Nau mai ngā hua o te wānanga! Applications are invited for a PhD scholarship to work on a project on mathematical modelling of the trajectory of te reo Māori (the Māori language).

There have been numerous interventions over the last 40 years to stop the decline of te reo Māori as part of a movement to revitalise the indigenous language of Aotearoa New Zealand. In 2018, the New Zealand Government set a national target of one million speakers of te reo Māori by 2040, and 150,000 Māori using te reo as their primary language. However, there have been no reports in recent history that provide a complete picture of the health of te reo Māori and its revitalisation, so we are in the dark as to our ‘starting point’, let alone our best strategy to reach this goal.

This project will develop and validate a dynamic mathematical model to improve our understanding of the current trajectory of the Māori language in terms of the number of speakers and what impact possible interventions may have on that trajectory. This will help identify what resources and strategies are required to meet government targets and support self-determined community approaches.

We will use this model to test the effect of various interventions, such as making te reo Māori a compulsory part of the school curriculum, prioritising language immersion schooling, and investing in teachers. Our modelling will draw upon expert knowledge in Māori language revitalisation and comparable interventions that have been implemented for other endangered languages, such as Welsh.


This scholarship is open to anyone who can be in New Zealand and meets the requirements to enrol in a PhD at the relevant institution. Students from a diverse range of fields are encouraged to apply. The successful candidate will hold, or expect to complete soon, an honours or masters level qualification, including some advanced-level study of mathematics, statistics, or a closely related subject. A strong interest in te reo Māori and/or language revitalisation is essential, but no formal prior knowledge is required.

Applicants from all backgrounds are actively encouraged to apply. Members of under-represented groups are very welcome, as are students with families. Our research group aims to achieve work-life balance within a productive scientific environment.


The best place for you to be based during your studies is at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, although there is flexibility on this. You will be jointly supervised by Professor Michael Plank (School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Canterbury) and Dr Rachael Ka’ai-Mahuta (Te Ipukarea Research Institute, Auckland University of Technology).

You will be part of Te Pūnaha Matatini, the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence for Complex Systems. Te Pūnaha Matatini brings together different disciplines, ways of thought, methods, and people to define and solve society’s thorny interconnected problems.

Te Pūnaha Matatini has an active whānau group which supports early career researchers, committed to the Te Pūnaha Matatini values of manaakitanga and whakawhanaungatanga, offering supportive tuakana / teina learning environments.


Informal enquiries are welcome by email:

Financial details

  • Full tuition fees
  • Stipend of NZ$28,800 per year (tax free)

Start date

  • On or before 1 January 2023

How to apply

Send an email expressing your interest, along with a CV, academic record, and list of three potential referees to Michael Plank at or Rachael Ka’ai-Mahuta at

Due date

Applications will be considered until the position is filled. Applications received by Sunday 18 September 2022 will receive full consideration.