Named Contact for Trans Students


Institution:                       City of Glasgow College

 

Lead contact: Graeme Brewster and Rick Ellis

Contact Details: graeme.brewster@cityofglasgowcollege.ac.uk  / 0141 375 5401 

rick.ellis@cityofglasgowcollege.ac.uk / 0141 375 5125

 



Named contact for trans students


Due to a number of contributing factors, trans students have a higher risk of withdrawal from courses. Subsequently, since session 2016-2017, the City of Glasgow College has a named contact within Student Services who offers bespoke advice, support and advocacy for trans and gender diverse students.


While Rick Ellis, a Student Advisor at City of Glasgow College, works with all students across the college, he is developing particular expertise in supporting trans students. The Student Advisor provides practical and emotional support to all trans and gender diverse students, including students who may be questioning or exploring their gender identity. This includes providing a range of support, from one-off practical advice to longer-term emotional support.


The majority of students have so far self-referred to see Rick, and staff are also able to refer students to the service. The teaching staff at the college play an important role in signposting students to the named contact service.


The college was aware that trans students may be subject to bullying and harassment by other students, and may also encounter issues in their broader social circles and at home. The Student Advisor works with trans students to increase their resilience and to assist them with developing strategies to cope with difficulties faced in their day-to-day lives. A dedicated Student Counsellor is also on hand to provide support, should the need arise.


The named contact also provides advocacy and practical support to students. This has included assisting students to change their name in student records, and contacting qualification authorities to arrange for certificate changes and to clarify errors. While seemingly small actions, this form of support is invaluable to trans students, who often face a multitude of barriers when navigating administrative systems, obtaining official documents, and changing names.


Rick is currently working with fifteen trans students, the majority of whom are trans women. For the trans women students, it seems the main barrier faced is acceptance and ‘passing’ as women. Some have found walking through the college difficult at times, as it is now open plan with a large stairwell that runs through the main campus, which can be intimidating. At the student’s request, Rick can welcome students through the side entrance to his offices, which is more discreet and less stressful for the students seeking assistance.

 


Why was the activity established? Was there a perceived need, evidence of issue?

The primary focus of the support was to facilitate conversation with the departments to ensure any change in circumstance or need for time off for appointments is discreetly handled.

 

How effective has the activity been and how has impact been measured?

Impact of the initiative can be demonstrated by retention data of Trans students. Of the eight referrals received during 2016-2017, seven students complete their course/academic year and feedback of the support has been overwhelmingly positive. The college is looking to further develop the service by requesting feedback at the end of the year to ensure the service is continually adapting to meet the needs of those students who access it. From session 2017-2018, the 'named contact' provision has been extended to all LGBT+ students for guidance and support.

 

Any lessons learned or advice for others considering a similar activity?

It is important not to assume every experience will be the same and to empower the student to lead on what support they would most benefit from. As such, the service should be tailored to provided support and and guidance to maximise the positive student experience and to remove or minimise any barriers that they may face.

 

What has worked well?

Empowering students to lead the service provision has been effective. For example, the college encourages students to determine when they access the service and in what capacity. Some students like to meet regularly to talk about how they are getting on whereas others just engage when they have appointments so that the Student Advisor can communicate to all relevant departments with discretion.

 

Have there been any challenges?

Other student attitudes to some of the students have been challenging and can have a real impact on the student experience of trans students. However the college has adopted a zero tolerance perspective on bullying and harassment and all staff have a responsibility to challenge if and when it occurs. The College is looking to adapt the student induction programme to have more emphasis on tolerance and better awareness of Hate Crimes.

 

Future plans:

  • Development of relevant on- and off-line communications and enhanced engagement with Students’ Association and the student LGBTQ+ Society.
  • The Student Gender Reassignment Procedure is currently being revised to include a Checklist, detailing specific support stages which, following student consent, could be completed.