Professor Jan Burns MBE has been invited by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to be part of their three-year review of the Classification Code.

Classification is a unique cornerstone of the Paralympic Movement and performs two critical functions: it determines which Para athletes are eligible to compete in a sport, and it groups athletes into sport classes to ensure that the impact of impairment is minimised and sporting excellence determines which athlete or team is ultimately victorious.

While classification is a complex and ever-evolving area, improving the IPC Athlete Classification Code is seen as essential for the continued development of the Paralympic Movement.

Members of the Code Drafting Team have been selected by the IPC Governing Board to because of their experience and knowledge of classification, and their association with the broad IPC membership.

In 2009 Professor Burns was part of an international research team who developed a robust new classification system to allow athletes with intellectual impairments to compete once again in the Paralympics, in athletics, swimming and table tennis at the London 2012 Games.

Her work continued through to the Rio 2016 Paralympics, enabling more athletes with intellectual impairments to compete and additional events being added to the competition schedule than in London 2012. This inclusion has led to over 6,500 athletes with intellectual impairments now being registered to compete internationally through VIRTUS, the international federation for para-athletes with intellectual impairments, representing 85 countries.

Professor Burns will be part of the International Standard for Eligible Impairments Sub-Group. She said: “This is a great opportunity to re-look at how classification in sports works for athletes, and also consider how having intellectual impairments impacts on sports performance – the ultimate aim being fair sport for all. I’m honoured to be part of this very experienced, international team”.  

South African Paralympian Scott Field, and Chair of the Code Drafting Team, said: “Classification is what differentiates Paralympic sports from all other sports.   It ensures Paralympic athletes can achieve sporting excellence, regardless of whether they have a severe or minimal impairment.

“Underpinning classification in all the sports of the Paralympic Movement is the Athlete’s Classification Code and the accompanying International Standards. The IPC wants to ensure that these are fit for purpose in our ever-changing world. We will be calling on all stakeholders to assist in strengthening Paralympic classification by assisting us with suggested amendments to these policy documents during the review period.  It is an exciting opportunity for all to play their part in creating a better, more equitable Paralympic Movement.”

A web page has been created on the IPC website to provide the latest updates on the IPC Classification Code Review process:


Notes to editors

  • Professor Jan Burns is a Professor of Clinical Psychology and Faculty Research Director of the Faculty of Sciences, Engineering and Social Sciences.
  • In 2012, Professor Burns won the UK Research Councils Gold Podium Research Award for her classification research for the London 2012 Games, and in 2015, she was recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list, receiving an MBE for her work.
  • The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. It co-ordinates the organisation of the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games.  The IPC’s vision is to make for an inclusive world though Para sport.
  • Virtus is the international sports federation for para-athletes with intellectual impairments.


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