James Briggs

James Briggs


I came to academia relatively late at the age of 30.  I left school in 1999 with basic qualifications and spent the next eleven years in various minimum wage jobs.  After deciding to start a career in something more rewarding, I took a job as a support worker helping adults with learning disabilities, Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASCs) and (the very nondescript) "Challenging Behaviours" in a residential home.  After completing the various NVQ courses I started a BA in Philosophy and Psychology with the Open University.  I completed my degree full time whilst working full time and enjoyed every bit of it.  I chose to look at cognitive psychology for my third year psychology research which investigated the idea that people's beliefs about luck and magical thinking affect their rational decision making.  This was a nice contrast to the more abstract philosophy final in which I focused primarily on Philosophy of Mind.

After completing this degree I had been working with adults with learning disabilities and ASCs for three years and my study had allowed me to asses the sector in a far more critical way.  This led to me wanting to research it further and so I started a distance learning MSc in Psychology and Learning Disabilities with the University of Portsmouth, again full time whilst working full time.  My research project looked at how choice for 'service users' in adult residential services is affected by private sector companies and their profit motivation.  As a minimum wage worker myself, I wanted to investigate this question from a direct support worker point of view.  

Whilst I was happy with this piece of work I think, because I was coming at it from a psychological approach (all be it a social one) it could be improved on and so my PhD research will be a follow on from my MSc research but will look at the question from a sociological perspective. 

Research interests

I am incredibly interested in researching the social aspects of residential learning disabilites services.  I'm Primarily interested in real world lived experiences and how lives are shared.  I believe that there is stigma associated with having a learning disability and that this feeds into the discourses that predominate in our culture.  I am also interested in the political landscape that these discourses exist in and how this effects the more marginalised stakeholders particularly 'service users' and front line staff.  


  • MSc Psychology and Learning Disabilities (Merit)
  • Philosophy and Psychology (2:1)
  • NVQ Health and Social Care (Level 3)