Support for disabled students

Disability in Higher Education Advisory Panel

The Disability in Higher Education Advisory Panel is a committee of the OfS Board and is chaired by John Blake, Director for Fair Access and Participation. Suzanne Carrie, Head of Student Equality and Welfare at the OfS, is deputy chair.  

The panel will provide expert advice on enhancing disabled students’ experiences in higher education by considering and reviewing how universities and colleges currently support disabled students, as well as, drawing on evidence, research and analysis from the sector to make recommendations on how to support their educational experience. 

In addition to the chair and deputy chair the panel will consist of: 

  • Independent members who bring extensive experience of being a senior leader at a higher education provider or in a leadership position in disability policy in public, private or third sector organisations. 
  • Student members representing current and future disabled students’ perspectives in higher education in the work of the committee.  

The panel will meet up to four times a year. The panel will run until June 2025.

Meet the panel 

a photo of Deborah Johnston against a black background.

Deborah Johnston

I am Deputy Vice Chancellor at London South Bank University, and previously was at SOAS, University of London.  I chair the Disabled Student Commitment Advisory Group, am on the board of STAMMA and a member of TASO Disability and Mental Health Working Group. I am a professor of development economics. 

I hope to contribute by bringing insight from the introduction of the Commitment, and my role in other sector groups.  I bring experience from my academic background in the analysis of research and evaluation.  As part of a university leadership team, I can contribute to discussions of effective institutional change.   

A photo of Gurur Deniz Uyanik.

Gurur Deniz Uyanik

I am a Parliamentary Assistant in the House of Commons. During my degree, I represented disabled students as a Disabled Students’ Officer, an accessibility rep, an NUS Liberation Conference delegate, a trained disabled student consultant, and a campaigner for Access Sussex.

For higher education institutions to excel, accessibility should be at the core of every step, which requires the consistent involvement of disabled students in advisory and decision-making roles. I was thrilled to see a panel that compensates, and values disabled students’ expertise on a national level.

A photo of Helen Childs against a white background.

Helen Childs

I am the Head of Disability, SpLD and Neurodiversity at the University of Kent, overseeing and managing the service provided to approximately 3000 disabled students. I have previously worked as a Disability Advisor at De Montfort University, as well as advising higher education students studying within an further education context.  

I want to work towards a world where disabled students have a full equitable experience at university, regardless of where, what and how they choose to study. I am particularly passionate about supporting students with chronic medical conditions, d/Deaf and visually impaired students and those with mobility needs.  

A photo of John Harding.

John Harding

I have been the Head of the Accessibility & Disability Resource Centre at the University of Cambridge since 2008. I am also the Company Secretary of the National Association of Disability Practitioners (NADP). I am a qualified teacher and SpLD diagnostic assessor and nearing completion of my doctorate in inclusive education.  

I am extremely enthusiastic about the opportunity to bring my extensive experience, strategic vision, and passion for disability equality to the panel as both a disability practitioner and a disabled person. I am fully committed to supporting the panel’s contribution to the enhancement of disabled students' experiences in higher education. 

A photo of Josh Bradbury.

Josh Bradbury

I am the outgoing Co-President at the University of British Columbia Disabilities United Collective (representing Disabled students on the 60,000 person Vancouver campus), and incoming Campaigns and Events Officer for Autism at Warwick. I was previously Secretary for Warwick Enable and a Student Inclusion Officer for the University of Warwick. 

I have always been incredibly passionate about ensuring that my fellow disabled students receive the support we deserve, after seeing how many disabled students are let down by our universities. Joining the panel will enable me to leverage my lived experiences to help deliver change and support disabled students. 

A photo of Lucy Merritt against a white background.

Lucy Merritt

As Education Policy Manager at Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT), I work to improve educational experiences for blind and partially sighted individuals. My work focuses on improving access to education, amplifying the voices of blind and partially sighted people. I have extensive experience of working in quality assurance roles in higher education. 

I am passionate about education and dedicated to fostering an inclusive education system. At TPT, we frequently encounter students facing unnecessary barriers to their education. I am excited to bring my experience as a SEND education policy specialist and seasoned higher education practitioner to support the work of OfS.  

A photo of Patrick Johnson against a white background.

Patrick Johnson

I am Pro Vice-Chancellor Diversity, Inclusion and Students at the University of Law.  

I am a member of the University’s Executive Board and have strategic responsibility for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; Student Support Services; Widening Participation and the Students’ Union. 

I have worked in higher education for over 20 years. 


I want to ensure that disabled students are given every opportunity to achieve their potential and have a positive experience of higher education. 

My hope is that as a Panel we will challenge the sector on how well they are supporting disabled students, into, through and beyond higher education.  


A photo of Steph stood in front of a large lake, with greenery on either side. She is a white woman, in a red shirt and black skirt, with brown hair and glasses, and she is smiling at the camera.

Steph Hayle

I am currently a part-time MSc student at the University of Edinburgh. Alongside my studies I work as a Non-Executive Director for ILF Scotland, a Trustee for the Migraine Trust, and an Accessibility Consultant, as well as sitting on the Investigating Committee for the regulatory body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council. I was previously the Community and Wellbeing Officer at the University of York Students' Union and was on the Student Advisory Committee for Student Minds.  

Having been a part of the disabled students' movement since 2015, I am keen to draw upon my experiences as sabbatical officer and a student in both England and Scotland, alongside my diverse professional background across the public and voluntary sectors. I look forward to helping the panel champion inclusive practices, enhance support systems, and advocate for the rights of disabled students within higher education. 

Published 12 January 2024

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