Dr Matthew Bunn
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.
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
- Higher Education
- Voluntary Risk-Taking/Extreme Sports
Fields of Research
|160899||Sociology not elsewhere classified||20|
|160809||Sociology of Education||60|
|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 (4 outputs)
Bunn M, 'Defining the edge: choice, mastery and necessity in edgework practice', Sport in Society, 20 1310-1323 (2017)
Bunn M, 'A disposition of risk: Climbing practice, reflexive modernity and the habitus', Journal of Sociology, 53 3-17 (2017)
Bunn M, 'Habitus and Disposition in High-risk Mountain-climbing', Body & Society, 22 92-114 (2016)
|Show 1 more journal article|
Conference (2 outputs)
Askland HH, Bunn M, 'Time - place - home: homelessness as spatial ruptures and temporal dissonance' (2016)
|2011||Bunn MJ, 'Dispositions of risk - Adventure climbing and the reflexive habitus', Australian Sociological Association (TASA) Conference: Local Lives/Global Networks (2011) [E3]|
Grants and Funding
|Number of grants||1|
Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.
20171 grants / $8,480
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