Staff profile

Dr Sally Akehurst

Head of School of Human Sciences

Sally Akehurst stood in front of a tree.


College of Science and Engineering


School of Human Sciences

Research centre

Human Sciences Research Centre




Kedleston Road, Derby Campus



I am Head of School of Human Sciences which consists of three Discipline Areas including: Biomedical and Forensic Science; Psychology, and Sport, Outdoor and Exercise Science. There are approximately 70 academics and 1500 students spanning a portfolio of 24 UG and PG programmes.

Within the School, there is a Human Sciences Research Centre that drives world-class research that is applied in nature for maximum impact in the world we live. We also operate a Human Performance Unit and Psychological Sevices Unit which provides expert sport and exercise science and psychology services to the community and industry partners.

I joined the University as a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology in 2010; was appointed Head of Discipline for Sport in 2012, and led the area through significant growth over a period of four years. In 2016, I became the Head of Department for Life Sciences and College Lead for Learning and Teaching and Student Experience. As Head of School of Human Sciences, I am now very proud to lead a vibrant academic community that is driven to deliver excellence in all areas of academic, research, and enterprise activity.

I am an active researcher specialising in personality and performance under pressure in sport, I trained as a practitioner to provide sport psychology support to athletes iand coaches spanning a range of sports and levels, and have over 15 years of lecturing experience in higher education. I have dedicated my career to developing and enhancing the academic provision and experience of students in higher education.


Teaching responsibilities

I specialise in Sport and Exercise Psychology, in particular, focusing on personality and performing under pressure. I have over 15 years of experience lecturing spanning both UG and PG levels lecturing across subjects including sport and exercise psychology, research methods and independent research, and applied science.  

Professional interests

I am interested in leadership in Higher Education, in particular how to lead and develop successful academic teams that deliver an excellent, current and future focussed student experience, whilst conducting applied and impactful research, and providing commercial services to the community and industry partners. Creating a culture that is high performing, collaborative and inspiring for all those engaged within it.  


Research interests

My research investigates performing under pressure in relation to individual differences. My early work focused on the mechanisms by which performance breaks down under pressure and then moved towards exploring the influence of individual difference factors. In particular, my research focuses on the relationship between confidence, effort and anxiety and the interaction of narcissism and trait self-consciousness on choking. Further areas of interest include passion in sport; exercise dependence; perfectionism in sport; excelling under pressure; transformational leadership and narcissism, and impression management in sport and exercise contexts. I supervise postgraduate programmes of research in my areas of expertise and those where I can provide expert guidance and mentoring to students and supervisors. 

Membership of professional bodies

British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES)

Higher Education Academy (HEA)

Healthcare Professions Council (HCPC)


Undergraduate qualifications

Postgraduate qualifications

Professional qualifications

Recent conferences

Experience in industry

As an applied practitioner in Sport and Exercise Psychology, I have worked with various clients within the sports sector including athletes ranging from recreational to International level of all ages and multiple sports, for example, tennis, archery, golf, sailing, athletics, badminton, kayaking, and football. Similarly, I have provided coach education workshops and also worked with officials including futsal referees at an individual and group level.

As professional practitioners within the Human Performance Unit we provide a range of services and work with multiple partners in the Region providing one-to-one support, group and team-based workshops, testing and monitoring services, educational workshops, performance profiling, and rehabilitation support.

International experience

I have taught Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of West Idies in Trinidad.

Additional interests and activities

Research Awards

Winner of the Sportesse Sport Science Award for best oral presentation of Established Researchers at the British Association of Sport and Exercise Science National Annual Conference at the University of Glasgow, UK (2010).

A little self-doubt helps (S. Akehurst, T. Woodman, L. Hardy, & S. Beattie). 3rd Prize in the Young Investigators Award at the Nordic International Conference in Halmsted, Sweden (2008). Two studies investigating the interactive effects of narcissism and trait self-consciousness upon dispositional choking, and the role of confidence (S. Akehurst, T. Woodman, & L. Hardy).

Recent publications