SOAS University of London

SOAS at the heart of newly-formed group to improve support for disabled students

10 March 2020
Deborah Johnston

SOAS University of London’s Professor Deborah Johnston has been appointed as a commissioner of the newly-formed Disabled Students' Commission (DSC), an independent group which will advise and influence higher education providers to improve support for disabled students.

Professor Johnston attended DSC’s first ever meeting this week (Monday 9 March 2020) in London. The commission will develop and promote approaches which work better for disabled students, and provide the independent challenge that is needed to make change happen for disabled students across the English higher education sector.

Professor Johnston is a person who stammers, having worked closely with both the British Stammering Association and the Stammering Through University Consultancy to ensure greater awareness of the needs of students who stammer. She was key to organising national conferences and offering support for students who stammer, as well as organising International Stammering Awareness day activities, along with SOAS colleagues Zoe Davies, Ben Mason, Carol John and Beulah Samuel-Ogbu.

At SOAS in recent years, Professor Johnston has also fostered a close partnership with the Students Union to eliminate the Racial Awarding Gap, and was the institutional champion for SOAS’ Widening Participation Team’s work supporting access and success for all students.

SOAS has also recently been involved in other initiatives such as:

  • The provision of advice on inclusive teaching materials and the social model of disability in the inclusive SOAS workshops, championed by Ilana Webster Kogen and David Webster
  • The development by the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) of new guidelines for the provision of material on Moodle in order to promote inclusion  
  • Ensuring greater investment in Student Advice and Wellbeing, particularly around mental health, with the new Mental Health Strategy led by Lydia Pell

Professor Johnston said: “It was an honour to attend the first DSC meeting today and I look forward to supporting their agenda, and helping to create an environment where all students are supported to flourish.

“The DSC provides the opportunity to look at the breadth of advice and challenge, ensuring that we think across the range of students that identify as disabled and consider how to support success for both undergraduate and postgraduate study.” 

The DSC replaces the Disabled Students' Sector Leadership Group (DSSLG). Professor Geoff Layer was appointed Chair of the Disabled Students' Commission in July 2019


Professor Deborah Johnston, is Pro-Director (Learning and Teaching) and Professor in Development Economics at SOAS University of London.