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The Language Centre


Staff List

Dr Karen Ottewell


  • Director of Academic Development and Training for International Students (ADTIS)

Contact Information

Telephone: +44 (0)1223(3)35004

Research Interests

  • Assessment Design
  • Contrastive Rhetoric
  • Cultural Influence on Writing
  • Academic Literacy


  • Pilkington Teaching Prize (2016)
Dr Karen Ottewell


Karen is the Director of the Academic Development and Training for International Students section of the Language Centre which provides training and support to assist international students at the University in further developing and honing the skills required to succeed in an English-speaking academic context.

In addition to having overall responsibility for ADTIS, Karen has been an External Examiner at the universities of Leeds and Aston, and is currently an External for the University of St. Andrews and a critical friend for the University of Winchester; a reviewer for Cambridge University Press; has recently been appointed reviewer and mentor of the fledging journal International Student Experience (ISEJ); is a mentor for Wolfson College; and has been a supervisor, and occasional examiner and lecturer, in German Language and Literature for several Colleges. She is also a Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College.

Before taking up the post of Director of ADTIS at the Language Centre in 2008, Karen had spent eight years teaching English Language and Culture in Germany. This was chiefly at the University of Bonn, where she had herself been an ERASMUS student in the early 1990s, and later at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. In Bonn she was instrumental in introducing a course on Translation Methodology, designing the first working version of the language course provision for the new BA and MA degree courses as part of the Bologna Process, and on a lighter note, established the Film Society with a group of keen student film buffs. In Erlangen, she took on the post of Head of the English Language Department where she designed and implemented a language and skills based entrance test obligatory for all students applying to study English at the University, which was subsequently approved by the Bavarian Ministry of Education.

During her time in Germany, Karen also worked in her spare time, among others, for Deutsche Welle, where she worked as a translator for the Campus Germany website; for the German Foreign Office, where she ran seminars to prepare German nationals for the United Nations’ entrance examinations in English and also taught the consular stream in the Foreign Office’s Education and Training Centre; and for the Managerial Training Academy of the Sparkasse, where she prepared the managers for the banking English qualification accredited by the German Chamber of Commerce.

Karen graduated from the University of St. Andrews in 1994 with an MA (Hons) in German Language and Literature. She then went on to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, to complete an M.Phil. in European Literature, followed by a PhD on 18th-century German literature. She has recently started a part-time Ed.D. at the Faculty of Education here at Cambridge, with the aim of creating an academic literacy development framework to support international postgraduate students.

Her professional interests include assessment design, transferable skills training, contrastive rhetoric and defining the ‘cultural’ influence on writing, the international student experience, and transition to UK HE. In her spare time Karen is a keen cultural traveller who is hoping to visually capture these experiences more professionally with her recent interest in DSLR photography. Above all, however, she enjoys the simple pleasures in life of good food and good wine in good company – whilst striving to make her gym membership worth the annual fee. And she is currently trying the patience of the Centre’s CULP Chinese teacher by attempting to participate in Basic Chinese II – 我学中文 .