Professor Sarah Harper CBE
Professor of Gerontology
+44 (0) 1865 612800
Sarah is Professor of Gerontology at the University of Oxford. She is the Co-Director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing which she founded in 1997 with funding from the National Institute of Aging. Sarah served on the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, which advises the Prime Minister on the scientific evidence for strategic policies and frameworks. In 2017 she served as the Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Sarah is a Director and Trustee of the UK Research Integrity Office and a member of the Board of Health Data Research UK. Sarah was appointed a CBE in 2018 for services to Demography.
She chaired the UK government’s Foresight Review on Ageing Populations (2014-2016) and has chaired the European Ageing Index Panel for the UNECE Population Unit since 2015. She is a Governor of the Pensions Policy Institute. She is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropology Institute. Sarah’s research was recognized by the 2011 Royal Society for Public Health: Arts and Health Research Award.
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
Matthew Tye: Increasing Longevity in Vietnam: Ageing and the Life Course.
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.
- Demography: A Very Short Introduction
- The Qualitative Stage of Building Bayesian Belief Networks in a Focus Group Setting
- The Ageing of Myanmar’s Farmer Population
- Building Evidence for Active Ageing Policies: Active Ageing Index and its Potential
- As the World Ages: When Older Populations Become the Majority
- Transnational mobility and cross-border family life-cycles of Italian migrants: A century of Welsh Italian migration
- The Reformation of Age and Ageing
- Population Ageing and Changing Families: a comparison of the UK and Singapore
- Population Ageing in South-East Asia
- Global Ageing
- Population, Technological and Environmental Change
- Longevity, Politics and Science – Moving from the Outcomes to Understanding the Process
- Critical Readings on Ageing in Southeast Asia (2 vols)
- Making the UK more Resilient to Age-Structural Change and Longevity: Translating Academic Evidence into Policy
- The Important Role of Migration for an Ageing Nation
- How Population Change Will Transform Our World
- Aging Populations and Management: From the Editors
- Migration and Ageing Societies
- Conceptualising Social Policy for the Twenty-first-century Demography.
- Critical Readings on Ageing in East Asia
- International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy
- Population Ageing in East Asia
- Economic and social implications of aging societies
- The Opportunity for “Design” to Influence the Ageing Process Itself
- Achieving Replacement Level Fertility
- Dawning of a New Age for Longitudinal Cohort Data
- Implications of 20th Century policy models for 21st Century demography
- Population - Environment Interactions: European migration, population composition and climate change
- Demographic and Environmental Transitions
- Environment, migration and the European demographic deficit
- Inequalities in access to education: failing to provide skills-building and empowerment to girls
- Age structural change and the demographic transition
- Giants of the 21st Century: Longevity and Disability
- Health and well-being in older workers: Capacity change with age
- Demographic Transition: Positioning the Age-structural Change Perspective
- Aging Europe’s Demographic Destiny: Framing the Challenges Ahead
- Demographic transition and the demographic deficit: rethinking intergenerational equity.
- The capacity of social security and health care institutions to adapt to an ageing world
- Grandparenting in Europe
- Grandmothers as Replacement Parents and Partners: The Role of Grandmotherhood in Single Parent Families
- People and the Planet: The Role of Global Population in Sustainable Development
- Social Security in an Ageing World
- Ageing Societies: Myths, Challenges and Opportunities
- The Status Quo of Foreign Workers in the Health and Social Care Sector in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands