Educational Research Human Ethics Committee

Student taking test in class room

Any research or teaching activity in which persons are subjected to experimental procedures or observation or questioning or otherwise used as a source of information or data unless excluded by the scope and exemptions in the Human Ethics Policy.

Apply to the Educational Research Human Ethics Committee (ERHEC) if your research is conducted as part of pre-service and in-service teacher education and professional development or tertiary level professional practice, or if your research will take place in a School with school-aged children.

Examples of research applications that would be considered by ERHEC include:

  • Investigating teaching and learning in curriculum areas in primary and secondary settings
  • Describing how early childhood educators use assessment to inform their practices
  • How schools communicate assessment information to students and their families and whanau

How to apply to the ERHEC

The Educational Research Human Ethics Committee of the University of Canterbury (ERHEC), only accepts project applications for review from:

  • Academic staff of the University of Canterbury
  • Visiting academic staff
  • Research Associates of the University of Canterbury, as endorsed by an academic staff member
  • Students who are enrolled in a course of study at the University of Canterbury and who will carry out research under the supervision of, or in collaboration with, an academic staff member of the university

All applications to the Upper South Health and Disability Ethics Committee also require a separate application to the appropriate University of Canterbury Human Ethics Committee.

Ethical Research Involving Children: A product of the ERIC (Ethical Research Involving Children) to help researchers consider the ethical complexities of research involving children. ERIC is a joint project between UNICEF’s Office of Research, Innocenti, the Childwatch International Research Network, the Centre for Children and Young People at Southern Cross University, Australia, and the Children’s Issues Centre at the University of Otago, New Zealand.

The above documents outline the processes for ethical approvals of educational research projects in the School of Teacher Education. Associate Professor Brigid McNeill is the member of the College of Education, Health and Human Development’s Research Committee who signs off Low-Risk applications in the School of Teacher Education before they are submitted to the ERHEC.

The general procedure for applications to the ERHEC is:

  • The Research Involving Human Participants Policy and the application forms are downloaded and filled in by the applicant.
  • The completed application form and relevant supporting documents are sent electronically and via hard-copy to the secretary.
  • Applications are circulated via email to ERHEC members.
  • The committee review applications.
  • The chair and secretary meet to summarise the concerns and a response is sent to the applicant by email advising of any suggestions or required additions or amendments.
  • Responses to the secretary’s email are discussed with chair and approval provided. Occasionally an application is required to be resubmitted for full review by the ERHEC.
  • Final approval is by electronic copy letter and by email from the secretary.

Applications: submit one electronic copy and one hard copy

Electronic copy
Send to

Hard copy (send by internal mail or take to Level 5 North, Matariki)
The secretary
Level 5 North

Application forms for ERHEC

  • Ethical Approval of Research Projects and Applicant Checklist‌ (Word 98 KB)
    This form is to be used by all staff and students undertaking educational research (unless the research meets the criteria for low-risk - see the Human Ethics Policy for an explanation of low-risk).
  • ERHEC Low Risk Application Form (Word 149 KB)
    This form is to be used by staff and students undertaking low-risk educational research
  • ERHEC Blanket Application Form (Word 131 KB)
    This form is to be used by staff for undergraduate, graduate or postgraduate courses where students are required to undertake research that poses no threat to the well-being of the participants, and where the methodology and ethical considerations are very similar for all the projects.

Templates for information sheets and consent forms

Examples to help you with your application, letters and consent form(s)


Nominated byCurrent member
Two academic staff from each school of the College of Education nominated by the heads of schools School of Educational Studies and Leadership
Trish McMenamin
School of Teacher Education
Amanda Denston
Patrick Shepherd (Chair)
School of Health Sciences
One member nominated by the Kaiarahi Maori Position vacant
One member nominated by the Dean of Law Dr Debra Wilson (School of Law)
One member representing another college of the University of Canterbury Position vacant
Other College of Education, Health and Human Development staff as required Kathryn Andrews (Education Library)
One College of Education, Health and Human Development Postgraduate student nominated by the committee Position Vacant
Two laypeople representing the wider educational community appointed by the committee

Neil Fleming
Anne van Bysterveldt 


The chair is appointed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and the committee has the power to co-opt.

  • Public Records Act 2005
  • Care of Children Act 2004.
  • Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Act 2001
  • Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994
  • Health Research Council Act 1990
  • Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992
  • New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990
  • Official Information Act 1982
  • Privacy Act 2020
  • Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988
  • Human Rights Act 1993
  • Archives Act 1957

For details of each Act see New Zealand Legislation.


Social Media and Research – Blogs and Forums

[With thanks to Keely Blanch, PhD Candidate from the University of Otago for these suggestions].

One of the key principles of ethical research is that information is used for the purposes for which it is given. Most social media sites are developed to provide a forum for a particular issue, without a research audience in mind.

The following is intended as a guide only to help you consider some of the ethical issues involving researching Blogs, Forums and other Social Media. If you are unsure about anything mentioned here, please contact the HEC Chair or Secretary at to discuss your research.

If blogs are public, posts can be seen to be public statements and consent to quote/research them may not be necessary. However, there are still many ethical and practical considerations to bear in mind. Some of these are outlined below.

  • Does the blog have any statement anywhere that aims to protect posts or restrict use of content? Even if not legally enforceable, this would raise ethical issues. You may need to check the blog host's Terms and Conditions, e.g. Google Blogger or Wordpress for any restrictions of use.
  • Does the blog aim to be widely read by a public audience - does it advertise or cross-post to increase traffic etc.? Is this a niche topic - What is the writer's expectation of privacy? Do you need to consider this? Does the researcher have to join/ login to site to access? Even when posting ‘publically’, research shows many writers aim their posts at a select few of their friend group and do not consider the invisible audience. Often people write for 'people like me' and won't have had the general public or researchers in mind.
  • What identifiers need to be masked – name, profile pictures, photos used (all searchable)?
  • When researching forums - how will you anonymise the data? How much data will you share? Online personas and networks are “like fingerprints” and can be identified. The more individualised data shared, the more potential for identification. Data can be linked and tracked back. Direct quotes are traceable – you can consider rewording but will this keep the original intent of the post? Perhaps multiple pseudonyms per individual could be used to mask identities? Can you truly promise anonymity? Is the forum dedicated to addressing a sensitive issue? If so, you ask permission from the forum participants to use their data.
  • Is the research likely to increase the visibility of posts and increase risk for participants? Participants may have posted publically originally, but may have only conceived a particular audience and not considered the risk of a wider exposure.
  • Is there any discussion/pictures/details of people from the writer's life (e.g. family, especially children) that may be impacted? The use of pictures by people who have not consented to be part of a research project is highly risky and should be avoided if at all possible. If a writer does not consider ethics, should researchers compound this?
  • Check if anyone can post or is the site for approved authors only? In which case what Terms and Conditions do they operate under as authors?

Essentially, it is important that researchers understand some of the 'unspoken' rules and norms of sites to ethically research and use data, or have someone who does (like the blog owner) to 'interpret'. The researcher could find it useful to contact the blog owner and ask for permission to use posts in their research. If authors have to be approved by the blog owner then they will possibly have communicated guidelines for posting. Forums are different, and will depend on how the site is set up, but again, ideally permission is sought for the data to be used for research. This could be done by posting a statement on the forum board giving an email address (remember to space it out and use 'dot' for ' . ' so the spambots don't pick up the address!) to opt out of having posts considered; and this also gives people a chance to look at their posts with a researcher/non-community member in mind.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to securely store their research data for the appropriate length of time as stated in their ethics application. The researcher must then ensure that any data is securely destroyed after this period of time has elapsed.

Should it become necessary to transfer hard-copy or video data to electronic format, this should be done in a secure manner and any hard-copy or video data should then be securely destroyed. The electronic format data should then be held for the appropriate length of time as stated in the ethics application and then securely destroyed

Researchers may choose to give participants a token of appreciation, such as a voucher, for taking part in their research. It is important that any such token is understood as a gift and not as a reimbursement for time, due to the potential tax implications. Researchers still need to hold a register of who has received gift vouchers and this can be kept confidentially by the researcher.


For all enquiries concerning:

  • Principles and guidelines
  • Scope of ERHEC process
  • Exemption from application
  • Filling out application forms (including low risk and full applications)
  • HEC training programme
  • Complaints
  • Presentations to students and/or staff regarding the ethical process

Contact the chair, Patrick Shepherd, +64 3 369 3807 ext: 93807

For all enquiries concerning:

  • General enquiries
  • Circulation of applications
  • Progress of applications
  • Letters of approval

Contact the secretary, Rebecca Robinson, +64 3 369 4588 ext: 94588.