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Dr Michael Johnston

Senior Fellow

Dr Michael Johnston is a Senior Fellow at the New Zealand Initiative. He leads the workstream on education.

Prior to his time at the Initiative, Dr Johnston held academic positions at Victoria University of Wellington from 2011-2022. From 2020 until 2022 he was the Associate Dean (Academic) in the University’s Faculty of Education.

Prior to his time at Victoria, Dr Johnston was the Senior Statistician at the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, a position he held for 6 years. Before that, he was a lecturer in psychology at the University Melbourne and a Research Fellow at Latrobe University.

Dr Johnston holds a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Melbourne.

Phone: 044990790

Email: michael.johnston@nzinitiative.org.nz

Recent Work

2024 05 23 Jonathan Rauch Website

Podcast: Jonathan Rauch and the Constitution of Knowledge

In this episode, Michael and James talk to Jonathan Rauch, famed American journalist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. They discuss the importance of free speech and open debate for the advancement of knowledge and the health of our society. Read more

Dr Michael Johnston
Dr James Kierstead
Jonathan Rauch
23 May, 2024
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The Platform: Dr Michael Johnston on declining NCEA results, single-sex school advantages, and academic freedom

Dr Michael Johnston talks to Michael Laws on The Platform about recent declining NCEA results in New Zealand and a University of Auckland report showing single-sex schools outperform co-ed schools. Dr Johnston argues the Ministry of Education ignores empirical research due to ideological commitments and fails to address the growing gender gap in academic achievement, with girls significantly outperforming boys. Read more

Dr Michael Johnston
Michael Laws
The Platform
2 May, 2024
website victoria

Beware the university seeking to limit the freedom of speech

The Education and Training Act enshrines academic freedom in law. It distinguishes aspects of academic freedom over which the university itself has jurisdiction, from aspects that protect its students and academic staff from institutional interference. Read more

Dr Michael Johnston
Dr James Kierstead
The Post
1 May, 2024
2024 04 30 Victorias postponed free speech event Episode Website

Podcast: Victoria University's postponed free speech event

In this episode, Oliver Hartwich interviews Dr Michael Johnston about the free speech event at Victoria University that was postponed due to backlash within the university. They discuss the importance of free speech in liberal democracies, the changing perception of free speech as a partisan issue, and the concerning trend of young people trying to shut down events featuring disagreeable viewpoints. Read more

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Dr Michael Johnston
30 April, 2024
2024 04 18 Germany dual education Episode Website

Podcast: Germany's dual education system

Oliver and Michael talk about Germany's dual education system with Rachel Simpson, Manager for Education, Skills and Immigration at Business NZ. Recently, Michael and Rachel were on a business delegation to Germany to find out about their dual education system first-hand. Read more

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Dr Michael Johnston
Rachel Simpson
18 April, 2024
2024 04 11 Neurodivergence Episode Website Copy

Podcast: Education for neurodivergent students

In this episode, Michael talks to Holly Gooch and Izzy Bremner, from The Hyphen Project, about what it might be like for people who are perhaps not considered the "norm" in our large school system. They talk about The Hyphen Project, which is a talent incubator for 16-19 year olds who are talented, neurodivergent and have not gotten on well with the mainstream education system. Read more

Dr Michael Johnston
Holly Gooch & Izzy Bremner
11 April, 2024

The problem with the vice-chancellor’s ‘free speech’ column

In a column that appeared in The Post on 23 February, Victoria University of Wellington Vice-Chancellor Nic Smith criticizes the coalition's commitment to have universities adopt a free speech policy. Smith notes that ACT Party leader david seymour ‘has previously criticised universities for declining to host certain speakers and argued the institutions should lose funding if they don't “protect free speech.”' The vice-chancellor then states that ‘one inference of all this is that anyone who wants to speak on campus should be able to do so.' But it wouldn't actually be valid to infer from Seymour's criticisms of recent deplatformings at New Zealand universities that he thinks that ‘anyone who wants to speak on campus should be able to do so.' You can, of course, think that Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas was wrong to prevent Don Brash from speaking to a student politics club in August 2018 (for example) and at the same time recognize that random people can't simply turn up at a university without an invitation and expect to get a hearing. Read more

Dr Michael Johnston
Dr James Kierstead
Kiwiblog
14 March, 2024
When the bloat began website thumbnail

Media Release: New research reveals the start of excessive non-academic staffing in New Zealand Universities

New research reveals the start of excessive non-academic staffing in New Zealand Universities Wellington (Wednesday, 28 February 2024) - This new research note, When the Bloat Began: Non-Academic Staffing at New Zealand Universities over the Long Run, 1961-1997, reveals the year in which non-academic employees started to outnumber academics at our universities. Building on the findings of our earlier research report, Blessing or Bloat? Read more

Dr Michael Johnston
Dr James Kierstead
28 February, 2024
Research Note When the bloat began with outline

When the Bloat Began: Non-Academic Staffing at New Zealand Universities over the long run, 1961-1997

This new research note, When the Bloat Began: Non-Academic Staffing at New Zealand Universities over the Long Run, 1961-1997, reveals the year in which non-academic employees started to outnumber academics at our universities. Building on the findings of our earlier research report, Blessing or Bloat? Read more

Dr Michael Johnston
Dr James Kierstead
28 February, 2024

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