SfTI (UoA) – Te Hiku Media funded PhD position at the University of Auckland

Application Deadline:

October 17 2022

Host institution:

The University of Auckland, City Campus

Start date:

January 15 2023


Tēnā rā koutou katoa

We are seeking applications for a PhD position on the topic of developing a culturally-congruent speech emotion recognition framework for te reo Māori. This is a kaupapa Māori project, jointly funded by SfTI (Science for Technological Innovation National Science Challenge) and Te Hiku Media, and the student will be hosted at the University of Auckland. 


A suitable candidate should have:

  1. Knowledge of te reo Māori/ Knowledge and appreciation of languages
  2. An Electrical/Computer Systems/Software/Biomedical/Mechanical (or related) Engineering or Computer Science Bachelors/Masters Degree, or related.
  3. Good coding skills
  4. Strong interest in te reo Māori, speech technology and signal processing
  5. Enthusiasm to learn, explore, research and contribute to the society via co-developing technology with the society.

Funding amount:

NZD 27,500 plus NZD 7500 towards course fees per annum for three years.

What we provide:

You will be based at the University of Auckland. You will be guided by academics from the University of Auckland, Massey University and technologists from Te Hiku Media.


The SfTI – Te Hiku Media funded PhD position at the University of Auckland is designed to support a student who has strong interest in te reo Māori to pursue a PhD in te reo Māori speech technology. The scholarship is for three years funded by the Science for Technological Innovation (SfTI) 2021 Kaupapa kākano Seed project fund and Te Hiku Media’s Papa Reo project.  The Papa Reo project is the culmination of work undertaken by Te Reo Irirangi o Te Hiku o Te Ika (Te Hiku Media) over the last 30 years to instil, nurture and proliferate the Māori language unique to haukāinga of Te Hiku o Te Ika.

Many of us are forced to adapt the way we talk so that Alexa/Siri and similar Human-Computer Interacton systems understand us. Imagine having to make such adjustments in our emotion expressions as well! Latest HC I systems understand (recognise) users’ emotions from speech. Such systems are receiving strong interest due to the demand for contactless interaction. They are being introduced rapidly in Aotearoa as well. With speech technology research concentrating on a few well-resourced languages (99 out of 7097 world languages) like American-English, emotion recognition models are trained only on these languages. Speech technology used in HC I is thus biased against speakers of under-resourced languages like te reo Māori. This project aims to address this bias by developing a culturally-congruent Speech Emotion Recognition (SER) system for te reo. Before we proceed to technology development in Māori emotions, mātauranga Māori via feedback from te reo speakers will guide the process of defining emotions specifically in te reo, rather than using their seemingly-close English equivalents. This consultation with te reo speakers will form the basis for developing an emotional speech framework for te reo, and lead to testing the framework on a SER system. The developed te reo Māori emotional speech framework will lead way to speech technology for Aotearoa from Aotearoa which can be used by technology developers who currently do not have Aotearoa-specific frameworks to use. This will be the first research if its kind into indigenous emotions technology, thereby paving way for other languages to develop frameworks following a culturally-congruent approach.

Project supervision team consists of:

Dr Jesin James (The University of Auckland), Dr Sally Ake Nicholas (Massey University), Dr Gianna Leoni (Te Hiku Media), Dr Peter Keegan (The University of Auckland), Dr Catherine Watson (The University of Auckland)


If the above seems like an area you are passionate about, apply for this PhD position. You will be guided by academics from the University of Auckland, Massey University, and technologists from Te Hiku Media. Together, we will learn, research and support the development of speech technology in the languages of Aotearoa. All applicants should submit:

  1. The application form including an outline of your proposed research approach for the above-described research. This does not need to be a fully developed proposal but could include your expertise (methods or approaches you use/are interested in using), community connections and research ideas/plan. Download application form.
  2. Your curriculum vitae
  3. A cover letter about yourself.

Submit all the above to jesin.james@auckland.ac.nz.

If you have any further questions or want to know more details about the project, please contact Jesin James (jesin.james@auckland.ac.nz).

Project is supported by