The experiences of LGBTQ+ students in higher education in Ireland

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education


The experience of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Ace (LGBTQ+) students in higher education in Ireland has been under researched for many years. The aim of this study was to gain an insight into the experiences of LGBTQ+ students who are studying in the Institute of Technology sector in Ireland. This study employed semi structured interviews and Photo-Elicitation to capture the experience of LGBTQ+ students.

Thematic analysis identified eight themes from the interviews, namely the negative experiences of LGBTQ+ students in secondary schools; the mixed experiences with staff in their Institutes; their experience of ‘coming out’ and how it maps to the CASS identity development model; the critical role of the LGBTQ+ societies as the only sign of LGBTQ+ life on campus; participant's enjoyment of diversity, inclusion and equality education at Pink Training events; the presence of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in their lives’; the trans student experience and finally, the mental health of LGBTQ+ students and the role of their pets in alleviating their stresses and anxieties.

The study provided a unique and detailed insight into the perspectives of the participants’ experiences as students in IoTs. This research is of value to anyone within HE, educators, those involved in advancing equality, diversity and inclusion, and proves valuable to student union managements by outlining areas where practice may be improved to better support LGBTQ+ students. Participants voiced many suggestions for Institute staff and management to help create a more positive, visible and inclusive environment.

Recommendations from this study focus on increasing the visibility of the LGBTQ+ student community on campus and providing training for staff. Staff training should raise awareness of how to support transgender student. Supports should include changes to the student record system to allow preferred name and gender, more proactive promotion of LGBTQ+ events on campus and greater backing for LGBTQ+ societies, especially in relation to mental health issues.

Thesis embargoed until 31 December 2023.
Date of AwardDec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorDirk Schubotz (Supervisor) & Dina Belluigi (Supervisor)


  • LGBTQ+
  • student experience
  • higher education
  • campus climate
  • CASS
  • intersectionality

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