Professor Deborah Johnston awarded MBE in 2024 New Years Honours List

04 January 2024

Professor Deborah Johnston’s work to make higher education more accessible for students who stammer was recognised with the award of an MBE in the 2024 New Years Honours List. The award was for her work whilst Deputy Vice-Chancellor at London South Bank University (LSBU) and Pro-Director (Learning and Teaching) at SOAS, University of London.

Stammering is a recognised disability but the misunderstandings surrounding it mean its impacts are often overlooked. For students, it can have a negative effect on assessed oral exams and presentations with potential knock-on effects on students’ confidence and mental health. Given that an estimated 1-3% of the population stammer, as many as 85,800 students could be affected by a lack of support and guidance.

Professor Johnston has worked hard to increase awareness of and support for students in higher education that stammer, as well as disabled students generally. She was a commissioner in the Office for Students Disabled Students Commission, is chair of the national body supporting the Disabled Student Commitment and interim Vice Chair of the British Stammering Association (STAMMA).

Professor Johnston has organised Stammering Awareness Days at a number of universities, and developed a video with LSBU Student’s Union about the issues faced by students that stammer. She has also created a public speakers club with LSBU’s Business School, which those with speech conditions are encouraged to join. Professor Johnston led on the creation of a guide in 2021 advising university academics, disability staff and learning support staff on how to support students that stammer distributed by the National Association of Disability Practitioners and hosted on the LSBU website and promoted by STAMMA, NUS and the Office for Students. She regularly contributes to national information events for students who stammer.

Professor Deborah Johnston, LSBU Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said, “Stammering is a misunderstood condition and I am determined to ensure students who stammer are able to benefit from the life-changing opportunities that university offers them. The progress we have made to increase awareness and understanding about stammering is thanks to incredible support from higher education staff and students who stammer and STAMMA, the British Stammering Association, where I’m a proud Board member. But there’s still much more to do and I look forward to doing that at LSBU which always champions inclusion.”

Professor Johnston is a regular contributor to Wonkhe and has written a number of articles on disability in higher education.