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Dr Frances Hamilton and Tahlia-Rose Virdee

16 October 2023, 8:13 UTC Share

Introducing the LGBTQ Travel Tool – An Interactive Policy Development Tool

We are proud to introduce the LGBTQ Travel tool. This electronic toolkit allows employers and Universities to devise specific policy and practice considering LGBTQ student and staff engagement with international travel. The toolkit also allows individuals to check how their employer or University is supporting them where LGBTQ international travel is concerned. The tool is freely available and will be of interest to anyone who is concerned with LGBTQ international travel. The tool was built following achieving funding from the University of Reading Rapid Response impact fund, allocating money from Research England.

Addressing the lack of policy in Higher Education and businesses regarding LGBTQ international travel. 

Following sending Freedom of Information request letters nationwide, our research found that only 27 universities (17%) have explicit policy in this area expressly considering LGBTQ welfare concerns when travelling worldwide (see our published research Frances Hamilton and Cameron Giles, ‘International Academic Mobility, Agency and LGBTQ Rights: A Review of Policy Responses to Internationally Mobile LGBTQ staff / students at UK HE Institutions with Recommendations for a Global Audience’ Policy Reviews in Higher Education (2021) 1 -22. DOI: 10.1080/23322969.2021.1969990)

Policy development in this area is needed due to welfare concerns about LGBTQ persons travelling abroad. This is a diversity of legal, social and cultural treatment of LGBTQ persons worldwide. Sixty-six countries globally retain criminal sanctions concerning sex between men, others criminalise lesbianism, do not protect LGBTQ persons against discrimination, or recognise same-sex marriage, civil partnership or child custody rights and target transgender people through laws prohibiting ‘cross-dressing’ and ‘disguise’ offences.

Yet when the UK government has sought to promote UK Education export growth through their International Education Strategy, there has been no discussion of LGBTQ persons and potential welfare challenges. Policy development in this area is particularly needed due to the establishment of international branch campuses, and the Turing scheme (replacing the EU focused Erasmus scheme) which promotes student exchanges worldwide. Research demonstrates connections between engagement in internationalisation, student employability and staff career progression. However LGBTQ staff face challenges to their welfare when crossing international boundaries. These challenges therefore must also be considered while supporting academic staff and students, and professional service staff, who wish to engage with policymakers and organisations on an international level with relevant research. Where we are increasingly seeing a steer from funders and Universities toward strengthening the evidence-informed policy ecosystem and showcasing the policy and societal impact of research, we cannot ignore the EDI dimensions of supporting marginalised & LGBTQ researchers to do this safely and securely. 

The impact on LGBTQ staff was further demonstrated when the authors interviewed fifteen LGBTQ academics in March 2022, about their lived- experiences of international travel.  The cumulative findings of all of our research projects to date, highlight that there is a distinct lack of effective policy including consideration of specified LGBTQ risks, dangers and concerns when travelling internationally. These circumstances have been exacerbated by several factors, including: LGBTQ stakeholders not being consulted or having their concerns dismissed in the process of institutional policy formation, a lack of or poorly informed policy to safeguard against specific risks to LGBTQ persons, and the use[FH1]  of risk assessments which do not consider specific challenges posed to LGBTQ persons when travelling abroad and therefore do not produce well-considered plans of action for LGBTQ international travellers. The oversight of policy considerations can cause barriers to access for LGBTQ staff and students considering international travel for work or educational purposes, including academic-policy engagement, concerns on how to stay safe and avoid discrimination, violence and even prosecution in certain jurisdictions with different social and legal perceptions of LGBTQ persons.

More about our LGBTQ Travel Tool

The LGBTQ travel tool seeks to address this gap in policy. The toolkit available here LGBTQ International Travel Tool ( is interactive and freely accessible and guides employers and universities to create LGBTQ international travel policies. Individuals can also check how their employer or university can minimise risks to their safety and wellbeing when travelling. Upon completion of the tool, users are provided with personalised feedback and suggestions (dependent on their input into the tool) to consider when developing international travel polices or checking their employers’ current policies and practices. There is a particular focus on the safeguarding of LGBTQ persons. The evidence gathered by the authors whenever the toolkit is used will be utilised by the authors to provide evidence to the UK government that future revisions of the UK International Education Strategy do need to consider LGBTQ welfare when travelling internationally.

Authors: Primary Investigator Dr Frances Hamilton (Associate Professor, School of Law) contact
Research Assistant Tahlia-Rose Virdee (Postgraduate Researcher, School of Law) 

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