Nicholas Huntington

Power and evidence in New Zealand skills policy: Understanding policy practitioners' engagement with evidence

Nicholas Huntington, PhD student in Public Policy
Nicholas Huntington, PhD student in Public Policy


Supervisors: Dr Amanda Wolf and Associate Professor Jane Bryson (School of Management)


Nicholas has worked in a variety of settings related to education and health for government agencies, research units, and independent sector organisations. These include policy and research roles for the Industry Training Federation, the Tertiary Education Commission, the National Health, Health Workforce, and Public Health Advisory Committees, Massey University's Centre for Public Health Research, and the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission.  From 2011 to 2012 he was a national committee member of the Association of Social Science Research: Te Aka Rangahau Pūtaio Pāpori.

His most recent role was with Ako Aotearoa: The National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, where he led the Centre's work on policy issues and relationships with government agencies, and its special projects portfolio. Nicholas also managed their portfolio of strategic events, including the annual NZ Vocational Education and Training Research Forum, Te Ara Whakamana pathways forum, Student Voice Summit, and Pacific Tertiary Education Forum. In this capacity he had particular interests in promoting student voice in tertiary education, skills-focused and workplace-based learning, and the relationship between education and work.


PG Dip in Social Science Research, Victoria University of Wellington
BA in Political Science and History, BA (First Class Honours) in Political Science, Victoria University of Wellington

Research interests

Nicholas’ research arises from a combination of his history working on both sides of the government-stakeholder divide, his professional background in strategic education and health policy, and his academic interests in political sociology and theories of knowledge.

His research uses a power lens to explore the way that policymakers engage with evidence. Rather than exploring whether evidence is or is not used to develop and implement specific policies, this project explores how policymakers – specifically those working in the broad area of skills policy – conceive of and work with evidence on a day-to-day basis, and how this embodies particular power relationships. This work is couched within an interpretive approach, in which policymaking is held to be less a system of rational decision-making than inherently a process of argumentation and debate, and a ‘Three-Dimensional’ model of power that highlights not just visible forms of power, but also the role of power relationships in constructing and replicating values, assumptions, and rules of behaviour.