Associate Professor Seamus Fagan

Associate Professor Seamus Fagan

Conjoint Professor

Learning and Teaching

Career Summary


Seamus Fagan has been the Director of the English Language and Foundation Studies Centre since 2001. In this role, Seamus is responsible for overseeing and managing a large portfolio of ELICOS and enabling education programs. The Centre offers the largest enabling programs in Australia and a range of ELICOS options for International students.

Seamus played a key role in the establishment of a national enabling educator’s conference as well as a peak body for enabling educators; the National Association of Enabling Educators of Australia (NAEEA) and currently serves on its executive. For 17 years he served on the Board of English Australia, the peak body for EFL teaching in Australia, the last 6 years as its chair. In 2016, Seamus was awarded a prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from English Australia, becoming only the third person to ever receive this award. He has served for 7 years on the Board of the National ELT Accreditation Scheme (NEAS), and 4 years on the Board of the International Education Educators of Australia. In Melbourne in 2012 Seamus received the ‘Distinguished Contribution to the Field of International Education’ award at the Australian International Education Conference. Along with Professor Jim Albright he established and maintains the Potential Enabling Program Participant Research (PEPPR) register, which is a register of over 1200 former enabling students who have indicated a commitment to take part in research into widening participation. Seamus has also served as an OLT Assessor for National Fellows and OLT major projects.  Seamus served on an AESOC working group that developed the standards for international foundation programs. Over the years Seamus has been involved in program and unit reviews throughout Australia, as well as New Zealand and Ireland.  He is also on  a list of ELT experts maintained by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). Seamus serves on the Language Education in Asia (LEIA) Journal Advisory Board.

Research Expertise:

Seamus is currently the Chief Investigator of an Office for Learning and Teaching funded project titled “(Re)claiming social capital: improving language and cultural pathways for refugee students into Australian higher education”. The overarching aims of this project are to identify the pathways taken by Humanitarian Entrant Background students to enter Higher Education and to investigate how HEB students experience their transitions into and through undergraduate study.

Seamus is also involved in a collaborative project with the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education and the Wollotuka Institute which looks at the educational aspirations and participation of Indigenous women of reproductive age in regional, rural and remote communities.

Seamus has previously been involved in a Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education (CEEHE) funded project titled “The Ripple Effect: how enabling education impacts on the individual, the family and the community”. The project looked at the effect of enabling education on individuals, their families and the community and found that people who completed enabling programs show similar attributes to students who complete HE via more traditional pathways, however the impact appears to be greater for families and communities of enabling students who complete HE in comparison to those who follow traditional pathways.

Seamus’ other area of research is World Englishes and he has been invited to speak on this topic at a number of international conferences, as well as contributing a chapter on Asian Englishes to the book Towards the Fusion of Language, Culture and Education.

Teaching Expertise:

Seamus has had a long involvement in ESL and enabling education in Australia. Seamus has also had ESL/EFL teaching experience in Ireland, the UK, Lesotho, Egypt and Sudan.



  • Master of Arts, University of Durham
  • Bachelor of Arts, University College, Dublin - Ireland
  • Higher Diploma in Education, University College, Dublin - Ireland

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
139999 Education not elsewhere classified 100


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

Journal article (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Moskovsky C, Jiang G, Libert A, Fagan S, 'Bottom-up or top-down: English as a foreign language vocabulary instruction for Chinese university students', TESOL Quarterly, 49 256-277 (2015) [C1]
DOI 10.1002/tesq.170
Citations Scopus - 6Web of Science - 5
Co-authors Alan Libert, Christo Moskovsky
2012 Bennett AK, Hodges BE, Kavanagh KO, Fagan SJ, Hartley JH, Schofield NJ, ''Hard' and 'soft' aspects of learning as investment: Opening up the neo-liberal view of a programme with 'high' levels of attrition', Widening Participation & Lifelong Learning, 14 141-156 (2012) [C1]
Co-authors Anna Bennett

Conference (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2013 Fagan SJ, 'Is there a 'best way' to provide support to enabling students and can there ever be 'too much' support?', National Association of Enabling Educators of Australia Conference, Melbourne, VIC (2013) [E3]
2011 Albright JJ, Fagan SJ, Ross AM, 'Establishing research into enabling program outcomes at the University of Newcastle', Proceedings of the 1st International Australasian Conference on Enabling Access to Higher Education, Adelaide, SA (2011) [E2]
Co-authors James Albright

Other (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Fagan, May JR, 'Open Foundation opens doors to uni study', Newcastle Morning Herald Opinion. Newcastle NSW: Newcastle Morning Herald (2015)
Co-authors Josephine May

Grants and Funding


Number of grants 3
Total funding $432,350

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

20153 grants / $432,350

(Re)claiming social capital: improving language and cultural pathways for refugee students into Australian higher education$347,000

There is relatively little research that addresses the educational and socio-cultural expectations and experiences of HEB students, especially those who were educated and held status in their own countries and who are now looking to gain educational and economic capital by entering Australian HE. Moreover, although there is a small body of work that addresses the educational experiences of refugee youth (Taylor & Sidhu, 2012; Tregale, 2011; Joyce et al, 2010; Earnest et al, 2010; Matthews, 2008; Woods, 2009), and a growing interest in refugee school–university transitions in Australia (Tregale, 2011; Naidoo et al., 2012), there is no research to our knowledge that addresses Vocational Education and Training (VET)–university transitions for these students or explores an alternative pathway taken by HEB students who start from Intensive English Centres (IEC) and make their movements into Australian HE. Therefore, the aiding and facilitating of HEB students’ entrance into university from outside of HE is an underdeveloped area of research to which we intend to contribute with this project.

This project, led by the University of Newcastle (UoN) and in partnership with Macquarie University (MQ) and Curtin University, addresses the OLT-identified priority area of ‘Improving institutional pathways across higher education’, specifically targeting linguistic and cultural experiences of HEB students as they make their transitions into and through undergraduate study. The project builds on the significant contribution made by three other OLT-funded projects into HEB students’ university experiences (Silburn & Earnest, 2007; Vickers, Zammit & Morrison, 2011; & Naidoo, Wilkinson, Langat, Cunneen & Adoniou, 2012) but offers a fresh perspective: a comparative analysis of the transition experiences of three particular groups of marginalised HEB students as they enter Australian HE in New South Wales and Western Australia. These three groups are:

1. a group of Afghan HEB adult men entering a regional university from TAFE/Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP)

2. a group of HEB youth entering a metropolitan university from an inner-city school

3. a group of HEB youth exiting an Intensive English Centre course in a metropolitan city

At the crux of this project is an interest in students’ language, and academic writing in particular. As writing forms the core of all assessment in the academy (Lea, 1999), the ability to communicate effectively in institutionally-endorsed ways is an essential activity for success; inability to do so can lead to attrition and failure (McInnis, 2001; Krause, 2001; Lillis & Scott, 2007). With the stakes already high, Language Background Other Than English (LBOTE) students are at a disadvantage; for HEB students the stakes are arguably higher as they have to deal with the additional complexities of resettlement, trauma-related psychological issues, fragmented schooling and often vastly different education backgrounds and academic cultures (Oliff & Couch, 2005; Woods, 2009; Morrice, 2013; Cocks & Stokes; 2012; Harris & Marlowe, 2011). The research described in these studies all share concern regarding HEB students’ language capabilities.

From this small body of research into HEB students, it is clear that further research into the lived experiences of teaching and learning of these students is necessary, particularly with a focus not only on the language and literacies that these students bring with them and need to develop, but also on how they develop them and how they experience their multiple entrances into HE in real time.

Funding body: Office for Learning and Teaching

Funding body Office for Learning and Teaching
Project Team Associate Professor Seamus Fagan, Doctor Sally Baker, Ms Evonne Irwin, Ms HELEN Cameron, Associate Professor Jaya Earnest, Mrs Sonal Singh, Ms Ruth Tregale, Earnest, Jaya, Singh, Sonai, Tregale, Ruth
Scheme Innovation and Development Program
Role Lead
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2017
GNo G1500930
Type Of Funding Aust Competitive - Commonwealth
Category 1CS

Wiser Women: Educational Aspirations and Participation of Indigenous Women of Reproductive Age in Regional, Rural and Remote Communities$55,660

Funding body: Leslie Family Foundation

Funding body Leslie Family Foundation
Project Team Associate Professor Kym Rae, Professor Peter Radoll, Associate Professor Maree Gruppetta, Associate Professor Seamus Fagan, Ms Sher Campbell, Professor Penny Jane Burke
Scheme Research Project
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2015
GNo G1501246
Type Of Funding C3112 - Aust Not for profit
Category 3112

Capability, Belonging and Equity in Higher Education: Developing Inclusive Approaches$29,690

Funding body: National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE)

Funding body National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE)
Project Team Professor Penny Jane Burke, Doctor Anna Bennett, Associate Professor Seamus Fagan, Mrs Catherine Burgess, Aprof JANE Maguire, Associate Professor Erica Southgate, Associate Professor Shamus Smith
Scheme Research Grants Program
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2015
GNo G1500360
Type Of Funding Other Public Sector - Commonwealth
Category 2OPC


Passport to success, engaging international students

September 26, 2018

Recognised for its outstanding support of international students, a University of Newcastle initiative has won the NSW International Student Award for community engagement in the education provider category.

Increased support for refugee students to transition to higher education

May 23, 2018

Educators and providers will have access to a new set of tools and resources to better support students from refugee backgrounds pursue higher education, following a national research project that examined students’ transition experiences.

Associate Professor Seamus Fagan


Conjoint Professor
Learning and Teaching
Academic Division

Contact Details

Phone 15377
Fax 17068


Room LC3-22
Building Language Centre
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308