top of page
  • Writer's pictureSophie Lehner

Visible Invisibility – Students’ perception of queer in/visibility in higher education

Author: Sophie Lehner



The purpose of this thesis was to explore how students perceive queer in/visibility

in higher education. Queer is defined as a concept that includes queer pedagogy, queer

theory, as well as queer as an identity. Previous research has shown that queering

educational institutions was not sufficiently happening. This study aims to give an overview

of the current state of queer visibility in higher education by investigating how students in one education faculty perceive queer in higher education. The major question driving the inquiry was if and in what way queer was visible or invisible to the students.


The study was conducted by applying a thematic analysis to participants responses

to a writing prompt. The thematic analysis was operationalised through inductive and deductive coding. The deductive coding was based on the theoretical concepts of invisibility as well as on the Ward-Gale model. Inductive coding was used to complement the analysis.

Results and conclusions.

The results of the study show a profound invisibility of queerness in higher education and limited visibility. Queer visibility was mostly connected to individual students’ visibility and the queer community. There is a clear lack of visibility in staff, curriculum, and higher education structures. The outcomes demonstrate the harm this can do on students’ well-being. Some participants portray being queer as something that is hard but also that it could have been easier if there had been more education on the topic. The study initially aimed to expand the Ward-Gale model; however, the results demonstrate that

elements of the existing model are not being implemented in the higher education institution that served as the site of this study.

I suggest that further research needs to be done on this topic and strongly urges institutions of higher education to increase queer visibility. Furthermore, I suggest implementing teacher trainings, making use of queer teaching materials, encouraging teachers to queer their teaching style, and organising queer events. One way to begin enhancing queer visibility is to implement the Ward-Gale model that is presented in this study.

The full thesis is available below.

LEHNER_Sophie_Thesis_2023 - Sophie Lehner
Download PDF • 634KB

The article will be submitted for publishing to the European Journal of Higher Education.


Sophie Lehner is a passionate advocate for inclusion and equity in higher education. As an alumna of Changing Education and a former CE trainee, she has demonstrated a deep commitment to reshaping the educational landscape. Sophie's expertise and interests lie in Queer pedagogy, where she strives to create a more inclusive and accepting learning environment for all. With a dedication to fostering diversity and promoting educational equity, Sophie Lehner is a driving force for positive change in the world of academia.

Key Words: queer, invisibility, visibility, queer pedagogy, higher education, Finland


bottom of page