a good representation in staff responses from across the age groups. The breakdown was as follows: • Fifteen per cent aged 16-19 • Seventeen per cent aged 20-24 • Seventeen per cent 25-34 • Nineteen per cent aged 35-44 • Twenty-two per cent aged 45-54 • Ten per cent aged 55 and above. Of the 797 total responses, just over half were returned by female participants (55 per cent) with 43 per cent submitted by male staff. A very small proportion preferred not to indicate their gender. Considering age and gender together, the profile showed that a significantly greater number of females were in each age group, apart from those aged 20-24 where 36 per cent were female and 62 per cent were male. Figure 2a: Total number of respondents to staff survey by age and gender Female Male

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Disability The survey asked respondents to indicate whether they considered themselves to have a disability. Disability was defined in the survey as a physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities. Ten per cent of staff indicated they were disabled and two per cent preferred not to say. Ethnicity The ethnic profile of staff participating in the survey showed that more than three quarters (78 per cent) were white British, with another nine per cent indicating they were from other white backgrounds. Staff from Indian, Pakistani, Caribbean and mixed backgrounds were also represented but in proportions of less than two per cent in each case. Two per cent of staff preferred not to identify their ethnic background. The remaining two per cent was made up of a wide range of other ethnic groups. Religion or belief The greatest proportion of responses submitted were from staff who indicated that they had no particular faith or belief (42 per cent). More than a third (37 per cent) were of Christian faith. Small proportions of staff of other faiths or beliefs took part in the survey as shown in the table below.

Figure 2b: Total percentage of respondents to staff survey by faith and belief 45 40

Total % respondents

35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 None Christian Other Muslim Humanist Did Prefer faith not say not or belief to say

Pagan

Jewish Buddhist Hindu

Sikh

Note: Totals of less than 10 or less than one per cent are not included in this table.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

The low participation rate of Muslim respondents was also a feature common across the learner survey sample and sample of individuals who participated in the focus groups and interviews. Although faith specific networks were utilised to promote participation in the research, it appears that this did not influence Muslims to participate. Sexual orientation More than four in ten (43 per cent) of the survey participants identified their sexual orientation as heterosexual. Just over quarter (27 per cent) identified themselves as gay men. Another 15 per cent identified themselves as lesbian or gay women and five per cent preferred not to say or did not indicate their sexual orientation. Of the 10 per cent who identified as bisexual, the majority of this group (68 per cent) were female and a quarter male.

Figure 2c: Total percentage of respondents to staff survey by sexual orientation 45 40

Total % respondents

35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0

Hetrosexual

Gay man

Lesbian or gay woman

Bisexual

Prefer not to say

Did not say

Regional representation All of the English regions were represented in terms of the areas where participants’ main work place was located. The highest proportion were based in London (16 per cent) with the North West and South East each providing 14 per cent. An additional 10 per cent worked in the West Midlands and five per cent in Yorkshire and Humberside and East of England respectively. The East Midlands and North East regions each provided less than five per cent of the survey participants. In addition, a significant 19 per cent did not identify the region where they worked.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Type of organisation where respondents worked Universities and further education colleges provided the highest proportion of survey participants with 42 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. Four per cent were from sixth form colleges and less than two per cent were from both work based learning and adult and community learning organisations. The ‘Other’ organisation types represented in the results included a small number that provided both further education and higher education learning. A substantial 21 per cent did not identify the type of learning organisation that employs them. The distribution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual staff across the learning organisations in the survey was: • forty-nine per cent of bisexual staff in the survey worked in a university; 13 per cent were in a FE college • fifty-two per cent of gay men in the survey worked in a university; 11 per cent were in a FE college • thirty-two per cent of heterosexual people worked in university; 48 per cent in a FE college • fifty-six per cent of lesbian or gay women in the survey worked in a university; 16 per cent were in a FE college • fifteen per cent of university staff preferred not to indicate their sexual orientation along with 58 per cent of those working in an FE college Small proportions of staff of various sexual orientations indicated that they were working across other learning organisations in the sector. Christians and those of no particular faith or belief were the two main faiths or beliefs represented by staff in the survey. Across all work place organisations, 41 per cent of Christians were in FE colleges, 36 per cent were in universities and 14 per cent did not indicate their work place organisation. For those with no faith or belief, 20 per cent were in FE colleges, 47 per cent were in universities and 27 per cent did not indicate their organisation. A substantial 70 per cent of survey participants indicated that they were employed in their organisation on a permanent basis; Less than one per cent were seconded. In addition, 22 per cent did not say what their working arrangements were. Of those responding to this question, 91 per cent of those working full-time and 70 per cent of those working part-time were on permanent contracts. Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of those on temporary arrangements worked part-time.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

A quarter of survey participants did not indicate their main role in the organisation. Of those who indicated their role, 19 per cent were in teaching, training tutoring or academic roles, 16 per cent were managers, 15 per cent were administrators and 16 per cent were in ‘Other’ roles. Other roles represented included chaplaincy, multi-faith lecturer, counsellor, equality and diversity managers and pastoral and spiritual support. The profiles within the main roles identified included the following breakdown. • Among managers, 56 per cent were heterosexual, 21 per cent were gay, and 14 per cent were lesbian • Among teaching, training and tutoring staff, 47 per cent were heterosexual, 27 per cent were gay, 14 per cent were lesbian, and five per cent were bisexual • In administrative roles, 61 per cent were heterosexual, 18 per cent were gay, 13 per cent were lesbian, and seven per cent were bisexual. With regards to faith or belief, Christians and those of no particular faith or belief were from the groups from which sufficient responses were returned to enable meaningful analysis to be undertaken. Within the main roles identified by the participants: • seventeen per cent of those with no particular faith or belief and 17 per cent of Christians were in management roles. • seventeen per cent of those with no particular faith or belief and 13 per cent of Christians were in administrative roles. • sixteen per cent of those with no particular faith or belief and 13 per cent of Christians were in teaching, training, tutoring or other academic roles. The analysis of the staff profile does not show any clear patterns of disproportionate representation across the main roles for staff of faith or belief or for lesbian, gay or bisexual staff. The interface between sexual orientation and religion or belief in relationships in the workplace The interface between lesbian gay and bisexual staff and those of faith or belief is the specific focus of this research. The research also acknowledges that lesbian, gay and bisexual people might also be people of faith or belief. Indeed the research results in the following table shows this to be the case.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Table 2a: Total number of staff respondents by religion or belief and sexual orientation Participants of religion or belief and their sexual orientation in the staff survey Faith or belief

Sexual orientation Did not say

Atheist

Total Lesbian or gay Prefer not woman to say

Bisexual

Gay man

Heterosexual

-

-

-

n

-

-

n

Buddhist

-

-

n

n

7

-

10

Christian

n

24

59

168

35

10

298

Hindu

n

-

n

n

n

-

n

Humanist

n

n

5

6

n

n

19

Jewish

-

n

n

n

n

-

12

Muslim

-

-

n

17

-

n

21

None

n

39

114

110

58

11

333

Pagan

-

5

3

5

n

-

16

Prefer not to say

-

n

5

6

-

6

18

Sikh

-

-

n

-

n

-

n

Other

-

7

15

12

8

-

42

Did not say

n

n

n

6

n

2

19

Total

8

83

212

339

122

33

797

Note: Small numbers not included in this table (n=numbers of less than five individual represented) (numbers under 10 not shown in totals)

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Learner survey respondents Age and gender The profile shows that the majority (55 per cent) were female and 42 per cent were male; a small proportion did not indicate their gender. The distribution shows that the largest numbers of male participants were in the 16-24 age bracket. Apart from just over a third of female learners in the 20-24 age group, the rest of the female participants were more evenly distributed across the age groups than males. Figure 2d: Total number of respondents to learner survey by age and gender Female Male

60

Total number of respondents

50

40

30

20

10

0

16-19

20-24

25-34

35-44

45-54

55 and over

Disability Nearly one in ten (nine per cent) indicated that they were disabled and 87 per cent stated they were not disabled. Ethnicity The ethnic profile shows that nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) were white British, with another 7 per cent from other white backgrounds. The next highest proportion (three per cent) preferred not to say. Small proportions were from other ethnic groups. All major ethnic groups were represented but in small numbers. Overall, 98 per cent indicated their ethnic background. Faith or belief The majority of the learners were Christian (41 per cent), a slightly smaller proportion (40 per cent) do not follow a particular faith or belief and five per cent preferred not to say which faith or belief they followed or whether they followed a faith or belief. Three per cent were Muslim and two per cent were Buddhist. The remainder included those of agnostic, atheist, Hindu, Humanist, Jewish, pagan and other faiths or beliefs.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Figure 2e: Total percentage of respondents to learner survey by faith or belief 45 40

Total % respondents

35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Christian None

Prefer not to say

Prefer Muslim Buddhist Pagan not to say

Jewish Humanist Agnostic Atheist Hindu

The majority of Christians in the survey (71 per cent) attend universities with 24 per cent in the FE college sector. For those learners in the survey with no faith or belief, more than three quarters (76 per cent) attended universities and 17 per cent attended FE colleges. Sexual orientation More than half (53 per cent) described their sexual orientation as heterosexual, 16 per cent were gay men, 13 per cent lesbian or gay woman, 12 per cent bisexual and five per cent preferred not to say. Figure 2f: Total percentage of respondents to learner survey by sexual orientation 60

Total % respondents

50

40

30

20

10

0

Hetrosexual

Gay man

Lesbian or gay woman

Bisexual

Prefer not to say

Did not say

113


Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

It is noted from the survey results that learners who indicate they are lesbian, gay or bisexual may also follow a particular faith or belief. This is shown the table below. Table 2b: Total number of learner respondents by religion or belief and sexual orientation Sexual orientation and faith of belief of survey participants Total Did not say Did not say

Lesbian or gay Prefer not woman to say

Bisexual

Gay man

Heterosexual

n

n

0

n

0

n

Agnostic

0

n

0

0

0

0

Atheist

0

0

n

0

0

0

Buddhist

0

n

n

n

0

n

n

Christian

0

9

9

74

13

n

107

Hindu

0

0

0

n

0

0

Humanist

0

n

0

n

0

0

Jewish

0

0

n

n

n

0

Muslim

n

n

n

n

0

0

n

None

0

10

25

47

18

6

106

Pagan

0

n

n

n

0

0

n

Prefer not to say

0

n

n

6

n

n

13

Total

n

31

41

140

33

14

262

10

Note: Small numbers not included in this table (n=numbers of less than five individual represented) (numbers under 10 not included in totals) Regional representation The regional distribution of participants shows that more than four in ten (41 per cent) are from the South West, more than a quarter (27 per cent) were from the South East, 13 per cent were from the North West, six per cent were from London and three per cent were from Yorkshire and Humberside. The East Midlands, East of England and North East were also represented. Learners’ main place of study The higher education sector provided the vast majority of participants with 71 per cent of the total learner sample indicating they attended universities. Further education colleges provided another 21 per cent. Sixth form colleges, adult and community learning, work based learning and specialist colleges were also cited among the main places of study for the participants represented in the survey. Four per cent did not say where they were studying.

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Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Research for further education and higher education

Learners of different sexual orientations were represented in greater proportions within the university sector. The majority of those who preferred not to indicate their sexual orientation were in the FE college sector. More than eight in ten (84 per cent) attended their learning full time and 12 per cent were part time. Most of the learners (89 per cent) were on long courses with 8 per cent attending short courses. There were no stark differences in the learning patterns for lesbian, gay or bisexual learners or those of different faiths or beliefs.

Interview and focus group respondents Forty-three one-to-one interviews were held. Of these: • twenty-eight were with women and 15 were with men • twenty-six were with staff and 10 were with learners • seven were with members of stakeholder organisations that worked with the sector • thirty were of a white ethnic group and 13 were from black or minority ethnic backgrounds • eleven were Christian, three were Jewish, two were Buddhist, three were Sikhs, three were Muslims, two were Pagans, one was Hindu and 18 had no religion or belief • ten were gay men • fifteen were lesbian women • eighteen preferred not to say what their sexual orientation was Ten focus groups were held and included 111 people of whom: • forty-nine were men and 62 were women • sixty were staff and 48 were learners • three were members of stakeholder organisations that worked with the sector • ninety-four were white and 17 were from black or minority ethnic backgrounds • thirty-nine were Christian, 13 were Jewish, eight were Muslims, four were Pagans, one participant was Sikh and 46 had no religion or belief • forty-eight were gay men • twenty-six were lesbian women • seven were bisexual • thirty preferred not to say what their sexual orientation was

115


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Managing the interface research