Dr Sandra Kirkham

Associate Dean-Students - Associate Prof

School of Digital, Technologies and Arts

I have over 30 years of experience in the UK Higher Education sector, working in three universities. I have held the posts of Course Director, Programme Director, Head of School/Department, Centre Lead and, currently, Associate Dean.

I have an undergraduate joint honours degree in English / Greek Civilisation from the University of Leeds and although my career has taken me deep into the realms of Computing and Information Systems, the arts and humanities remain a passionate interest and I have a particular enthusiasm for ancient and medieval history.

Following two very enjoyable years as a librarian I accepted a temporary lectureship at Leeds Beckett University to teach Library and Information Science and focussed academically on the specialist field of Information Retrieval. Eventually this led to a permanent post at Birmingham City University (BCU) and I went on to study for an MSc in Information Management at Lancaster University on a course which was run by Sir Peter Checkland, founder of the Soft Systems Methodology. This marked a change of academic focus for me and I returned to BCU to teach and research in the field of Computing and Information Systems, eventually taking a PhD in systems analysis at Aston University.

My academic and research expertise is Socio-Technical Systems Analysis and my teaching experience covers undergraduate, postgraduate and MPhil/PhD levels. I also have many years of experience of building and leading academic communities at both the strategic and operational levels. I moved into my current role at Staffordshire University in 2017.

I provide strategic leadership for the School with regard to quality assurance, course development, learning, teaching and all aspects of the student experience. I work closely with the Dean and the School Management Team to deliver the corporate objectives of the University. I consider students to be at the centre of everything we do and my main focus is to ensure a a fantastic and enriching experience for our students which prepares them for their future lives.

I am an Associate Professor (Systems and Higher Education) of Staffordshire University; a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA); a HEA mentor and assessor; and an AURORA (Women Into Leadership) mentor.

Professional memberships and activities

  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Co-opted Governor for Storywood School and Children’s Centre, Birmingham (OfSted Outstanding)

Academic qualifications

  • PhD ‘An Analysis of the Role of Soft Systems Methodology in the Change Process and the Contribution of the Facilitator within this Process’, Aston University
  • MBA (Management in Higher Education), Institute of Education, University of London
  • MSc Information Management, Lancaster University
  • Certificate in Computing for Teachers, Birmingham City University
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Librarianship (PG DipLib), Leeds Beckett University
  • BA (Hons) English/Greek Civilisation, University of Leeds


  • Soft Systems Methodology
  • Socio-Technical Systems Analysis
  • Organisational Change

Research interests

  • Soft Systems Methodology
  • Socio-Technical systems and applications
  • Business Systems Analysis

I am also a member of the School’s ‘Service Computing, AI and Cybersecurity’ research group.

Enterprise and commercial interests

I have extensive experience of working with both UK and International partners.

I lead the School’s Apprenticeship management team.

I have leadership responsibility for the development and operation of work-based learning opportunities (including placements, work internships, and professional accreditations, for our students) and KTPs.

As part of my doctoral research I carried out a number of paid consultancies which involved the application of socio-technical systems approaches to organisational change projects within the UK Health and Public Sectors.

Postgraduate supervision

PhD supervision and examining (past and present):

Mohammad Mayouf (2016) ‘Improving the delivery of building performance using building information modelling (BIM)’ (internal examiner)

Mona Demaidi (2018) ‘Ontology-based Personalised Feedback Generator’ supervised by Professor Mohamed Gaber, Dr Sandi Kirkham, Dr Alex Wade and Dr Ashraf Armoush, Head of Computer Engineering Department at An- Najah National University.

Currently I am on the supervisory team for PhD ‘Knowledge Management and discovery within the concept of big data and text/speech analytics’ Eslam Badran [due to commence 2020]




Cox,S, Kirkham,S, Love,E, Mayouf,M (2017) ‘Using a Socio-Technical approach to explore perceptions of the graffiti culture’ presented [by S Kirkham] at Proceedings of the 3rd International Workshop on Socio-Technical Perspectives in IS Development [STPIS 17] co-located with the 29th International Conference on Advanced Information Systems Engineering [CAiSE 2017] in Essen, Germany, June 2017


Feldman,G and Kirkham, S (2017) ‘Using Rich Pictures to represent stakeholder’s role during Enterprise Systems Upgrade Decisions’ presented [by S Kirkham] at Proceedings of the 3rd International Workshop on Socio-Technical Perspectives in IS Development [STPIS 17] co-located with the 29th International Conference on Advanced Information Systems Engineering [CAiSE 2017] in Essen, Germany, June 2017


Kirkham,S and Cox,S (2017) ‘Understanding the contribution and challenges of using Soft Systems Methodology to facilitate cultural change: A case study in the UK Public Sector’ presented at ItAIS 2017 (14th Conference of the Italian Chapter of AIS [Association for Information Systems] University of Milano, Bicocca, October 6th-7th 2017.

Kirkham, S (2016) ‘Politics in Organisational Change: Insights derived from two applications of soft systems methodology’ paper presented at UKAIS 2016 Annual Conference, April 2016, Oxford


Visram, K and Kirkham, S ‘An Exploratory Study into University Lecturers’ perceptions regarding the introduction of the Flip Curriculum: Fool’s Gold or Golden Egg?’ Paper submitted to the HEA Annual Conference 2017 – Generation TEF: Teaching in the Spotlight.


Kirkham, S (2016) ‘The design and delivery of practice-based undergraduate programmes in partnership with industry and HEI’s’ paper presented at EAIR 38th Annual Forum, August – September 2016, Birmingham, UK


I also participated in the research project ‘Building a Graduate Employability Community in Computing ’ organised by the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing from 2015-2017. As part of this work I authored a BCU practice showcase ‘Employability Week at BCU’ published in ‘Building a Graduate Employability Community in Computing: the GECCO Workshops’ published by CPHC/HEA April 2017.

in the UK for Quality Education

Sustainable Development Goal 4, Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2023

for Career Prospects

Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023

for Facilities

Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023

for Social Inclusion

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023

of Research Impact is ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Very Considerable’

Research Excellence Framework 2021

of Research is “Internationally Excellent” or “World Leading”

Research Excellence Framework 2021

Four Star Rating

QS Star Ratings 2021