My role and vision
The University was founded on the principle of education for all. As Dean of Social Sciences and Humanities I want to do whatever I can to ensure that we live up to that high ideal as we advance towards our third century of operation.
As Faculty Dean I am responsible for providing strategic direction and leadership for this vibrant community of staff and students. Social Sciences and Humanities here at Westminster is at the forefront of learning by any measure. It is a great pleasure for me to work with colleagues here, building on our strengths to enhance the Faculty’s reputation and performance.
As Pro Vice-Chancellor I lead on the University’s commitment to corporate social responsibility. Public engagement has been key to Westminster’s educational vision since our foundation, and it remains vitally important to us now and into the future.
The various disciplines that make up the Social Sciences and Humanities at Westminster allow us to investigate human behaviour and interaction holistically, and understanding that is something from which we all benefit. It doesn’t matter at what age someone’s academic journey begins, where they started from or how far along that journey they want to go. My desire, shared by my Faculty colleagues, is to allow as many as possible to have an opportunity to make the world a better place through such knowledge and understanding.
My own academic background is a diverse one in the field of Social Sciences and Humanities. Undergraduate studies in English and Modern Languages at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where I was an organ scholar, led to postgraduate work at Cambridge in Linguistics and a PhD on the standardization of Norwegian.
Before joining the University of Westminster in February 2016 I worked at the University of Sheffield, where I was Professor of the History of Linguistics and successively Head of English Language and Linguistics and Director of Research and Innovation for the Arts and Humanities.
My research interests include language policy-making and planning, and the history of Linguistics.
My most recent research includes a project on the changing status of English across Europe funded by the Leverhulme Trust, a project exploring mass migration from Norway to America in the 19th century using virtual world technology funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and biographies of leading 19th-century linguists funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy.
I am an elected member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and a strategic reviewer for the Arts and Humanities Research Council. I am President of the UK society for the History of Linguistics (the Henry Sweet Society) and co-editor of the journal Language and History.