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Karen Nicholls

Karen Nicholls MA, BA, SFHEA

Principal Lecturer


I am a principal lecturer in English for Academic Purposes and I lead the provision of academic language development for the University. This includes pre-sessional courses, the International Foundation Programme, in-sessional provision and a range of short courses for external partners. I also lead the Academic Language and Literacies project for the University. My specialisms are in designing bespoke and collaborative provision for language development in higher education. My external work includes being a BALEAP Accreditation Scheme assessor and I am currently studying for a PhD in Education.


I've worked in a diverse range of UK higher education institutions as a lecturer in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and before that as an English language teacher in Japan, Namibia and the UK. I have taught and led pre-sessional and in-sessional EAP courses in different institutions and I now lead the provision across Sheffield Hallam University. My interests in language, learning and inclusive and equitable pedagogies have led me to start my PhD studies in language development in higher education.


English for Academic Purposes including a range of pre-entry, undergraduate and postgraduate courses
Post-graduate TESOL teacher education modules
Academic Language and Literacies project


I am currently studying for my PhD in Education with a focus on language development in higher education. My previous research has focussed on issues including motivation, listening in EAP, and course design.   


Journal articles

Nicholls, K. (2021). Illuminating expertise in academic language development: English for Academic Purposes practitioners in the UK. International Journal of English for Academic Purposes: Research and Practice, 2021 (Autumn), 167-190.

Nicholls, K. (2019). ‘You have to work from where they are’: academic leaders’ talk about language development. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 1-18.

McGrath, L., Negretti, R., & Nicholls, K. (2019). Hidden expectations: Scaffolding subject specialists' genre knowledge of the assignments they set. Higher Education.

Book chapters

Nicholls, K. (2010). The 'Essay Literacy' Gap, an Online Resource and a Usability Test. In Developing Academic Literacy. (pp. 171-180). Oxford, England: Peter Lang Publishing Inc

Other publications

McGrath, L., & Nicholls, K. (2017). Of writing, wardrobes and windows. Sheffield Institute of Education:

Other activities

I contribute to a number of operational and strategic groups that work across the university and I work as an external examiner, and a BALEAP Accreditation Scheme assessor. 

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