There is one unusual metric in which King’s College London far outpaces every other university in the UK, Russell Group or otherwise: the number of students who identify as neither male nor female.
A recent Sunday Times article reported 830 students pursuing higher education last year declared their gender as “other,” a figure that has more than doubled over 12 months.
According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), King’s tops the list, with 160 enrolled students identifying as neither male nor female in the 2016-17 academic year, the most recent year of reporting. This is more than twice the number of the runner-up, The University of Glasgow.
Whatever the common denominator may be, it’s not a London thing: London School of Economics had 10 students who marked “other,” while University College London had 0.
HESA data also report that gender neutral/non-binary students across the UK tend to study creative arts & design and social studies subjects. Agriculture and veterinary science subjects had zero gender neutral/non-binary students in 2016-2017.
Owen Goode, a 2nd-year at King’s who prefers the “they/them” pronouns, has written on their blog about what it means to be gender non-binary.
Regarding King’s’ progress, Goode is generally enthusiastic. “Having the option to identify on records as ‘other’ in terms of gender identity is a huge step in itself, as some universities and working bodies may not offer this as an option.”
In addition, Goode comments, “Gender-neutral toilets in the Strand campus are a big signifier of a positive direction; these are signposted well and provide security for non-binary/gender neutral students.”
However, “if King’s wishes to pave the way for non-binary/gender neutral students – as it should given the large proportion of us identifying as such – there is much more to be done,” Goode states, citing the normalisation of clarifying pronouns in class settings as an area for improvement. “To use the correct pronouns for someone is to accept their very existence, therefore it’s essential we get it right.”