Trans, non-binary students protest biased new UK university admission rules

Students of all gender identities are celebrating after UCAS chooses to change their rules that could have arguably violated the Equality Act

Trans, non-binary students protest biased new UK university admission rules
19 August 2014

Non-binary and trans students are victorious after protesting biased new UK university admission rules.

UCAS, the UK’s official provider of university admissions services, sought to immediately review their procedures following a petition on change.org.

The Nonbinary Inclusion Project spotted UCAS had amended their application form for 2015 university admissions, asking students to state their ‘legal sex’ of either male or female. The question was not optional.

On Twitter, a UCAS spokesperson claimed this had been done in order to bring their data into line with requests from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). However, HESA denied this was the case, explaining their system already allowed for a third option.

In the petition, the Nonbinary Inclusion Project then demanded UCAS ‘change your application form to ask about gender rather than legal sex and offer more than two options.’

Over the space of one weekend, over 2,000 people signed their name including organizations such as Scottish Transgender Alliance, UK Trans Info and MxActivist.

‘Binary-gendered trans men and trans women should not have to wait two years for a gender recognition certificate before they can apply to university in their correct gender,’ the petition said.

‘Meanwhile, those who have nonbinary gender identities are currently denied any opportunity of legal recognition of their gender in the UK.

‘We want them [UCAS] to make the application process inclusive of people who are transgender by asking for gender rather than “legal sex on your birth certificate” and offering options for people with nonbinary gender identities.’

Cassian Lodge, of MxActivist, said: ‘It’s important that UCAS ask for gender instead of legal sex because there are a lot of nonbinary and intersex people who don’t fit into the limited two-box system of legally male/female, and because there are a lot of trans higher-education applicants who simply don’t have access to a gender recognition certificate.

‘Even if you’re binary trans it needlessly forces you to out yourself to universities before you’ve even been accepted. Asking for legal sex is unnecessary and invasive.’

Mermaids UK said the new rules would negatively affect transgender applicants – given the majority of those students would be around the age of 18.

It would be highly unlikely anyone of this age would have been able to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate in time to apply to UCAS. Therefore those who have transitioned, or intend to transition as they start their course will be asked to disclose not just their legal gender but also their medical condition of gender dysphoria, which is not necessary.

A Mermaids UK spokesperson told GSN: ‘This is likely to have serious effects on their mental and emotional health as starting University can be stressful in itself – it is such a big change, even though it will be one that is wanted.

‘Having to state their legal gender will add to that stress significantly and may put some people off from continuing with their application.

‘This proposed change may in itself be illegal according to the Equality Act 2010.

‘Being “outed” in this way may also cause trans students to suffer abuse, as they may not be able to keep their legal gender confidential – which would again impact negatively on their health and well-being, and may mean that they would not do so well at their studies.

‘If someone has transitioned and is living in their true gender role they should not be asked to disclose their legal gender’.

UCAS has responded promptly, saying they are intending to put it right.

A spokesman told Gay Star News: ‘UCAS wants everyone applying to university to be able to self-identify clearly, as they wish.

‘In addition to sex, our application form gives students the option of telling us whether the gender they identify with at the time of applying is different.

‘For example, if an applicant would at that point describe themselves as transgender, then they can select "yes".

‘We take the inclusivity of our definitions very seriously and have listened to the concerns raised. We are looking at how we can make the options broader and clearer, as quickly as possible, by engaging with representative groups.

‘The information is used by universities and colleges so they can better understand the composition of their student population and are able to identify and remove any barriers to an inclusive environment for all students.

‘All data disclosed is stored in compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998.’

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