New plan will allow newcomers adapt to college life
A leading university has launched a housing scheme specifically for LGBT students to enable them to adapt to college life.
Anyone applying to the University of Limerick (UL) for this September will be able to request accommodation available only to lesbian, gay and transgender students.
College accommodation bosses say the move will ensure there is "a safe, secure living environment for all residents".
The flats themselves will be within the wider halls of residence on campus - and the college has already revealed it has received more than 200 applications from students across 30 countries. There are 2,800 student beds on campus.
UL becomes the first college in Ireland to provide the scheme, following in the footsteps of the University of Sheffield in South Yorkshire.
Campus Life Services villages manager Carol-Jane Shanley, who is spearheading the initiative, said: "Campus Life Services has long been committed to providing the best student living experience for students at the University of Limerick.
"This involves ensuring high-quality accommodation facilities and service in a secure environment for all our residents. It is with this intention of providing a safe, secure living environment for all residents that we came up with the rainbow housing programme."
She acknowledged that rainbow housing would not solve the problems of every LGBT student at the university.
"However, it can create the conversation in which people can learn from one another.
"The best way to fight homophobia and transphobia is to educate and that's what we hope to do with rainbow housing," Ms Shanley added.
UL Students Union welfare officer Serena Hare said: "It's not just the LGBT+ community who are going to benefit from this; all the students in the university community are going to benefit from this. We all want to learn from each other. I am really proud to be a UL student at the moment and be representative of that."
Dr Amanda Haynes, co-director of UL's hate and hostility research group, said: "UL will be enriched by the presence on campus of a resource that encourages all of our LGBT students and allies to be active, critical, political, disruptive and constructive contributors to our collective campus life."
She also said rainbow housing was not about "self-segregation". "It's about giving LGBT students access to a supportive base in which to launch themselves comfortably, proudly and assertively in campus life," she said.
"For those LGBT people who choose not to live in LGBT housing, and there will be many, the presence of rainbow housing is just as important."
The homes are designed for both LGBT people and those supportive of the LGBT community. The blocks will come from the existing supply of campus accommodation and the amount allocated will be demand led.
The University of Sheffield introduced the scheme last year, which met criticism.
Simon Thompson, director of the website Accommodation for Students, warned it could promote segregation on campus.