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DPhil Supervision

My research interests are around disability (particularly learning disability  and autism), qualitative research and health experiences. I'm also interested in exploring ways of including people who are 'seldom heard' in research.

Sara Ryan

BSc (Hons), PhD, PGDipLATHE, FHEA


Senior Research Lead

My background is in sociology and anthropology and I have a PhD in Health and Social Care from the University of Warwick. My research focuses on disability, autism, and, more broadly, health experiences. Particular interests lie in understanding and engaging with the health (and life) experiences of people labelled as learning disabled or autistic and contributing to the participation of people typically excluded from research practices.  

I've undertaken work funded by NIHR Research for Patient Benefit, General Medical Council, Wellcome Trust, School for Primary Care Research and two Department of Health funded Policy Research Units;  Quality and Outcomes of Person-centred Care Policy Research Unit (University of Kent, the London School of Economics (LSE) and University of Oxford); Policy Research Innovation Unit (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, LSE and Imperial College).

I have considerable experience in qualitative research methods, particularly in-depth interviewing, focus groups and re-analysis of existing data. I've been involved in teaching on the Qualitative Research Methods module on the MSc in Evidence-Based Health Care and oversee the HERG portfolio of qualitative methods courses.

I’m External Examiner for the Disability Studies undergraduate degree course, University of Northumbria and was until recently an associate editor for Disability and Society. I set up and co-convened the British Sociological Association (BSA) Disability Studies Group between 2011-2016 and am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. 

My academic work has become fused with activism since the preventable death of my son, Connor Sparrowhawk in 2013. I've been centrally involved in the #JusticeforLB campaign which sought to gain accountability for Connor's death and raise awareness of the impoverished treatment of learning disabled people in the UK. This campaign led to the identification of systematic failings in investigating the unexpected deaths of learning disabled people/people with mental ill health. In 2016, the campaign was awarded a Liberty Human Rights 'Close to home' award. I was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science by Oxford Brookes University in June 2019.

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