Thesis supervision Advice

At the moment due to capacity, we are only accepting a small number of new thesis students into the lab. If you wish to apply to be a research student of either Kathryn or Cheryl it will be important that your proposed research topics align with the strategic focus of the lab:

  • Digital Policy and Inclusion: Focused on educational policy and social issues around the integration of digital technology within education. Includes critical issues around wellness, ethics, citizenship, and equity.
  • Innovative Technologies: Focused on new and emerging technologies and pedagogies for effective teaching and learning.
  • Developing Effective Practices: Focused on supporting and developing effective practices and readiness for the integration of digital technologies in education driving positive student and educators experiences.

If you are interested in applying, to undertake a research thesis (Masters/EdD/PhD), it will be important that your topic connect with these broad areas.

For Prospective Students Currently Living Outside of NZ

At present, the New Zealand borders are closed and it is not possible to get a NZ visa for entry as a doctoral student. However, an option can be to study by distance.

Please note, that while UC is accepting enrolments from overseas, we do not expect the borders to NZ to be open for some time. All students interested in starting their studies while living overseas must be prepared to start their studies overseas. Given these circumstances, we are being very selective in the candidates that we accept, and will only accept new students that can demonstrate a strong research background.

Supervisory Area of Focus

If you would like to explore the possibility of undertaking your research under either Kathryn MacCallum and Cheryl Brown (Directors of DeFL) you will need to submit a proposal that outlines your proposed research. It is vital that this clearly connects with our research interests (see the above links for an overview).

Current focus areas include;

* Digital:  Innovative technologies in education (for example mobile, AR, VR, electronic, IA, games etc) and their impact on learning. Kathryn is less interested in exploring the generic roles of blended and online learning unless there is a specific innovation (applied in formal and informal education) or approach that drives learning in new ways. Cheryl is particularly interested in open education practices, how social media supports learning, and issues around access and equity

* Education: the process of teaching or learning is evolving and the influences that have had in formal educational context (schools, tertiary, training); and how digital technology supports new ways of learning (such as agile, lean, design thinking mediated through technology), and inclusive policies, including new digital pedagogies. Kathryn is particularly interested in how we can better engage with digital technologies in schools to develop strong links with DT, such as computational thinking, especially across the school curriculum. Cheryl is interested in students experiences of online learning, critical pedagogies of care, wellbeing and connected learning.

* Futures: interrogating the purpose of technology for education through the adoption of a critical lens that problematizes the role of digital technology in our past, present and future educational contexts to better prepare society for the changeable future of work. We are both interested in the role technology and digital literacies play in students, parents and teachers lives, its’ impact on society and how this is addressed through education. We are particularly interested in literacies, citizenship and digital identities.

General Advice for Applying for a PhD at UC

Below is general information that we send out to prospective PhD students. To apply, please read the following steps carefully.

Information about undertaking a PhD at UC is available here:

Information for international students is available here:

Doctoral students must have a B+ average or better, and to have completed a research thesis at Masters level before applying for admission for a PhD. The IELTS requirement for PhD study at the University of Canterbury is 6.5 (no section score lower than 6.0). Please also note that the University of Canterbury offers international PhD students tuition at a domestic level, but that there are very few scholarships available.

To learn more about the fields in which we have supervision available in the School of Educational Studies and Leadership please visit our website, Click through some of our academic staff members to see their research areas. Another option I suggest is you use the ‘UC Research Profile’ link and the search option to identify potential staff whose research interests match yours. 

To find out more about the processes of applying for supervision, please visit our website:

Application for PhD. Supervision in the School of Educational Studies and Leadership (EDSL)

If your proposed area of research is one for which we have supervision available, please contact the potential supervisor introducing yourself and including:

  • A CV (résumé) that includes details of your tertiary education, the title of your Masters thesis, if completed, and any research methodology training
  • A copy of the transcript of your previous study, showing the courses you have taken, and the marks achieved
  • A two to three page description of your initial research concept as a Word document. In EDSL, we support students to develop and plan their own research, rather than assigning a topic to a student. This ensures that your research will support your career goals

Your concept plan should give a brief rationale for your proposed research question, with references to articles or books that have inspired you or contributed to your thinking, your draft research question, and your current ideas about methodology, including the location of your planned study.

Once accepted, a PhD candidate works with their supervisors to further develop the proposal over a 12-month period, so we are not expecting a huge amount of detail at this stage.

Next Steps:

If you meet the entry requirements for our PhD programme, and we are able to provide supervision, the next step would be to apply for formal admission to the University. This process is handled through the University Admission Office and the Postgraduate Research Office. If we are able to provide supervision, we will provide you with more information about these processes.