Dr James Simpson

Dr James Simpson


I joined the School of Education, University of Leeds in 2004, where I was first a Research Fellow and since 2010 a Senior Lecturer. From 2010 to 2013 I coordinated the MA TESOL programme. From 2014 to 2017 I led the Language Education academic group and directed the Centre for Language Education Research. I have spent two periods as Visiting Professor at the Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Jyväskylä, Finland (2016 and 2017), advising on a series of projects on migrant language education and the arts.

I obtained my PhD (Applied Linguistics) from the University of Reading in 2004, an MA (ELT) from the University of Essex in 1996 and a PGCE (PCET) from the University of Greenwich in 1999. In my earlier career I worked as an English language teacher in a range of contexts in Europe, the Middle East and the UK.

Research interests

My research lies in the field of language education and migration. I have active research interests in multilingualism, creative inquiry in applied linguistics, literacy and digital technology, and language education and development. I employ a range of qualitative methods in the critical analysis of communicative practices relating to migrant language pedagogy, language diversity, language policy, and literacy, identity and culture generally, drawing chiefly from linguistic ethnography, interactional sociolinguistics, narrative analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis. I have researched extensively in the North of England, and I have also carried out work in South Asia.

From 2014 to 2018 I was the Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded project Translation and translanguaging: Investigating linguistic and cultural transformations in superdiverse wards in four UK cities, known as TLang. I also led two related projects, Migration and Home (AHRC) and Migration and Settlement (LSSI).

My most recent book is Translanguaging as Transformation: The Collaborative Construction of New Linguistic Realities (Multilingual Matters, 2020, edited with Emilee Moore and Jessica Bradley). We write about our book in this blog post. I have also published Voices and Practices in Applied Linguistics (White Rose Publishing, 2019, edited with Clare Wright and Lou Harvey), The Routledge Handbook of Language and Superdiversity (2018, editor of section ‘Language, Superdiversity and Education,’ with Melanie Cooke), Adult Language Education and Migration: Challenging Agendas in Policy and Practice (Routledge, 2015, edited with Anne Whiteside); The Routledge Handbook of Applied Linguistics (Routledge, 2011); and ESOL: A Critical Guide (OUP, 2008, with Melanie Cooke). I serve on the editorial board of the journal TESOL Quarterly and on the advisory board of Language Issues

I am active in policy formation for adult migrant language education. I am the founder and Chair of Trustees of the refugee charity Migrant English Support Hub (MESH), and am a member of the steering groups for the NATECLA National ESOL Strategy for England and the City of Leeds ESOL Strategy. MESH, in partnership with Migration Yorkshire, is developing the Learning English Yorkshire & the Humber resource to coordinate language education for migrants in our region. I manage an email discussion list ESOL-Research, a forum for researchers and practitioners with an interest in the field. I have acted as an advisor on national policy initiatives including the MHCLG Integrated Communities strategy and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Inclusion.

I discuss my career and research in this video, filmed at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the British Association for Applied Linguistics in Leeds, where I was conference Chair.

I discuss policy and practice in Adult Migrant Language Education in this Webinar, for the IATEFL ESOL SIG in January 2020.

Research projects as PI/Co-I

Care, Inequality and Wellbeing in Transnational Families in Europe: A comparative, intergenerational study in Spain, France, Sweden & UK (2021-2024) (JPI) (Co-Investigator)

Translanguaging Performance Pedagogy for Adult Migrant Language Education (2019-present) (University of Leeds Sadler Seminar Series) (Co-I)

MESH: Migrant English Support Hub (Chair, 2014-present): the Learning English in Leeds project (2013-2018) and the Learning English Yorkshire & the Humber project (2019-2022) (AMIF)

Translation and translanguaging: Investigating linguistic and cultural transformations in superdiverse wards in four UK cities (TLang) (2014-2018) (AHRC) (Co-I)

Migration and Settlement: Extending the Welcome (2017) (LSSI) (Principal Investigator)

Migration and Home Connected Communities Utopias Festival project (2016) (AHRC) (PI)

EITA: Education and ICT for Adolescents Research, monitoring and evaluation project (2015-2016) (British Council Bangladesh) (Co-I)

Mobigam project (2012-13) (British Academy) (PI)

HENNA (Harehills ESOL Needs Neighbourhood Audit) project (2010-2011) (Leeds City Council) (PI)

Identity Online project (2007-2010) (British Academy) and Teacher Identity project (PI)

ESOL Placement Practices project (2006-2007) (NRDC) (PI)

Persist, Progress and Achieve project (2006-2007) (NRDC) (Co-I)

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://essl.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Applied Linguistics
  • MA English Language Teaching
  • PGCE Post-Compulsory Education and Training, ESOL specialism
  • BA Modern European Studies

Professional memberships

  • British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL)
  • National Association of Teachers of English and Other Community Languages for Adults (NATECLA)

Student education

I lead and contribute to undergraduate and postgraduate modules in a range of language education topics.

I am a personal tutor for taught postgraduates on MA programmes across the School of Education and undergraduates on the BA English, Language and Education and BA TESOL programmes.

I supervise doctoral students researching language use and language education in migration contexts, and welcome applications.

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Language Education

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>The school welcomes enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>