April was born in Edinburgh and grew up in the Scottish Borders. She was first in her family to go to university, and took her MA and PhD at Edinburgh – where she was very proud to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 2014. April was a Lecturer at the University of Cambridge and a Professor at Sheffield, and from 2005-11 returned to Edinburgh where she was Head of the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences; Head of the College of Humanities and Social Science; and then Vice-Principal for Planning, Resources and Research Policy. From 2011-16 she was Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, where major priorities included improving the student experience, and re-valuing teaching, partly through ensuring appropriate recognition and reward for teaching excellence and innovation.
April’s academic field is linguistics, and her research interests include how and why languages change; the use of computational methods to group languages into families; the evolution of language in humans; and the history of varieties of English and Scots. She has published 11 books and a wide range of articles and book chapters.
April is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the British Academy, and the Learned Society of Wales, and is currently a member of both the Audit Committee and the Research and Higher Education Policy Committee of the British Academy. She has a lively interest in training and development, especially relating to career development and leadership; she also chaired the Vitae Advisory Group for the Researcher Development Framework. With a strong commitment to public engagement with research, she chairs the RCUK Public Engagement with Research Advisory Panel, as well as the Strategic Advisory Group for the School of Advanced Study of the University of London. She is an Honorary Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge, and a governor of West Kent and Ashford College. Outside the office, she enjoys spending time with her husband Rob, a geneticist, and their three children; dancing; cooking; and less than practical shoes.
April joined the University of Kent in September 2016. As well as her main role as Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education, she is Professor of English Language and Linguistics in the School of European Culture and Languages.
In her DVC role April has responsibility for:
- Teaching, Learning & Student Experience
- Unit for the Enhancement of Learning & Teaching (UELT)
- Student Services
April oversees the Education and Student Experience Strategy, which underpins one of the three key strategic objectives in the University Plan. The Strategy sets out how Kent students and staff will work together to promote and ensure student success through inclusive, inspiring and positively challenging opportunities.
April is also EG EDI champion for disability.