The Project

NBinHE pink logo 2022Over the past decade non-binary genders have become increasingly visible in the public sphere. In the UK survey data from 2018 and census data from 2021 has revealed that non-binary peopleĀ make up between a third and half the trans population of the UK, and that younger people are more likely to have a non-binary identity than older trans respondents.

However, while knowledge and resources on non-binary identities circulate via community groups and on social media, there has been little academic research undertaken thus far in the field. The UK-based literature has tended to focus on identity formation and access to health services. Similarly, to date there has been very little attention paid specifically to non-binary gender experiences in higher education separate from the experiences of trans folk more generally.

In the context of an increased focus on the participation and success of marginalised social groups in HE, the question of how non-binary students and staff move through and thrive in HE becomes more pressing. Increasingly universities have been developing trans inclusion policies. However, these policies often focus on binary transition and do not consider non-binary genders. Universities are also struggling with questions of inclusive curricula around issues of gender, sexuality, race, class and disability. Despite this, the question of how to include non-binary genders or what the impact of their exclusion from curricula is has not yet been addressed.

Consequently we currently know very little about the experiences and needs of non-binary people in HE. It is in this context of lack of research and literature that we are conducting our research. The Non-Binary Genders in Higher Education: Lived Experiences, Imagined Futures project will use a number of different methods to gather information on the experiences of non-binary staff and students in UK HE institutions and to create spaces for non-binary people involved in HE to come together and dream a different future.

The overall aims of the study are:

  • To understand non-binary student and teaching staff experiences of HE, including navigating institutions, engaging with specialist resources, reflecting on the curriculum.
  • To use our data to provide universities with policy recommendations and examples of best practice.
  • To gather resources and share experiences with other members of the non-binary academic community to create a different HE experience for students and each other.
  • To add to the literature on inclusive curriculum and explore the disruptive potential of non- binary genders for transforming the academy.

In 2019 in the first phase of the project we conducted an online survey, the data from which we are currently analysing. We also held a Skills Share event for non-binary academics and a Roundtable discussion (which you can listen to here). In late 2022 we conducted six focus groups with HE students across the country in which we imagined what a university built by and for non-binary people would be like. See the events and resources pages for outputs from the project and future events information.

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