Dr Nigel Thomas

Job Title and Responsibilities

Dean of Life Sciences and Education

Working with and through four Departments (Sport, Psychology, Biological Sciences and Education), my role as Dean of Life Sciences and Education is to create an aspirational vision for the School, and establish high performing teams to deliver ambitious targets. At Staffordshire University we are creating a 'connected university' - where we are working with our key regional education and business partners, putting our students first and transforming lives. I am passionate about working collaboratively with staff, students and partners, providing students with challenging and rewarding learning experiences, and helping them to reach their potential.

About Me

I graduated in 1986 from South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education (now UWIC) in Sport, completed a Masters in Special Education in 1996, a Postgraduate Certificate in Education in 1998 and, supervised by Professor Barrie Houlihan at Loughborough University I was awarded a PhD in 2004.  Following 10 years in a variety of local, regional and national posts in the sport and physical activity industry, I created and lead a partnership project between a national disability sport organisation and the University of Chester in 1994. Inspired by my experience of delivering a teacher training project in higher education and delivering lectures, seminars and practicals, in 1997, I took up a position as a Lecturer at Staffordshire University. I was appointed Head of the Sport and Exercise Department in 2003. As Head of Department I had responsibility for the leadership and management of the Department’s undergraduate and postgraduate courses, enterprise activity, research and scholarship, professional body and college partnerships, community engagement and staff development. As part of this role I was a member of the Faculty of Health’s Management Team and the University’s Senior Leadership Team.

From August 2012-2013, following a University restructure, I was appointed as the Associate Dean for
Scholarship, Enterprise and Research. The main purpose of the role was to work with colleagues within and across the Faculties and with key external partners, to co-ordinate and deliver the Faculty's research and enterprise objectives.

In August 2013 I was appointed Deputy Dean and then in 2014 Dean, of the Faculty of Health Sciences: providing strategic leadership of the Faculty’s teaching, research and staff portfolio. This included leadership of sport, psychology, nursing, midwifery, social work and allied health professions, across sites in Stoke, Stafford and Shrewsbury. In January 2017 I was appointed as Dean of Life Sciences and Education.

When not working, I enjoy a variety of activities. Mountain and trail walking, bird watching, wild water swimming, coasteering, surfing, golf, real ales, good food, music festivals and time with the family.


Loughborough University   PhD (political analysis of disability sport)  2004
Manchester Metropolitan University PGCE/Further and Higher Education  1998

University of Liverpool    M.Ed Special Needs Education   1996

Cardiff Metropolitan University  BA (hons) Human Movement Studies (Sport) 1986

Professional Memberships and Activities

  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Over the last few years I have held various regional and national professional roles, and been an active member of many external bodies. For example:

  • Shropshire and Staffordshire Local Education and Training Council
  • West Midlands Strategic Alliance for Health Education
  • Council of Deans of Health
  • Million+ Health and Social Care Group
  • Director on the Board of Sport Across Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent
  • Appointed Governor for West Midlands Ambulance Service (representing WM Deans)
  • Chair: Centre for Health and Development Research Centre (Exec Management Team)


Over the last 21 years of working in higher education I have played the vast majority of teaching and curriculum development related roles, for example, developing and validating new awards (on-line, face to face, fast-track), leading subject portfolio reviews and represented the University on HCPC conjoint events and PSRB reviews. I have written self-evaluation documents, annual monitoring reports, programme specifications, and action plans in response to key performance indicators such as student surveys and retention.  I have chaired learning and teaching committees, review and validation panels, lead on QAA reviews and generally been centrally engaged in all aspects of learning and teaching development in higher education. I have external examining roles at Wolverhampton, Chester, Gloucester, Southampton, Liverpool, London Metropolitan and Loughborough.

Most recently, for the University, I have championed the development of Accelerated Degrees in Higher Education, giving presentations to UUK in London, writing articles for QAA’s Viewpoint, and offering an informed perspective to key policy advisors within DfE.

Enterprise and Commercial Activities

In relation to my own research area, I completed a European Commission funded project aimed at encouraging sport for disabled people. In collaboration with European Observatoire of Sport and Employment (EOSE), the European Paralympic Committee (EPC) and working with 17 national partners I led a year-long work package which summarises current policy and makes recommendations on future campaigns to 'promote European fundamental values by encouraging sport for persons with disabilities'.

Below are examples of other enterprise, commercial and external engagement related activities.

  • A key role in establishing innovative new externally funded Centre for Research into Health and Development (£1million)
  • Lead on the development and launch of two new Centres of Excellence in Healthcare Education (Stafford and Shrewsbury)
  • Established research partnership with Stoke City Football Club
  • Coordinated and led the University’s inaugural Postgraduate Research Conference
  • Developed a student retention mobile phone text-based protocol in collaboration with an winning web-based texting protocol used health care settings

Research Interests

My research has on the politics and policies of sport and physical activity, with a specific interest in disability and inequalities. I have published on disability sport policy in Europe, elite sporting participation and war-injured veterans, and the use of prosthetics in the Paralympics, perhaps most notable of which is the book I published in 2009 with Routledge titled Disability, Sport and Society: a Student Introduction that is based on my PhD and used internationally as a core text. I have chaired and externally examined PhDs, reviewed journal articles and grant applications.

More recently, as my role has broadened, I have become interested in research surrounding students’ experience, student belonging and retention and anticipate publishing more in this area over the years ahead.

Selected Publications

Boath E, Jinks, A, Thomas N, O’Connell P. Thompson R, Evans J, and Taylor, L. (2016). Don’t Go With The ‘Flo’ – A Student Mobile Texting Service To Enhance Nursing Student Retention. Nurse education today.  vol. 45, p80–86

Boath E, Machin R, Dixon M, Thomas N, O’Connell P, Taylor L. (2016). Stop with the FLO: using text messages to improve retention rates in University Students. Innovative Practice in Higher Education. Vol.2 (3) April 2016.

Smith, A and Thomas N. (2016) Sport, Disability and the Paralympics. In B.Houlihan and D. Malcolm (Eds.) Sport and Society. A Student Introduction. London: Sage.

Thomas, N, and Guett, M. (2013) ,Fragmented, Complex and Cumbersome: A Study of Disability Sport Policy and Provision in Europe. IJSPP.

Thomas, N., Chockalingam,N and Duval, L. (2012) Should preparation for elite sporting participation be included in the Rehabilitation Process of War-Injured Veterans?" Prosthetics & Orthotics International. (IF.95)

Thomas, N. (2011). All for Sport for All: Perspectives of Sport for People with a Disability in Europe. Reporting Factsheet. Disability Sport Policies. Lyon, France: European Obsertvatoire of Sport and Employment.

Guett, M., Thomas, N., Hovemann, G., O’Rourke, B., Digennaro, S., Camy, J., Fodimdi and Carscadden. (2011). All for Sport for All: Perspectives of Sport for People with a Disability in Europe. Summary report to the European Commission. Lyon, France: European Obsertvatoire of Sport and Employment

Thomas N, Chockalingam N, Dunning D & Smith A (2011) By designing ’blades’ for Oscar Pistorius are prosthetists creating an unfair advantage for Pistorius and an uneven playing field? Prosthetics & Orthotics International, 35(4), 482-3. (IF0.95)

Thomas, N and Smith, A. (2009) Disability, Sport and Society: A Student Introduction. London: Routledge.

Smith, A and Thomas, N. (2005) Including Pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in National Curriculum Physical Education: A Brief Review’. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 21 (1): 69-83.

Smith, A. and Thomas, N (2005) The ‘Inclusion’ of Elite Athletes with Disabilities in the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games: An Exploratory Analysis of British Newspaper Coverage. Sport, Education and Society, 10 (1).

Smith, A. and Thomas, N. (2004) Inclusion, Special Educational Needs, Disability and Physical Education in K. Green and K. Hardman (Eds) Physical Education: Essential Issues. London: Sage.

Thomas.N., and Smith.A. (2003) ‘Pre-occupied with Able-bodiedness?’, An analysis of the British media coverage of the 2000 Paralympic Games, Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 20(2):166-181.

Thomas, N (2003) Sport and Disability. In B.Houlihan (Eds.) Sport and Society. A Student Introduction. London: Sage.


Thomas, N and Jones, P. (2017) Accelerated Degrees at Staffordshire University. In the fast lane.  Universities UK Conference. London.

Thomas, N. (2007) Mainstreaming and the State of Disability Sport Policy in the UK. Invited Presentation. University of Lincoln. 26th Feb 2007.

Thomas, N. (2005). Mainstreaming: Do we know what it means yet? The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences, 5-7th Sept., Loughborough University, UK.

Thomas, N. (2005) Do we need another powwow? The Power of Sport. European Association for Sport Management. 7-10th Sept. Newcastle, UK.

Thomas, N. (2004) Policy process in disability sport. Invited speaker at “Sport, Disability and the Body”. British Sociological Association, the Warwick Centre for the Study of Sport in Society, and the Centre for the Sociology of Sport (University of Leicester, UK). 27th February. Warwick.

Woodgate, T., Duval, L. and Thomas, N. (2002) The sporting experiences of women with a disability. Commonwealth Games Conference. Manchester. August 2002.

Thomas.N. and Houlihan.B. (2001) Disability Sport Policy. A Policy Community or an Issue Network. 13th International Symposium. “ Towards Society for All’ . International Federation of Adapted Physical Activity.3-7th July. Vienna.

Thomas.N.and Houlihan.B. (2000) The Policy Process in Sport for Disabled People in the UK: The Power of the Non-disabled. Pushing the Limits. 5th Scientific Congress of the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. 11-13th October. Sydney. Australia.

Current Teaching

My main areas of teaching have been in modules related to sports policy, sport and disability, and the sociology of sport. For example, I have lead level 6 modules on Planning for Sports Development and a Masters module titled Sport Policy and Practice. I also supervise students on placement and undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations. In recent years in addition to some teaching on sport related courses, I have made contributions to a few modules and courses across the University  including the Step Up to Social Work programme, the MSc in Applied Research and the Professional Doctorate.


Dr Nigel Thomas
School of Life Sciences and Education
Staffordshire University
B282 Brindley Building
Leek Road
Stoke on Trent
t: +44 (0)1782 294308
e: n.b.thomas@staffs.ac.uk