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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

Dr Jo Watson PhD, MSc, BAppSc (OT), PG Cert Academic Practice

Associate Head of Professional Practice

Dr Jo Watson's photo

Dr Jo Watson is Associate Head of Professional Practice within Health Sciences at the University of Southampton. Jo gained her qualification in occupational therapy and began her practice career in Melbourne, Australia, before moving to the UK in 1992. Her years in practice focussed on working in the physical rehabilitation context, and more latterly on working with wheelchair users, including the prescription of wheelchairs, pressure care and the management and prevention of postural deformities. Since moving into higher education, Jo has developed extensive experience of operational and strategic matters associated with the commissioning, design and delivery of educational programmes in health related disciplines, and the monitoring and enhancement of educational quality and students’ experiences. Her current roles focus on providing strategic leadership and management of the school’s pre-registration education portfolio, contributing to the educational business of the University and to the broader occupational therapy and educational subject communities.

Research highlights that the quality of the healthcare workforce has a direct impact on the quality of patient and services user experiences and outcomes, so our role in providing outstanding education at the leading edge of disciplinary knowledge to current and future healthcare professionals could not be more important.

Jo’s research focuses primarily on understanding and enhancing student experiences in higher education, particularly supporting the success of students entering from diverse backgrounds. Her educational research informs her approach to leading teams and the design and delivery of programmes that support inclusion, retention, student success, and the education of responsible, accountable, effective and professional graduates.


Memberships and Affiliations


Research interests


Jo currently supervises five doctoral students:

  • Simon Dear – The influence of aspirations on anticipated scholastic achievement and occupational choices of children on the Isle of Wight.
  • Bianca Bailey Wilson - Exploring the educational and career success of disadvantaged young black men in the UK through an evaluation of the Amos Bursary.
  • Trevor Kettle - The impact of patient and public involvement within the academic culture of healthcare education.
  • Nita Reynolds – A case study of a European nurse education network and its impact on the scholarly activity of the participants.
  • Chipo Musara - Understanding exercise referral schemes: Perceptions of primary health care practitioners, older adults and fitness instructors.

Research Interests

Jo’s primary research interests centre on understanding and enhancing the experiences and outcomes of ‘non-traditional’ entrants to higher education, including:

  • Social inclusion within, and students’ experiences of, learning in higher education.
  • Participation and non-participation in higher education and the impact of government policies.
  • Educational practices to support social inclusion and mobility.
  • The impact of stratified social contexts on lived experiences, life chances and educational outcomes.
  • Cultural barriers to participation in higher education.

Jo was awarded a British Educational Research Association Meeting of Minds Fellowship in 2012 to work alongside Professor Michael Grenfell, an internationally renowned expert in Bourdieu’s theoretical framework, to develop understanding of the application of, and skills in utilising, Multiple Correspondence Analysis as a novel approach in educational research.

Jo is also a member of the Continence Management theme in the Fundamental Care and Safety research group where she provides an occupational therapists’ perspective to work that is largely nurse-led. She is involved in the development and evaluation of female urinals, examining the role of occupational therapy in the promotion of continence and the management of incontinence, and the lived experience of bowel and/or bladder incontinence, its impact on identity, self-esteem, participation and quality of life.

Research projects

Jo’s current research projects focus on examining patterns of participation in HE in the era of £9K fees through exploring the provenance of and cultural capital evident in pre-registration healthcare student populations, exploring any potential relationship between background characteristics, academic practice during their studies and progression routes and exit awards.


Research group

Health Work and Systems

Research project(s)

Widening participation in occupational therapy education - Dormant

Exploring the educational experiences of occupational therapy students with non-traditional academic backgrounds who enter higher education under the auspices of widening participation.


As the Associate Head of Professional Practice in Health Sciences, Jo supports the Head in providing strong, creative academic leadership and general management of the school’s pre-registration education portfolio in Nursing, Midwifery, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Podiatry and Healthcare Sciences (Cardiac and Respiratory/Sleep physiology). She contributes to strategic planning and decision making within the school and has a specific remit for leading the creation and evolution of pre-registration student recruitment portfolios and providing strategic leadership in the effective implementation and utilisation of the University’s Appraisal structure and the implementation and monitoring of staff development provision within the academic unit, reflecting the school’s commitment to the Athena Swan diversity and equality agenda.

Jo’s external responsibilities include being:

  • An appointed member of the College of Occupational Therapists’ Learning and Development Board
  • The Co-Convenor and Treasurer of the Council of Occupational Therapy Education Directors.
  • An assessor of grant application for the College of Occupational Therapists
  • A programme accreditor for the College of Occupational Therapists
  • An External Examiner and Advisor
  • A reviewer of academic papers for the British Journal of Occupational Therapy, the Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, the Irish Journal of Occupational Therapy, the International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, the International Journal of Research and Method in Education, the Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions and Studies in Higher Education.


  • I teach into the pre-registration occupational therapy programme in areas related to physical rehabilitation and fundamental sciences such as anatomy and physiology.
  • I teach into a range of pre-registration disciplines in relation to professionalism, professional development and qualitative research methods.
  • I support individual occupational therapy students’ learning during practice placements.
  • I support individual occupational therapy students’ personal, academic and professional development as their Personal Tutor.
  • I supervise Masters’ students undertaking their research projects.
  • I supervise Doctoral students undertaking their research dissertations within Health Sciences and the Southampton Education School.


Dr Jo Watson
Health Sciences
Student Office
University of Southampton
SO17 1BJ
Room Number: 67/E3017
Telephone: (023) 8059 5303

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