Dr Francis Leo Collins

BA(hons), MA(hons), PhD

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Senior Lecturer


I have undergraduate and masters degrees in Sociology and Film, TV and Media Studies and a PhD in Geography from the University of Auckland. Following my PhD I worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Asia Research Institute (2007-2009) and Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography (2009-2011) at the National University of Singapore. I joined the School of Environment in December 2011.

I have broad interests in theoretically informed and empirically substantive urban, social and cultural geographies. Within these areas I engage with a range of theoretical approaches to transnationalism, relational notions of space and place, territory, (im)mobilities, embodiment, and materiality. I have experience conducting research in New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and Singapore, and have broad interests in the Asia-Pacific.

Research | Current

The primary focus of my recent research is exploring the intersection of transnational migration and urban form and experience. In straightforward terms we can conceive of cities as the location for the majority of international, and often internal, migrants in the world today. Cities in this sense play an important role in migration as nodal points in global networks of transportation and telecommunications, sites of community formation, and spaces and places of settlement and incorporation. Migrants and the communities they belong are also perceived to have palpable effects on the everyday landscapes of cities through their presence and practices. Conceptually, the focus on migratory processes and urban form also raises interesting questions about the intersection of mobilities and the supposed stability associated with cities. In my research I am principally interested in questions related to the ways that mobile lives become part of different urban spaces, the lived experience of different parts of cities, the structuring of migrant lives through urban form and materiality, the role of migrants in the emergence of relations between places, and the significance of migration for the public life of cities.

Current and recent research projects:

  • Nation and Migration: population mobilities, desires and state practices in 21st century New Zealand (2015-2020)

This five year programme of research examines the relationship between nation and migration in the context of increasing mobility, temporariness and circularity through three studies that address the changing patterns of migration into New Zealand, the trans-Tasman mobility of New Zealanders, and the role of migration in governmental imaginings and enacments of national futures. The programme is funded through a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship awarded by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

The first study examines the mobility patterns and desires of new temporary migrants in three regional employment sectors that are commonly viewed as critical to national futures: trades workers in the Canterbury rebuild; dairy workers in Waikato; and nurses in the Auckland public health system. The second project mirrors the first in exploring mobility patterns and desires of both native and naturalised trans-Tasman migrants in the urban agglomerations of Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. The final project builds on these migrant understandings of nation and future to explore the govermental approach to different modes of migration in to, out of and through New Zealand focusing particularly on how migration is enlisted in visions for national future, the significance of diaspora and the political projects that seek to work on these populations.

  • Emerging Geographies of Temporary Migration in Auckland/New Zealand (2013-ongoing)

    An exploration of new forms of temporary migration in New Zealand with a specific focus on their implications for urban life in Auckland. The central premise of this study is that the emerging policy focus on temporary status as a precursor to permanent settlement in New Zealand and other settler societies is reworking the socio-political context, lived experience and future potential of migration. Project funded by a grant from the University of Auckland.

  • The urban/digital nexus: Participation, belonging and social media in Auckland (2013-2014)

    This mixed method project will explore the use of social media and other forms of information communication technologies by refugee and other diasporic communities who are at once both ‘connected/mobile and emplaced/embodied’. This information will be used to map and assess the extent to which digital participation and networking supports and enhances social participation and social cohesion in urban settings. Research team: Jay Marlowe (Education), Allen Bartley (Education), Francis Collins (Geography), Gerry Cotterell (COMPASS). Seed funding: 'Transforming Cities' thematic research initiative

  • Globalising Universities and International Student Mobilities in East Asia (2009-2012)

    Funded by the Singapore Ministry of Education, this project explores the recent transformations in leading national and private tertiary institutions in East Asia and the biographies of international students moving through them. Research team: Ho Kong Chong (NUS), Brenda Yeoh (NUS), Francis Collins (Auckland), Ravinder Sidhu (Queensland), Mayumi Ishikawa (Osaka), Sandra Ma (National Chenghi, Taiwan), Nick Lewis (Auckland), Park Gil Sung (Korea U)

  • Mobility, Social Difference and Urban Incorporation: emergent experiences and responses to diversity in the Seoul Metropolitan Region (2008-2013)

    This project explores the urban geographies of different temporary migrants ('migrant workers' and 'English teachers') in the Seoul Metropolitan Region, focusing on the role of governmental regulation in shaping mobilities, the aspirations of different migrant subjects and articulation of migration into the transformation of urban spaces. The project has been supported by funding received from the Korea Foundation, National University of Singapore and University of Auckland.

Teaching | Current


GEOG714: Population, Mobilities and Wellbeing

Postgraduate supervision

PhD Candidates

Hayley Sparks (PhD, Geography in progress) - Geographies of Privilege: Exploring the lifeworlds, experiences and identities of ‘privileged’ children in Auckland (main supervisor with Robin Kearns)

Rachael Boswell (PhD, Geography in progress) - The role of artist's creative spatial practices in urban regeneration after disasters (co supervisor with Robin Kearns)

Roseanna Spiers (PhD, Geography in progress) - (co supervisor with Nick Lewis)

Kate Sewell (PhD, Fenner School - Australia National University) - Urban Renewal and Complex Systems in Hong Kong (International Associate Supervisor with Xuemai Bai and Katrina Proust)

Harry Yu Shi (MA in progress) - Migrant Masculinities in the Chinese Diaspora (main supervisor with Ward Friesen)

PhD Completions

Bingyu Wang (PhD, Asian Studies 2016) - Researching Cosmopolitan Attitudes and Practices among the New Chinese Transmigrants to New Zealand (joint supervisor with Manying Ip, Asian Studies)

Masters Candidates

Cameron Johnson (MA in progress) - Post-suburbanisation and Urban Futures (main supervisor with Tom Baker)

Jordan Griffiths (MA in progress) - Islamaphobia and Everyday Life in Auckland (co supervisor with Ward Friesen)

Masters Completions

Madeleine Morey (MSc 1st Class 2016) - Temporary Migration and Urban Incorporation in Auckland: Graduate Job Seekers (main supervisor)

Euan Forsyth (MSc 1st Class 2016) - Connectivity, Walkability and Urban Form (main supervisor with Mark Gahegan)

Lisa Tsai (MSc 1st Class 2016) - Intersections of Mobilities and Time: Taiwanese Working Holidaymakers in New Zealand (co supervisor with Ward Friesen)

Charlotte Pecover (MA 1st Class 2015) - Urban food (in)security and researching school breakfast programmes in Auckland (main supervisor with Mark Busse, Anthropology)

Renee Gordon (MA 1st Class) - Social Housing and State-led Gentrification in Glen Innes Auckland (main supervisor with Robin Kearns)

Christina Zhang (MSc 2014) - Socio-cultural factors in housing purchases among Chinese residents in Auckland (co-supervisor with Hong-Key Yoon)

Annie van der Plas (MA 1st Class 2014) - The ability of public art to create an active dialogue between people and place (main supervisor with Robin Kearns)

Hayley Sparks (MA 1st Class 2013) - Transport, Mobilities and Livability: Exploring proposed plans to transform Auckland into the 'world's most livable city' (main supervisor with Robin Kearns)
- 2014 New Zealand Geographical Society Best Masters Award Winner

Recent Honours Dissertation Topics:

Public Art and Public Space; Karaoke and Transnational Identities; Airport Geographies; Animals and Television Advertisements; Cruise Ships as Assemblage; Childhood Memories and Place Attachment; home-making and return migration; the city in Batman films, vertical/skyscraper geographies; TV drama and migrant mobilities in China


Rutherford Discovery Fellow (2015-2020)

Korea Foundation Fellow (2015)

Areas of expertise

Urban Geography, Migration and Transnationalism, Politics of Cultural Diversity, International Student Mobilities

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Editorial and Memberships

International Encyclopedia of Geography, Section Editor (Wiley and Association of American Geographers)

Social and Cultural Geography, Editorial Board Member

ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, Editorial Board Member

Palgrave Communications, Associate Editor and Editorial Board Member

New Zealand Geographical Society

Association of American Geographers


Service Roles - University of Auckland

International Comittee (2014-2016)

School of Environment, Research Comittee

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Shi, Y., & Collins, F. L. (2018). Producing mobility: visual narratives of the rural migrant worker in Chinese television. Mobilities, 13 (1), 126-141. 10.1080/17450101.2017.1320133
  • Gordon, R., Collins, F. L., & Kearns, R. (2017). ‘It is the People that Have Made Glen Innes’: State-led Gentrification and the Reconfiguration of Urban Life in Auckland. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 41 (5), 767-785. 10.1111/1468-2427.12567
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Robin Kearns
  • Collins, F. L., Ho, K. C., Ishikawa, M., & Ma, A.-H. S. (2017). International Student Mobility and After-Study Lives: the Portability and Prospects of Overseas Education in Asia. Population, Space and Place, 23 (4).10.1002/psp.2029
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/33305
  • Sparks, H., Collins, F. L., & Kearns, R. (2016). Reflecting on the risks and ethical dilemmas of digital research. Geoforum, 77, 40-46. 10.1016/j.geoforum.2016.09.019
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Robin Kearns, Hayley Sparks
  • Sidhu, R., Collins, F., Lewis, N., & Yeoh, B. (2016). Governmental assemblages of internationalising universities: Mediating circulation and containment in East Asia. Environment and Planning A, 48 (8), 1493-1513. 10.1177/0308518X16644255
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/31102
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Nicolas Lewis
  • Collins, F. L., Sidhu, R., Lewis, N., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2016). Mobility and desire: International students and Asian regionalism in aspirational Singapore. In T. Chong, A. Koh (Eds.) Education in the global city: The manufacturing of education in Singapore (pp. 37-52). Abingdon, Oxon, UK: Routledge.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Nicolas Lewis


Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 4, Room 419
New Zealand

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