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



My core focus as Head of School is to provide leadership to colleagues across the disciplines of Sport and Exercise Science and Biomedical and Forensic Science. We have a successful portfolio of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes spanning these specialist areas and are proud to work with industry partners and our professional bodies to assure our programmes are current, high quality and applied in nature to best prepare our graduates for their future careers.

Our Human Sciences Research Centre provides a forum within which our researchers can collaborate, innovate and come together to work across disciplines to address the big questions in society. Our research, therefore, has impact and value through its thought leadership in areas across the lifespan with healthy ageing a core theme driving our ambition. We also work with industry to provide partnership and services, for example, our Human Performance Unit offers applied sport science services to a range of interested clients from new exercise and sport enthusiast to National Governing Bodies.

Having held both Lecturer and Senior Lecturer posts in Sport and Exercise Psychology for a number of years, I progressed into leadership and management in 2012. As Head of Sport and Exercise at the University of Derby, I led the growth and success of Sport and Exercise Science at Derby and in 2016, progressed to Head of Department for Life Sciences and College Lead for Academic Provision. Since 2018 as Head of School for Human Sciences, I am very proud to lead a vibrant academic community that is driven to deliver excellence in all that we do and strive to have a positive impact.

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 and 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 sport 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. 

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


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