Professor Stephen May

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

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Director - Tai Tokerau Campus


Stephen May is a Professor in Te Puna Wānanga (School of Māori and Indigenous Education) in the Faculty of Education and Social Work and Director of the Faculty’s Te Tai Tokerau Campus. 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 27 books and over 100 articles and chapters in these areas.

Stephen is also an Honorary Professor at the University of Tartu, Estonia, and at Taiyuan University of Technology, China.

In 2018, Stephen was awarded the McKenzie Award by the New Zealand Association of Educational Research (NZARE), the preeminent award for educational research in New Zealand.

In 2016 he was elected a Te Apārangi/Royal Society of New Zealand Fellow.

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

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.

Stephen 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 as a secondary teacher of English and ESL in New Zealand and has subsequently taught in universities in New Zealand, Britain, USA and Canada. The latter include the Sociology Department of the University of Bristol, UK, where he remains affiliated with the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, and the University of Waikato, where he was Foundation Professor of Language and Literacy Education.

Stephen was Social and Behavioural Sciences Convenor for Te Apārangi/Royal Society of New Zealand from 2019-2021. He was the Deputy Chair (2015-2018) of the New Zealand Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF) Education Panel for the 2018 Quality Evaluation. He has also previously been Deputy Dean Research (2012-2014) and Associate Dean Staffing (2015) for the Faculty. He is currently Director of Te Tai Tokerau Campus. 


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:

  • Academic Consultant, RITA-RÄNNE, Estonia (2018-2020)
  • Academic Consultant, McREL International, Federated States of Micronesia (2019)
  • Academic Consultant, ADRA Myanmar, Strengthening ethnic education for the Karen Indigenous peoples (2015)
  • 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

Newsroom. Dismissing mātauranga Māori. Racism and arrogance in academia. August 2021 

Radio New Zealand. New Zealand launches Pacific language fund. November 2019 

Stuff. Does speaking two languages make you smarter? September 2019

Newsroom. To all te reo Māori haters out there.  December 2017

Newsroom. Why no one wants to teach in New Zealand. August 2017



  • Stephen was the co-convenor, with Prof. Gary Barkhuizen in the Faculty of Arts, of the Sociolinguistics Symposium 22, held at the University of Auckland, 27-30 June 2018 with over 900 delegates from over 60 countries. The biennial Sociolinguistics Symposium is the premier international conference in its field and this was the first time it was held both outside of Europe and the Northern Hemisphere. 


  • Stephen also convened the quadrennial international conference series, Language, Education and Diversity (LED). There have been four previous LED conferences, held in 2003, 2007,  2011, and 2015, which have all attracted 400-500 delegates.

Publications and Journal/Editorial work

View here

Teaching | Current


Stephen in on Research and Study Leave for the 2022 Academic Year


Course Director

  • EDUC 716 Education and Diversity  (Semester 1, Epsom Campus)
  • EDPROFST 377 Bilingual Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy (Semester 2, Epsom Campus)


Course Director

  • EDUC 787 Research Methods in Māori Education (Summer School, Tai Tokerau Campus)
  • EDPROFST 377 Bilingual Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy (Semester 2, Epsom Campus)


Course Director

  • EDUC 716 Education and Diversity                                  (Semester 1, Te Tai Tokerau Campus)
  • EDUC 733 Teaching in Bilingual/Immersion Settings       (Semester 2, Te Tai Tokerau Campus)


Postgraduate supervision

Current Supervision


  • Allen, Piata. Tau Kē: Using mobile technology and a Show and Tell Software solution to capture uniquely Māori ways of communicating mathematically in Māori-medium pāngarau classrooms. Main supervisor
  • Allnutt, Jay. Educational equality: A philosophical analysis. Co-supervisor.
  • Dam, Lincoln. Love and politics: Rethinking biculturalism and multiculturalism in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Main supervisor
  • Huang, Chuanning. A critical ethnography of a Japanese supplementary school in New Zealand. Main Supervisor
  • Li, Di. Family Language Policy and its relevance to Chinese Heritage Language Maintenance in New Zealand. Main Supervisor 
  • Tarau, Maria. Language rights and Roma. Main Supervisor
  • Teh, David. Contrastive analysis of English-Chinese in Malaysia. Main Supervisor
  • Yuan, Yan. Monolingual education and the dying minority languages in China. Main Supervisor

Completed Supervisions (University of Auckland)


  • 2020 Davy, Brian. The Spectacle of the self: New migrant students' linguistic capital and scholarly identity in senior secondary school. Main Supervisor
  • 2018  Benton Zavala, Ana Maria. ‘Shifting the landscape’. Indigenous immersion and bilingual education in Tosepan Kalnemachtiloya. Main supervisor
  • 2018 Perin, Silvia. Antonio Gramsci and language policy. Main Supervisor
  • 2018 Li, Jiang. Metacognition and motivation in L2 academic English learning. Main Supervisor
  • 2018 Yanhong Liu. College English Textbooks in China: A Corpus Linguistics Approach to their Ideological Underpinnings, Pedagogical Principles, Linguistic Features and Teacher Attitudes. Main Supervisor
  • 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.


  • ​2020 Meinders, RaheraNgā Ihopumanawa: How Māori students’ role models relate to their post-secondary school aspirations. Co supervisor
  • 2020 Finn, Karen. Pre-service teachers’ enactment of culturally responsive critical pedagogy. Sole supervisor
  • 2020 Danby Scott, Claudia. A treatment of culture in primary school visual art education through a critical multicultural lens. Sole supervisor
  • 2018 Pasene, Kitiona. I Too Am Auckland. Sole Supervisor. MEd.
  • 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.


  • McKenzie Award, New Zealand Association for Research in Education (NZARE) 2018
  • 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


  • Director, Te Tai Tokerau Campus, Faculty of Education and Social Work
  • Professor, Te Puna Wānanga, the School of Māori and Indigenous Education, Faculty of Education and Social Work

Areas of expertise

  • Language rights
  • Language policy
  • Critical approaches to language education
  • 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, McRel International, 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)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • May, S. (2019). Negotiating the Multilingual Turn in SLA. Modern Language Journal, 103, 122-129. 10.1111/modl.12531
  • May, S., & Fitzpatrick, K. (2019). Critical ethnography. In P. Atkinson, S. Delamont, Cernat, A, J. W. Sakshaug, R. A. Williams (Eds.) SAGE Research Methods Foundations (pp. ). London: SAGE Publications Ltd. 10.4135/9781526421036831954
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Katie Fitzpatrick
  • May, S. (2017). National and ethnic minorities: Language rights and recognition. In A. S. Canagarajah (Ed.) The Routledge handbook of migration and language (pp. 149-167). London, UK: Routledge.
  • May, S. (2017). Language, imperialism, and the modern nation-state system: Implications for language rights. In O. Garcia, N. Flores, M. Spotti (Eds.) The Oxford handbook of language and society (pp. 35-54). New York: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190212896.013.12
  • May, S. (2017). Bilingual education: What the research tells us. In G. Ofelia, A. M. Y. Lin, S. May (Eds.) Bilingual and multilingual education (pp. 81-100). New York: Springer. 10.1007/978-3-319-02324-3_4-1
  • May, S. (2015). The problem with English(es) and linguistic (in)justice. Addressing the limits of liberal egalitarian accounts of language. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 18 (2), 131-148. 10.1080/13698230.2015.1023629
  • May, S. (2014). Justifying educational language rights. Review of Research in Education, 38 (1), 215-241. 10.3102/0091732X13506694
  • May, S. (2013). Introducing the “multilingual turn”. (pp. 1-6). 10.4324/9780203113493

Contact details

Primary office location

Level G, Room G15B
New Zealand