Professor Ruth Swanwick

Professor Ruth Swanwick


I am a Professor at Leeds University School of Education where I lead the deaf education research and contribute to the MA in Deaf Education/Teacher of the Deaf Programme. I am also co-director of the Faculty of Social Sciences Research Methods Centre.

My background is in education; initially in modern foreign language teaching and then in deaf education where I worked with children and young people who are deaf in inclusive sign bilingual settings. In this context I developed curricula and approaches to teaching English as a second language for deaf learners.

I came to Leeds University to lead the MA in Deaf Education/Teacher of the Deaf programme which was the first deaf education programme in the UK to recognise the role of sign language and deaf adults in deaf children's education. Because of its unique inclusive and bilingual philosophy this programme drew applications from across the UK and so was developed, and continues to be offered, as a distance and blended provision.

Research interests

My research activities encompass childhood deafness, language and learning, inclusive and bilingual education and teacher development.  My particular area of specialism is deaf children’s multilingual and multimodal communication and language learning and the development of pedagogies and practitioner understanding. I am interested in how we research and understand deaf children’s multilingual lives and language experience and how we can use this knowledge to develop contextually sensitive ways of supporting early development, care and education.
 I have published extensively on these topics and led funded research projects on deaf children’s multilingualism (British Academy Fellowship); deaf children’s literacy development (ESRC); the role of sign language for deaf children with cochlear implants (Nuffield); and approaches to critical thinking and reflective practice in deaf education (British Academy) and worked as Co-I with the University of York and the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust on a systematic review of early interventions for parents of deaf babies (National Institute for Health Research: Research for Patient Benefit).
I am currently developing the impact activities that are the outcome of collaborative UK-Ghana project that investigated the early education for young deaf children and their caregivers in Ghana. I am working with Co-Is Dr Daniel Fobi, Dr Yaw Nyadu Offei and Dr Alexander Mills Oppong from the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana to develop deaf leadership, training and academic capacity in early childhood education in Ghana and to document the project  outcomes through co-authored publications. This research was funded by the British Academy’s Early Childhood Education Programme, supported under the Global Challenges Research Fund.  
I am also the UK PI for a Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie Innovative Training Network that examines communication for children with hearing impairment to optimise language development (EU Horizon 2020) As part of this research network I am leading on the Dissemination Work Package and supporting the innovative project work of the two Leeds-based Early Scientific Researchers (ESRs) Elettra Casellato  and  Nathalie Czeke.  Linked to these projects and our shared interest in methodological development in deaf ECE we are involved in an international network, funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research and led by University of Cologne, that aims to further collaborative publications and grant applications.  
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD
  • Masters in Education
  • PGCE (Modern Foreign Languages)
  • BA Hons
  • Teacher of the Deaf Diploma

Professional memberships

  • British Association of Teachers of the Deaf
  • National Sensory Impairment Partnerships
  • British Education Research Association
  • Sign Bilingual Consortium
  • The British Sign Language Coalition

Student education

I teach on the MA Deaf Education Programme. This online blended distance education programme is approved by the DfE  to offer the mandatory Teacher of the Deaf (QToD) award. The programme recruits nationally and prepares suitably qualified deaf and hearing practitioners to work with deaf students across a range of educational settings. I contribute to the teaching, assessment and evaluation of all aspects of this programme and work with stakeholders and regional tutors to train and support the professional development of teachers of the deaf across the national context.

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>The school welcomes enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>