Sarah Harper

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Professor Sarah Harper

Sarah Harper is a British gerontologist, who established Oxford's Institute of Population Ageing, and became the University of Oxford's first Professor of Gerontology. Harper serves on the Prime Minister's Council for Science and Technology since 2014 which advises the prime minister on the scientific evidence for strategic policies and frameworks. She chairs the UK government Foresight Review on Ageing Societies, and the European Ageing Index Panel for the UNECE Population Unit. Harper's research was recognised by the 2011 Royal Society for Public Health: Arts and Health Research Award. She is an invited Fellow of the Royal Society of Art (FRSA).

In 2006 she published Ageing Societies Ageing Societies: Myths, Challenges and Opportunities,[1] and an article "Mature Societies" in Daedalus which set the agenda for a new concept of global gerontology. She is active in both Asia, Europe, Latin America and Africa. In 2008 she was awarded the University of Malaya Chair in Old Age, as a recognition of her unique contribution to research in Asian ageing studies. Harper was selected to present the 2012 Oxford London Public Lecture on the new global population "21st Century: Last Century of Youth?"[2] run in association with the Guardian Newspaper. Harper's latest book How Population Change will Transform our World,[3] is published by OUP, 2016


In 1986 Harper was elected to serve on the executive of the British Society of Gerontology, while still a postdoctoral researcher, the youngest member ever. The following year she became a visiting professor at the University of Utah and shortly after was invited to take up the Irving B Harris Visiting Chair at the University of Chicago.

In 1997 on her return to the University of Oxford, where she had undertaken her doctoral research, she was invited by the UK Nuffield Foundation to establish and run their new Programme on Older People. The following year she secured funding from the US National Institute of Aging, NIA, for the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a mirror survey of the US Health and Retirement Study she had experience of while in the US, and to establish the Oxford Centre on Population Ageing. This centre was based on her experience of the Center of Demography and Economics at the University of Chicago. In 2001 the University of Oxford agreed to convert the population centre into a fully fledged Institute -with a focus on global population ageing. The Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, a multi-disciplinary research institute, was the first to focus on population ageing at the global, national and individual levels. The structure of the institute draws on Harper's vision which she outlines in her book Ageing Societies: Myths, Challenges and Opportunities,[1] published in 2006, which addresses the impact of population ageing on work, family, health and society in both the developed and less developed regions.

Harper's main focus has been engaging the wider academic and public policy community in her vision of global population ageing. In the area of work and pensions Harper is a governor of the Pensions Policy Institute,[4] a trustee of Club Vita the new longevity comparison club for occupational pension schemes,[5] and a former trustee of the Third Age Employment Network.[6] She served on the Royal Society working group "People and the Planet"[7] and World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Ageing.[8] She has advised the UK Department of Children, Schools and Families on their Education 2030 strategy, the UK department of Science Technology and the Arts, NESTA, on their Age Unlimited Programme, and the UK new Age Equality Board.

Sarah Harper was announced as the new director of the Royal Institution in April 2017, taking up the position from 1 May.[9]. She resigned and left the Royal Institution in September 2017.[10]

Ageing in Asia[edit]

Internationally, Harper has worked extensively on ageing in Asia, and was the first chair holder of the International Chair in Old Age Financial Security at the University of Malaya. This is a sister chair to the recently appointed chair in Poverty Studies held by Jeffrey Sachs. She also advises the 3rd Age Council in Singapore on their Active Ageing Programme. She chaired the US McArthur Foundation European Investigation into Economic and Demographic Ageing. Harper also served on the 2006 and 2008 International Scientific Committees of the International Federation of Ageing, IFA, and advised the Portuguese Gulbenkian Foundation on their 2008–09 Time of Life Programme.

Harper's other works include Families in Ageing Societies,[11] OUP 2004 and Ageing in Asia 2008 (with Roger Goodman).[12] Harper founded the International Journal on Population Ageing and is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Population Ageing,[13] published by Springer.

Harper has served as the global advisor on ageing to the international bank HSBC,[14] and is the principal investigator with George Leeson on the Global Ageing Survey, which asked 44,000 people in 24 countries about their attitudes and behaviours towards later life and retirement.


  1. ^ a b Harper, Sarah (2006). "Ageing Societies: Myths, Challenges and Opportunities". Hodder Arnold, London. Retrieved 21 April 2009.
  2. ^ "Oxford London Lecture 2012: The 21st Century – the last century of youth?". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  3. ^ Harper, Sarah (2016). How Population Change Will Transform Our World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  4. ^ "Pensions Policy Institute".
  5. ^ "Club Vita". Archived from the original on 30 June 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  6. ^ "Third Age Employment Network".
  7. ^ "People and the Planet".
  8. ^ "World Economic Forum Global Agenda".
  9. ^ "Ri Trustees appoint Professor Sarah Harper as Director".
  10. ^ Sample, Ian. "Fresh troubles for Royal Institution as director resigns after less than four months". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  11. ^ Harper, Sarah (2004) Families in ageing societies: a multi-disciplinary approach. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  12. ^ Roger Goodman, Sarah Harper (2006). Ageing in Asia: Asia's position in the new global demography. London: Routledge.
  13. ^ "Journal of Population Ageing - incl. option to publish open access (Editorial Board)". Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  14. ^ "Future of Retirement press room". Retrieved 21 April 2009.

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