Nottingham to award honorary degree to inspirational actor Sarah Gordy

03 Dec 2018 00:15:00.000

Image courtesy of Snooty Fox

Inspirational actor, dancer, model and Mencap campaigner Sarah Gordy MBE is to receive an honorary doctorate from The University of Nottingham. 

Sarah will become the first person with Down’s Syndrome to be recognised with an honorary degree by a UK university when she receives the honour later this month. 

The University made the announcement today (Monday 3 December) on the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities and the beginning of its own Disability December, a month-long programme of events to highlight and promote disability awareness among staff and students. 

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The University of Nottingham’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Professor Sarah Sharples, said: “I am delighted that we are recognising Sarah, who is an outstanding role model. By being highly respected in her career, Sarah sends an extremely powerful message to others that having a disability doesn’t need to mean that you can’t achieve incredible things. It is so important that we continue to learn to understand the impact that having a disability can have on an individual’s day to day life, on their work, and on their experience at University. As a University we need to work hard to support all of our staff and students with disabilities and listening to leaders such as Sarah can really help us in this important mission.” 

Sarah Gordy is an inspirational role-model who has challenged attitudes and preconceptions towards people with learning disabilities through high profile roles in theatre, film and television, including Call the MidwifeUpstairs Downstairs and Strike: The Silkworm

A campaigner for Mencap, she became the charity’s first official ambassador with a learning disability in 2013. In November this year, Sarah made history as the first woman with Down’s syndrome to be awarded an MBE, recognising her contributions to the arts and people with disabilities. 

Sarah will become an honorary Doctor of Laws during the Faculty of Arts winter graduation ceremony at the University on Wednesday 12 December and will deliver her acceptance address to her fellow graduates and the University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West. 

Sarah said: “I am really thrilled to receive this honour.  It not only means a lot to me and my family but hopefully it will inspire many young people to be ambitious. I have two sides to my life.  I am a main stream actor and I desire to motivate parents and young people. Eat well, exercise, laugh a lot and work hard.  Employers are learning that a person with a learning disability is often unusually loyal and reliable. We all have something to offer. 

“I also want to say well done to The University of Nottingham for being so committed to positive change in attitudes.” 

Helen Laverty added: “Sarah is a professional actor who just happens to have Down’s syndrome. She is talented, articulate and represents all we espouse in relation to widening the participation gateway. By awarding Sarah an honorary degree, we as a university are sending a clear message that learning disability is no bar in relation to receiving recognition for personal and professional achievement and celebrates diversity in its most inclusive sense." 

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Notes to editors: 

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named both Sports and International University of the Year in the  2019 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer, proud of our Athena SWAN silver award, and a key industry partner- locally and globally.

Story credits

More information is available from Helen Laverty in the School of Health Sciences, University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 823 0950,

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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