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Professor Sarah Harper CBE

MA Cantab; DPhil Oxon, Clore Professor of Gerontology

Fellow, University College

+44 (0) 1865 612800

Sarah is Clore Professor of Gerontology at the University of Oxford, a Fellow at University College, and the Founding Director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing. She was appointed a CBE for services to Demography. Sarah served on the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, which advises the UK Prime Minister on the scientific evidence for strategic policies and frameworks. She served as the  Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and is currently a Director of the UK Research Integrity Office and a member of the Board of Health Data Research UK.

She chaired the UK government’s Foresight Review on Ageing Populations (2014-2016) and  the Evaluation Board of the UN Active Ageing Index. She is a Governor of the Pensions Policy Institute. She is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropology Institute. She holds a  Royal Society for Public Health Arts and Health Research Award for her research.

Sarah has a background in anthropology and population studies and her early research focused on migration and the social implications of demographic change. Her current research on demographic change addresses the impact of falling fertility and increasing life expectancy, with a particular interest in Asia and Africa. Recent research has focused on women’s education and empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa and the impact of this on desired family size,  older women's health in Africa,  and European life course trajectories and late life female health. She currently directs two research projects looking at the ageing of farmers in Vietnam and Myanmar.  Sarah has just completed a monograph How Population Change will Transform our World  Oxford University Press (2016), and is working on her next book for Cambridge University Press on Population, Technology and Environmental Change. Sarah is the founding editor of the Journal of Population Ageing and editor of the Handbook of Ageing and Public Policy (Elgar 2014).

Following her doctoral work in population studies at Oxford, Sarah trained with the BBC as a News and Current Affairs Reporter and Producer, working in both TV and Radio for BBC News and BBC News Night. After leaving the BBC she took up a lectureship at the University of London, and subsequently moved to the USA where she was professor in public policy at the University of Chicago. On returning to the University of Oxford she founded the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing with funding from the US National Institutes of Health. 

Throughout her academic career, Sarah has combined academic research with external professional commitments. She was Chair of  HSBC’s  Global Ageing Forum and is a former Trustee of Third Age Employment Network.  She worked with the Office of the Prime Minister and Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) on the Government Ageing Strategy, and with the Department of Children, Schools and Families, developing their Horizons Programme, and the UK Government Office of Science Advisory Boards for the Demography Review. Sarah served on the Scientific Advisory Board of Natural England and serves on the Advisory Board, English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).

Internationally, Sarah represents the UK on the European Science Academies’ Demographic Change in Europe Panel, serves on the Council of Advisors of Population Europe and on the Advisory Board of the World Demographic Association. Sarah is an International Advisor on the University of Tokyo Global Leadership Initiative and represents Oxford on the Ageing and Demography Collaboration of the  International Association of Research Universities. Sarah was the first holder of the International Chair in Old Age Financial Security, at the University of Malaya (2009-10).

Sarah served as Advisor to the Malaysian Government, Advisor to the Singapore Government’s Third Age Council and as a Specialist Advisor for the European Commission Demographic Change Programme. She served as an International Advisor to the Swedish Academy, European Advisor to the MacArthur Foundation, Advisor on Ageing Issues to the Calouste Gulbenkian  Foundation, Lisbon  and was Global Advisor on Ageing Issues for HSBC plc. She served on the Royal Society’s Working Group on Population, the Wellcome Trust Health Consequences of Population Change Panel and on the World Economic Forum, Global Agenda Council on Ageing Societies.

Alongside keynotes at academic conferences, Sarah has spoken at World Economic Forums in China and Australia, presented various TED and TED linked talks and presented her work at two Nobel Prize Dialogues, in Stockholm in 2014 and Seoul in 2017. Sarah was invited to give the 2012 Oxford-London Lecture on the subject of population change.


Current PhD students

Luca Chiaverini: Evaluating scenarios of biodiversity conservation in Southeast Asia under future land-use and socio-economic changes.

Graduated PhD Students

Burcu Ozdemir: (2017) Intergenerational Solidarity between Adult Children and Elderly Parents in Turkey.

Francesca Ghillani: (2017) Transnational communities.

Patricia O'Neill: (2014) The changing Roles and Status of Chinese daughters

Jaco Hoffman: (2012) The generational contract in Contemporary South Africa: configurations and reconfigurations in the context of HIV/AIDS

Chul Hoi Koo (2010): Reinforcement of income Inequality in Later Life: a case study of Korea (DPhil, Oxon)

Koichi Mikami (2010): Technology as a Social Process:  Cultural Theory Approach to Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine in the UK and Japan (DPhil, Oxon)

Samir K. Sinha (2008): The Sociology of Interprofessional Relations:  A Case Study of English Care Trusts (DPhil, Oxon)

Hugh Jones (1995): Community Care for Elderly People (Ph.D, London)

T Bristow (1993): Environmental Perception and Social Change, (Ph.D, London)


Links to publicly accessible reports; academic publications available on request.