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Meet the Enhancement team: Home

(Widening Participation and Social Mobility)

Click on the tabs to learn more about the team.

Dr Emma Thompson

Head of Enhancement

Emma leads the team responsible for academic skills at the university and has been here longer than she cares to admit (because then she’d have to reveal how old she is!). Emma freely admits that she struggled with the transition to university, as the first in her family to get a degree, feeling like she didn’t know what she was doing!  As a result, Emma has committed herself, throughout her PhD and subsequent career, to supporting students develop the skills to help them to succeed. She’ll always try to help with any query, so always feel free to say hello!

Dr Becki Nash

Pre-Entry Academic Skills Lead

Becki leads the Pre-Entry Academic Skills Team and has worked on the Learn with US Transition Programme since 2016, providing academic skills workshops and one-to-one advice for students undertaking project qualifications like the EPQ. In addition, the Pre-Entry Academic Skills Team work closely with teachers who deliver the EPQ, assisting them in enhancing their taught skills provision.

Becki is a Southampton alumnus, with a range of research interests spanning social justice in education, to body modifications (she has 10 tattoos and counting) and cosmetic surgery (which she has not had yet); the topic of her PhD completed in 2017.

Dr Rob Joy

Academic Skills Officer (pre-entry)

Rob started with the Learn with US Transition team in January 2022. He currently delivers EPQ workshops focussed on enhancing academic skills and easing the transition to higher education for widening participation students.

After a short career in music, Rob attended Southampton as a mature student and graduated with a BA in Modern History and Politics, an MA in history (2014) and a PhD in history (2019). His research focussed on the experiences of Agricultural Officers in decolonising Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, how they navigated independence and how they chose to recall their experiences.  Rob is particularly interested in oral histories.

Emma Mansfield

Peer Assisted Learning Scheme (PALS) Coordinator

Emma is a Southampton Alumnus who studied in Social Sciences. She has worked at the University since 2012 and has a background in education development. She has extensive experience delivering student mentoring or Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) schemes. Currently she is the Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) Coordinator for the university in Widening Participation and Social Mobility (WPSM). Emma is available for students to talk to about Peer Learning (via and @uospal on Instagram!) and is a Mental Health First Aider for staff and students. Emma is able to help students find their way through the variety of support systems and opportunities we have at Southampton. Being first from her family to come to university, her goal is to make sure students feel supported and can get the most from their time studying with us, whatever their background and experience.

Dr Victoria Yukaitis

Academic Skills Officer (pre-entry)

Victoria is an Academic Skills Officer in the Learn with US Transition Team. She delivers interactive workshops and taster lectures to Sixth Form students, targeted to the research skills required for EPQ projects (or other research-based qualifications). In addition, Victoria hosts library visits and student 1:1 sessions, providing bespoke advice for students undertaking EPQ projects. A medieval historian and archaeologist, Victoria draws on her own experience completing MA and PhD research in advising students. She enjoys making her own research applicable to varied audiences, and especially supporting students in their individual research journeys.  

Dr Alison Daniell

Academic Skills Officer (post-entry)

Dr Alison Daniell is the Academic Skills Officer for the University of Southampton. She helps students  achieve their full academic potential by supporting them in a wide range of key skills including critical thinking, academic writing and presentation techniques. Alison has an inter-disciplinary PhD in eighteenth-century English literature, history and law and worked as both a lawyer and an author before returning to university in 2016 as a mature student. 


Nicola Hunt

Post-entry Academic Skills Lead

Nicola leads the Post-entry Academic Skills Team supporting students across all levels at university, covering skills including critical thinking, time management, writing and research skills. Besides running drop-in sessions, she creates learning resources, presents skills workshops and runs events at our sites throughout the year. She is a chartered librarian with an MA in Popular Culture and a Diploma in Art History whose varied career includes working in public libraries, national collections and further and higher education settings.

Outside of work Nicola enjoys spending time with family, long walks, art shows, reviewing a good novel and putting the world to rights with her book group! As a school governor she is also passionate about ensuring students fulfil their potential in education and beyond.

Dr Elliott Nikdel

Specialist Writing Tutor

Elliott has been the University’s Specialist Writing Tutor since January 2018. This involves working with colleagues to develop resources and webinars on writing and collaborating with different module and programme leads to support specific groups with their writing. The most rewarding part is working with you, students, and seeing you develop your confidence with writing. Whether it’s a report on management strategies and corporate governance or an essay on dystopian fiction, he’s perhaps most obsessive about structure and argumentation. He's always honest and direct, but he’s also entirely empathetic to the challenges of writing.

He's got a PhD from the University of Southampton, and he’s taught Film and Media Studies. Away from work, and when time permits, he’s either writing, reading or watching something.

Dr Julia O'Connell

Academic Skills and Writing Officer (post-entry)

In her role, Julia supports undergraduate and postgraduate students to develop and enhance their academic and writing skills. She designs and delivers writing workshops, offers embedded writing support for academic programmes and provides one-to-one writing appointments for students. Students can also come and see her for advice on general academic skills, including time-management, presentations skills and exam support.

Before joining Southampton, she studied at universities in Glasgow, Boston, Durham and Dublin. Her academic adventures finally culminated in a PhD in English Literature from Trinity College, Dublin. She’s also had a variety of different roles in education, having worked with students with special educational needs and taught on a range of English literature courses at universities in Ireland.

Dr Steve White

Academic Skills Faculty Liason

Steve is the Academic Skills Faculty Liaison. He works alongside the lecturers to make sure that all students have the most effective teaching and learning experience possible during their studies. Operating in the ‘space between’ courses and support at Southampton, he works to connect and enhance education for all.

Introducing the Academic Skills Service

The Academic Skills Service seeks to support students in their transition to and throughout university, working with students, pre-entry in years 12 and 13 and post-entry from their first year, throughout their education with us. Our key aims include contributing to Widening Participation and Social Mobility’s (WPSM) strategic priorities, reducing access and awarding gaps for students from underrepresented backgrounds, as part of our Access and Participation Plan (APP).

About the team

Our pre-entry team works with targeted schools and colleges to support students in the development of the research and academic skills they will need in order to succeed at university. We work closely with qualifications like the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) as a popular example of research-based learning that can facilitate the acquisition of such skills.

Our post-entry team works with students currently studying at the university, supporting them to develop their writing proficiency, mathematics and statistics knowledge and application and to also improve their study skills which is complementary to the excellent research skills teaching offered by the Engagement team in the Library. Students will find the Academic Skills team delivering a hybrid service to students, offering online learning to those who prefer it and an on campus service that can be accessed through the Academic Skills Hub based in the Hartley Library. We are keen to take the service to students as much as possible, so that we can reach them in the multiple locations they occupy. This has seen us adopt a ‘hub on tour’ approach, most recently offering dissertation pop-up sessions across Highfield, NOCS, Avenue and WSA. We are also offering an increasingly embedded Academic Skills Service, where we are developing a pilot project working with academic staff to support their teaching of academic skills through the curriculum itself. We are also excited to be launching a pilot Peer Assisted Learning Support (PALS) scheme in 2022/23 which will see peer leaders support their fellow students develop their approach to studying in Higher Education.

If you are interested in the work that we do or would like to collaborate with us, please ask any one of the team for more information or contact us via