Professor Stephen May

PhD (Bristol), MEd (Massey), BAHons (Victoria), BA, DipTchg


Stephen May is a Professor in Te Puna Wānanga (School of Māori and Indigenous Education) in the Faculty of Education and Social Work. He is an international authority on language rights, language policy, bilingualism and bilingual education and critical multicultural approaches to education and, to date, has published 25 books and over 100 articles and chapters in these areas.

In 2008, he was a Fulbright Senior Scholar, based at Arizona State University and City University New York, and in 2016 he was a Visiting Scholar at the University of the Basque Country, San Sebastian.

In 2015 he became an American Educational Research Association (AERA) fellow.

In 2016 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand (FRSNZ).

He is the Editor in Chief of the 10-volume Encyclopedia of Language and Education (3rd ed. Springer, 2017) and a Founding Editor of the international, interdisciplinary journal, Ethnicities. From 2005-2015, he was also an Associate Editor of Language Policy.

Stephen began his professional career in the 1980s as a secondary teacher of English and ESL in New Zealand and has subsequently taught in universities in New Zealand, Britain, USA and Canada. From 1993-2001 he taught in the Sociology Department, University of Bristol, UK, where he remains affiliated with the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, and from 2001-2009 he was Foundation Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Waikato.

Stephen was previously Deputy Dean Research and Associate Dean Staffing for the Faculty.

Inaugural Lecture:

Addressing the pluralist dilemma in Aotearoa/New Zealand, 31 March 2011

Research | Current

Stephen has written widely on language policy and language education, with a particular focus on addressing and accommodating cultural and linguistic diversity. Areas of particular interest and expertise include: language rights, language policy, indigenous language education, bilingualism and bilingual education, and critical multicultural approaches to education.

Additional research interests are in the wider politics of multiculturalism, ethnicity and nationalism, social theory (particularly the work of Bourdieu), sociolinguistics, school language policies, and critical ethnography.

He has recently acted as a Research Consultant and/or an Expert Witness for the following:

  • National Expert (NZ), Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) (2013)
  • Expert Witness (language rights), AOCP v. Lamoureux, Ontario Supreme Court, Canada (2012-2013)
  • Expert Witness (bilingual education) Wai 2336, Te Kōhanga Reo Trust, Waitangi Tribunal Claim (2011-2012)

In the public eye

  • 3 News interview video and story - Academics sign letter opposing league tables (17 July 2012)


  • Stephen is the co-convenor, with Prof. Gary Barkhuizen in the Faculty of Arts, of the Sociolinguistics Symposium 22, to be held at the University of Auckland, 27-30 June 2018. The biennial Sociolinguistics Symposium is the premier international conference in its field and this is the first time it will be held both outside of Europe and the Northern Hemisphere. Visit the SS22 website


Publications and Journal/Editorial work

View here


Teaching | Current


Course Coordination

  • EDUC 716 Education and Diversity (Semester 2)


Course Coordination

  • EDUC 716 Education and Diversity (Semester 2)

2014 - 2015

Programme Coordination

  • Programme Leader (with Dr. Jenny Lee) of EdD Inaugural Cohort on Māori and Indigenous  Education

Postgraduate supervision

Current Supervision


   2015 -

  • Dam, Lincoln. Attitudes to first language education in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Main supervisor
  • Tarau, Maria. Language rights and Roma. Main Supervisor.
  • Huang, Chuanning. A critical ethnography of a Chinese-Japanese school in Japan. Main Supervisor.

2014 -

  • Benton Zavala, Ana Maria. A bilingual curriculum response to the challenge of cultural maintenance and academic success: A comparative study. Main Supervisor
  • Perin, Silvia. Antonio Gramsci and language policy. Main Supervisor
  • Davy, Brian. The Spectacle of the self: New migrant students' linguistic capital and scholarly identity in senior secondary school. Main Supervisor
  • Li, Jiang. Metacognition and motivation in L2 academic English learning. Main Supervisor
  • Yanhong Liu. College English Textbooks in China: A Corpus Linguistics Approach to their Ideological Underpinnings, Pedagogical Principles, Linguistic Features and Teacher Attitudes. Main Supervisor

2010 -

  • McCaffery, John: Simultaneous Biliteracy at Richmond Road School: Tusi ma Faitau i Gagana e Lua. Main Supervisor


Completed Supervisions (since 2010)


  • 2016 Hemi, Keaka: Life in Language: The Role of Constitutional Status and Indigenous Perception, Trust and Ownership in Securing Indigenous Language and Education Rights.
  • 2013 Ratima, Matiu: Māori learning Māori: What works for Māori adults learning Māori as a second language?
  • 2012 Furness, Jane: Investigation of the role of intergenerational approaches in raising the foundation competencies of New Zealand adults that support achievement of citizen-centred outcomes.


  • 2015 Trinick, Tony: What are the features of the Maori medium mathematics register and the challenges of the register that impact on learning and teaching?
  • 2010 Hill, Richard: English transition in Māori-medium education.


  • 2015 Allen, Piata. Te Reo Pangarau. MEd.
  • 2012 Matsumoto, Akinori. New Zealand Language Education Policy. MA.
  • 2012 Nathan, Whetuu: Ka Hikatea. MEd.
  • 2012 Nicholson, Ray: New Zealand Language Policy: Where to since the Waite Report? MEd.


  • Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ) Fellow 2016
  • American Educational Research Association (AERA) Fellow 2015
  • British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL); The Multilingual Turn shortlisted for the BAAL Book Prize 2015
  • Fulbright Senior Scholar, 2008
  • American Library Association (ALA) Outstanding Academic Title for Language and Minority Rights, 2008
  • British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL); Language and Minority Rights shortlisted for the BAAL Book Prize 2002
  • Professional Member of the New Zealand Royal Society (MRSNZ) 2002 - present


  • Acting HoS, Te Puna Wānanga, the School of Māori Education, Faculty of Education and Social Work, Semester 2, 2016
  • Professor, Te Puna Wānanga, the School of Māori Education, Faculty of Education and Social Work

Areas of expertise

  • Language rights
  • Language policy
  • Bilingualism and bilingual education
  • Indigenous education
  • Multicultural education
  • The politics of diversity

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • Academic consultant/advisor for UNESCO, European Commission, Economic and Social Research Council (UK), Leverhulme Society (UK), Austrian Science Fund, British Academy, Scottish Funding Council, Netherlands Council for the Humanities, South Africa’s National Research Foundation, Canadian Social Science Research Council, New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission, and the New Zealand Ministry of Education
  • Directed over $1.5 million of funded research projects for the New Zealand Ministry of Education and New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission. These include a major review of Māori-medium education in New Zealand, Bilingual/Immersion Education: Indicators of good practice and an internationally groundbreaking web-based professional development resource for teachers working with Pasifika (and other) bilingual students in English-medium classroom contexts, LEAP
  • University Staffing Committee (Vice Chancellor Appointee)
  • University PBRF Advisory Committee (Faculty of Education and Social Work Representative)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • May, S. (2013). Indigenous immersion education: International developments. Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Education, 1 (1), 34-69. 10.1075/jicb.1.1.03may
  • May, S. (Ed.) (2013). The multilingual turn: Implications for SLA, TESOL and bilingual education. New York: Routledge. Pages: 229.
  • May, S. A. (2011). Language and Minority Rights: ethnicity, nationalism and the politics of language (2nd). New York: Routledge. Pages: 434.
  • May, S. A. (2011). Language Rights: The “Cinderella” Human Right. Journal of Human Rights, 10 (3), 265-289. 10.1080/14754835.2011.596073
  • May, S. A. (2011). The disciplinary constraints of SLA and TESOL: Additive bilingualism and second language acquisition, teaching and learning. Linguistics and Education, 22 (3), 233-247. 10.1016/j.linged.2011.02.001
  • May, S., & Sleeter, C. (Eds.) (2010). Critical Multiculturalism: theory and praxis. New York: Routledge. Pages: 225.