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UCAS letter

Here is the letter that Nonbinary Inclusion Project have sent to UCAS about changes to their application form.

Further to your request for enagement: we’d like to ask for 3 changes –

1) Instead of asking for legal sex, UCAS should ask for gender. We would like to see 4 options – male, female, nonbinary, and “not indicated above ____________ ” with the option for applicants to write in their own response. The last 2 boxes would both be coded as option 3 on the HESA forms. We note that HESA has already told us that these changes are acceptable to them https://storify.com/nonbinaryuk/hesa-tweets-1 .

2) We’ve had reports that many trans* people who applied in the last few years (before the form was changed) and asked for clarification of the gender question have been told to answer with the sex as per their birth certificate rather than their gender. This needs to stop under the new system. Staff should be trained to know that they must not ask for applicants’ “legal sex”, and to use words like “gender identity” instead. Previous experience has taught us that staff training is very important to ensure staff are aware of the changes to the system and what to tell callers.

3) Some people have raised concerns that the monitoring question (” “Is your gender identity different to the sex you were assumed to be at birth? – Yes/No/I prefer not to say”” might out them because ‘only people who are transgender will reply prefer not to say’). We can understand and support the aim of recording the number of transgender applicants to ensure your system promotes equality. However, we would like to see this data collected anonymously in a separate section of the form and stored in an aggregated format rather than being linked to individuals. We note this is already standard practice on many employment applications which could be used as a model for this approach.

With regards to the timing – I can appreciate that it does take a long time for a large organisation such as UCAS to make these type of changes. However, our concern is that they need to be in place in time for people who are applying to university in 2015. We note that the first deadline is 15th October 2014 for most Oxbridge, medicine, dentistry and vetinary applications, and we are concerned that trans* people should have equal access to apply to these courses as well as those with the later deadline. We would like to see at least changes 1) and 2) in place by then. We also note that UCAS may be breaking it’s obligations under the Equality Act 2010 if this does not happen. We are willing to commit to not creating any petitions or protests about the issue until the start of October 2014, to give UCAS time to respond. At this point we would like to recieve an update and we will make a decision about what to do next. We do appreciate that this is a tight timescale for yourselves.

I’ve also copied into this email the other trans* organisations who signed our petition as organisational signatures in case they would also like to comment. We will be posting the email on our website to show our supporters exactly what we have asked for.

Finally, thank you for taking on board our feedback and making a quick decision to change things.

Kind Regards,

Backstory:

UCAS changed their forms to ask for “legal sex on your birth certificate” rather than gender, we started a petition, which got loads of signatures, support from other trans organisations and got written about for Gay Star News. And in the space of about a week and a half, before we’d got round to writing about it on here, UCAS agreed to make changes. “I would like to inform you that we will be making changes to the way in which we gather information about gender and sex as quickly as we possibly can and I would be keen to engage with you about these changes”- more from their email here.

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