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 Fellow 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 Fellow||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.
Chapter (1 outputs)
Askland HH, Bunn M, 'Extractive inequalities: Coal, land acquisition and class in rural New South Wales, Australia', Energy, Resource Extraction and Society: Impacts and Contested Futures 20-36 (2018) [B1]
© 2018 selection and editorial matter, Anna Szolucha; individual chapters, the contributors. From the 1970s, state¿driven pursuits for coal and revenue have radically transformed ... [more]
© 2018 selection and editorial matter, Anna Szolucha; individual chapters, the contributors. From the 1970s, state¿driven pursuits for coal and revenue have radically transformed rural landscapes and sociality in New South Wales, Australia. The region, which has a long history of coal mining, moved from being run by locally based enterprises that contributed to the sustainability of local communities to large-scale, global corporations relying on a translocal workforce. As coal operations emerged from the underground, a radical restructuring of spatial relations took place. This restructuring was also underpinned by the privatisation of coal and power supplies, with transnational extraction corporations becoming landholders in agricultural regions. As the mining boom intensified, mining companies emerged as a major landholder in rural areas of New South Wales. Seeking to purchase strategic properties for exploration, extraction or mitigation, mining companies approached and negotiated with individual, local landholders. In this paper, we consider how this process have followed class¿based lines and how class exposes distinct vulnerabilities and privileges in a meeting with a miner. We contend that there is a vacuum in the planning process, which exposes vulnerable communities that have limited capacity to contest these developments and define the future and meaning of their place of belonging.
Journal article (8 outputs)
Bunn M, Threadgold S, Burke PJ, 'Class in Australian higher education: The university as a site of social reproduction', Journal of Sociology, (2019)
© The Author(s) 2019. Explanations of inequality in higher education primarily use the dominant language of institutional equity discourses, such as low socio-economic status (LSE... [more]
© The Author(s) 2019. Explanations of inequality in higher education primarily use the dominant language of institutional equity discourses, such as low socio-economic status (LSES), ¿under-represented¿ or ¿non-traditional¿ backgrounds. We argue that analysis that relies on a static series of objective categories regularly fails to account for the symbolic-historical conditions that have produced class boundaries. In acknowledging this, one of the challenges in higher education research is to illuminate how working-class understanding of education systems is brought into universities, and how it relates to, and is contested by, the dominant middle-class culture of the university. We propose a Bourdieusian-inspired class analysis be adopted for Australian higher education that focuses more closely on the way in which symbolic power is distributed through the misrecognition of species of capital as symbolic capital. Using this approach we argue that universities, rather than ameliorating class difference, are a poorly understood site of its generation.
Bunn M, Lumb M, 'Education as Agency: Challenging educational individualisation through alternative accounts of the agentic', The International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives, 18 7-19 (2019)
Bunn M, Bennett AK, Burke PJ, 'In the anytime: Flexible time structures, student experience and temporal equity in higher education', TIME & SOCIETY, (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 dist... [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.
|Show 5 more journal articles|
Conference (7 outputs)
Bunn M, Threadgold S, Burke PJ, 'Class matters in Australian HE: exploring the relevance of class analysis in explaining disadvantage in an Australian University', Newport Wales, UK (2018)
Bunn M, Bennett A, Burke PJ, 'Temporalities of trust and betrayal: teaching and learning in the neoliberal university', Newport, Wales (2018)
Threadgold S, Burke PJ, Bunn MJ, 'Degrees of class: Interrogating linear and non-linear transitions from higher education into the labour market', Newport, Wales UK (2017)
|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]|
|Show 4 more conferences|
Report (2 outputs)
Threadgold SR, Burke P, Bunn MJ, 'Struggles and strategies: does social class matter in higher education', Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education, 55 (2018)
Bennett AK, Burke P, Bunn M, Stevenson J, Clegg S, 'It¿s about Time working towards more equitable understandings of the impact of time for students in higher education
https://www.newcastle.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/350864/TIME_ONLINE.pdf', National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education NCSEHE (2016)
Grants and Funding
|Number of grants||3|
Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.
20191 grants / $113,996
Funding body: Department of Education
|Funding body||Department of Education|
|Project Team||Professor Penny Jane Burke, Associate Professor Peter Howley, Professor Andrew Brown, Doctor Matthew Bunn, Mr Matt Lumb, Ms Belinda Munn, Dr William Locke|
|Scheme||Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme|
|Type Of Funding||C2110 - Aust Commonwealth - Own Purpose|
20172 grants / $12,819
P-Tech Think Tank$9,091
Funding body: IBM Australia and New Zealand
Educational futures: exploring emerging educational models in regional NSW and their impact upon student engagement and access to higher education$3,728
Funding body: University of Newcastle
April 15, 2019
April 28, 2017