Profile Image

Dr Matthew Bunn

Research Associate

Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Ed.

Taking equity research to new heights

Matthew Bunn is working to find ways to make higher education access more equitable for regional, remote and rural students.

A love of sociology began in 2006 for Matt after completing the University of Newcastle’s (UON) enabling program, Open Foundation.

He went on to explore a wide field of theories of society through a Bachelor of Social Science where he discovered the sociology of voluntary risk taking. As a keen climber, this sparked his interest, which he pursued in an exploration of climbing practice  in his honours in anthropology and sociology. He  received first class honours and the University Medal before commencing his PhD in 2011.

“I was interested in how social groups formed ideas around risky practices and how these systems of knowledge were learnt informally through involvement in climbing communities. After being awarded my PhD in 2015, I continued as a casual academic teaching sociology and anthropology at UON,” Matt explained.

Navigating tricky terrain

Concerns about social class led Matt to study sociology in order to deepen his understanding of the causes and impacts of class and class inequality.

“Issues of equity are often manifestations larger, more deeply embedded inequalities within social systems and often underride institutions and policy and the ways that people perceive and interact within their everyday life,” Matt said.

“I think that it is very easy to arrive at superficial understandings of the causes of inequity, which produces quick fixes but ultimately allows inequity and inequality to return, just in different forms,” he added.

Through his role as a Research Associate within the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education (CEEHE), Matt has built research and sought a deeper understanding of the problems surrounding equity.

“I have mainly been focused on problems to do with class and how this impacts a person’s ability to study, the degrees they choose and their movement into the labour market,” he said.

“The most rewarding part of working in equity is to examine and identify the deeper and more complex roots of inequitable practices, so that lasting solutions can be implemented,” he added.

Making time for equity

Matt has also explored some of the inequity surrounding the different demands on time for regional students.

“Regional students have many more challenges imposed on them, so working on finding ways to make higher education access more equitable for students coming from regional, rural and remote areas is an important concern,” he said.

Matt has been involved in recent research that explores the way students’ experiences of time effect their study, working on the subsequent report – It’s About Time: Working towards more equitable understandings of the impact of time for students in higher education.

Matt’s research is expanding to investigate how staff and student perceive the future of the university, and how this impacts upon their current educational practices.

Keen to look at the broader student life cycle, he is also researching graduate outcomes and whether students from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds gain the same access to the labour market.

Taking equity research to new heights

Matthew Bunn is working to find ways to make higher education access more equitable for regional, remote and rural students.

Read more

Career Summary


I am currently a Research Associate in the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education at the University of Newcastle in Australia. My role at CEEHE is working on a number of empirical research projects exploring student disadvantage and equity, including the 'Struggle and Strategy: Higher Education and Labour Market resources' project (this can be read further on the CEEHE webpage). My role includes research design, qualitative interviewing and analysis.

My PhD is a social phenomenology of some of the more dangerous forms of climbing, such as alpine, waterfall ice and expedition climbing. The research was aimed at understanding more about how communities built understandings around risk senses, how they made sense of them, and how they become appealing. The understanding of the risks of climbing and the complex relationships between people, terrain and technologies requires a steady mix of informal training and experience in order to perceive vertical spaces in an appropriate way. But these abilities become ‘second nature’ for climbers and the risks involved become carefully codified in order to maintain the sense that climbing is a calculated and controllable undertaking, rather than being a game of Russian roulette!


  • Bachelor of Social Science (Honours), University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Social Science, University of Newcastle
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Newcastle


  • Anthropology
  • Higher Education
  • Sociology
  • Voluntary Risk-Taking/Extreme Sports

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
160899 Sociology not elsewhere classified 20
160809 Sociology of Education 60
160806 Social Theory 20

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Research Associate University of Newcastle
Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Ed.


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Journal article (5 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2018 Askland HH, Bunn M, 'Lived experiences of environmental change: Solastalgia, power and place', Emotion, Space and Society, 27 16-22 (2018) [C1]

© 2018 Elsevier Ltd The concept of solastagia has been developed by environmental philosopher Albrecht to understand the psychological trauma, also referred to as place-based dis... [more]

© 2018 Elsevier Ltd The concept of solastagia has been developed by environmental philosopher Albrecht to understand the psychological trauma, also referred to as place-based distress, experienced because of environmental change. In this article, we explore ways to further this concept. The article draws on ethnographic fieldwork in a village in the mid-western region of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, which is surrounded by three large open-cut coal mines. Over the past decade, the mines, in particular the Peabody-owned Wilpinjong mine closest to the village, have had a significant impact on biophysical, social and temporal landscapes in the area. We argue that whilst solastalgia may help explore the relationship between the environmental and human distress triggered in these circumstances, the sense of displacement and loss that emerge are entangled with questions of power and dispossession beyond the biophysical realm. Underpinned by a phenomenological framework of analysis, we contend that place-based distress should be understood as an ontological trauma, as the fabrics of place, belonging and the social relations embedded within disrupt the ongoing sense of being associated with home. These include the means to not only link to the past, but also to imagine the future.

DOI 10.1016/j.emospa.2018.02.003
Co-authors Hedda Askland
2017 Bunn M, 'Defining the edge: choice, mastery and necessity in edgework practice', Sport in Society, 20 1310-1323 (2017)
DOI 10.1080/17430437.2017.1284800
2017 Bunn M, '¿I¿m gonna do this over and over and over forever!¿: Overlapping fields and climbing practice', International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 52 584-597 (2017)
DOI 10.1177/1012690215609785
2017 Bunn M, 'A disposition of risk: Climbing practice, reflexive modernity and the habitus', Journal of Sociology, 53 3-17 (2017)
DOI 10.1177/1440783316643424
2016 Bunn M, 'Habitus and Disposition in High-risk Mountain-climbing', Body & Society, 22 92-114 (2016) [C1]
DOI 10.1177/1357034X15612897
Show 2 more journal articles

Conference (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2016 Askland HH, Bunn M, 'Time - place - home: homelessness as spatial ruptures and temporal dissonance', The University of Sydney (2016)
Co-authors Hedda Askland
2011 Bunn MJ, 'Dispositions of risk - Adventure climbing and the reflexive habitus', Australian Sociological Association (TASA) Conference: Local Lives/Global Networks, Newcastle, NSW (2011) [E3]

Grants and Funding


Number of grants 2
Total funding $17,571

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.

20172 grants / $17,571

P-Tech Think Tank$9,091

Funding body: IBM Australia and New Zealand

Funding body IBM Australia and New Zealand
Project Team Doctor Matthew Bunn, Mr Matt Lumb, Professor Penny Jane Burke
Scheme Research Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2017
Funding Finish 2017
GNo G1701621
Type Of Funding C3120 - Aust Philanthropy
Category 3120

Educational futures: exploring emerging educational models in regional NSW and their impact upon student engagement and access to higher education$8,480

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Professor Penny Jane Burke, Professor John Fischetti, Doctor Matthew Bunn, Mr Matt Lumb
Scheme Linkage Pilot Research Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2017
Funding Finish 2017
GNo G1701351
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE


It's About Time report cover

University deadlines affecting student engagement

April 28, 2017

New research from the University of Newcastle reveals equity students in higher education are challenged by institutional expectations about time.

Dr Matthew Bunn


Research Associate
Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Ed.
Academic Division

Contact Details