University of Sydney Handbooks - 2019 Archive

Download full 2019 archive Page archived at: Tue, 05 Nov 2019 02:36:07 +0000

Gender Studies

Every single day, in every single country, issues of gender and sexuality are contested, in parliament, in workplaces, in sports, in the media, in religion, in schools, in hospitals and on the streets. Gender has emerged as one of the most important areas of enquiry in the Humanities and Social Sciences, as a foundation concept in all human societies, past and present.

Since Simone de Beauvoir first announced, "One is not born a woman, one becomes one", the study of gender has emerged as one of the most important areas of enquiry in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Gender Studies challenges and enriches our understanding of masculinity, femininity, transgender, sexuality and identity, and provides a framework for considering social and cultural issues gender impacts, ranging from debates about marriage equality and new forms of intimacy to gendered forms of labour, violence and representational practices; and how gender relates to other salient experiences such as race, coloniality, sexuality, class, and ability.

About the major

Gender Studies offers you interdisciplinary perspectives on how gender shapes formal knowledge, social institutions and everyday experience. Historically, Gender Studies draws principally on the fields of Literary Studies, Philosophy, Psychology and Sociology but it now interacts closely with Anthropology, Law, Medicine, the natural sciences and Social Work, and indeed almost every Humanities and Social Science discipline.

Gender Studies has transformed the study of social life in all fields by its interdisciplinary focus on sex, gender and sexuality and it is a crucial foundation for fields like Film and Media Studies or more policy oriented pursuits.

A major in Gender Studies will equip you with critical insight and flexible interdisciplinary research and writing skills that provide a complement to degrees in Arts and Social Sciences, Law, Psychology, Nursing and Medicine, preparing you for further research and assisting in enhancing career prospects in these fields and beyond. It will also give you the ability to comprehend diversity issues which is a key workplace competency. It equips you to become informed and engaged critical thinkers in relation to important contemporary cultural issues and everyday experiences and encourages good writing skills. We train students in ethical scholarly conduct and appropriate techniques for engaging in critique. Students will understand what cultural competence means in different contexts. You will learn values of intellectual generosity and critical engagement through studying how power operates discursively.

Graduates with a major in Gender Studies generally go on to careers that require an understanding of gender and sexuality, especially but not only in the governmental and NGO sectors, in education and in media and communications. Gender Studies complements other majors in Arts and Social Sciences and degrees in Law, Psychology, Social Work, Education, and Health.

Requirements for completion

A major in Gender Studies requires 48 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:
(i) 6 credit points of 1000-level core unit
(ii) 6 credit points of 1000-level selective units
(iii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units
(iv) 18 credit points of 3000-level units
(v) 6 credit points of 3000-level Interdisciplinary Project units

A minor in Gender Studies requires 36 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:
(i) 6 credit points of 1000-level core unit
(ii) 6 credit points of 1000-level selective units
(iii) 12 credit points of 2000-level selective units
(v) 12 credit points of 3000-level selective units

First year

First year introduces the major concepts that are foundational to Gender Studies, helping students to develop a critical perspective on the way sex, gender and sexuality are experienced and represented in contemporary culture and the traditions that have framed the body in western and non-Western thought. GCST1602 Introduction to Gender Studies is core to the major. It familiarises students with foundational concepts in the study of gender, including how gender organises our lives, bodies, sexualities and how it situates us in relation to human rights, the environment, post-coloniality, race and class. You will complete this plus at least one of the following: GCST1601 Introduction to Cultural Studies, GCST1603 Screen Cultures and Gender: Film to Apps, or GCST1604 Introduction to Diversity.

GCST1604 Introduction to Diversity Studies provides foundational skills in thinking through a range of diversity issues informed by race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality and dis/ability and the importance of cultivating understanding and respect for difference. It will appeal to students interested in social, economic and cultural marginalisation and new social demands for inclusion.

GCST1603 Screen Cultures and Gender: Film to Apps traces the history of screen cultures from film to apps, focusing on how popular media is used to produce and represent masculinity and femininity. Students will consider cinema, television, videogames, the internet and mobile devices, asking how changing media forms and practices impact on our gendered identities and everyday lives.

GCST1601 Introduction to Cultural Studies will introduce you to how media representations and cultural practices convey meanings that inform our everyday social and cultural world.

Second year

Second year units are designed to broaden your knowledge of Gender Studies and its objects of study while preparing students for the more advanced content they will be exposed to in their third year. You can choose from a range of units of study that are designed to broaden your knowledge of issues related to the study of gender, including sexuality and identity, theories of intimacy and friendship, sexuality and violence, constructions of masculinity and the intersection of gender with environmental issues. You must complete 12 credit points at 2000 level to complete either a major or a minor and before enrolling in 3000 level units of study.

Progression is achieved through both breadth and depth, allowing you to explore the diversity of approaches to the study of gender, sexuality and identity while developing transdisciplinary analytical and critical thinking skills. You will develop a strong understanding of the different ways in which gender, power and difference inform social and institutional practices and how to apply theoretical concepts to particular social issues informed by gender.

Particular emphasis is placed on developing skills in communicating critical understanding of gendered issues in written and verbal form, and in participating in tutorial team work (listening and responding to other students’ ideas and analyses, expressing ideas and points of agreement and disagreement with others without abuse).

Third year

To complete a Gender Studies major, you will complete a minimum of 18 credit points at senior-advanced 3000 level units of study and an additional 6 credit point interdisciplinary project. For a minor, you will need to complete 12 credit points (no project is required to complete a minor).

Units at 3000 level are designed to synthesise your understandings of gender thus far, and to introduce you to the high-level skills in critical thinking, self-directed and ethical research, interpersonal and communication skills, and techniques for analysing complexly gendered social, environmental and political issues.

Students will be expected to demonstrate an advanced understanding of sex and gender in contemporary social contexts, by using sophisticated theoretical concepts concerning the study of gender-related issues in everyday social contexts. Through engaged work, you will also develop an ability to work collaboratively with peers and teachers and to foster intellectual generosity, cultural competence and social inclusion.

Importantly for life beyond the university, you will practice defining, explaining, and presenting conclusions about gender to others, applying disciplinary expertise to issues encountered in interdisciplinary and real world contexts. The many ways in which a critical understanding of gender can inform your chosen life path will also clearly manifest.


If you commenced your degree prior to 2018: Admission to Honours requires a major in Gender Studies with an average of 70 percent or above.

If you commenced your degree after 2018: Admission to Honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in Gender Studies with an average of 70 percent or above. You will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major (which may be Cultural Studies), prior to commencing Honours.

The Honours program gives students an opportunity to refine their thinking to a very high degree, pursuing an independent research topic that will be of deep interest to them. The thesis is an extended piece of research on an approved topic of the student's choosing, and is written under the individual supervision of a member of staff who will be an active researcher in their own right. The thesis gives students the experience of formulating and conducting a substantial piece of independent research, working closely with a supervisor who helps to bring their reflections and research into sharper focus. It is thus a key means of demonstrating the attributes required for further study.

The Honours year consists of:

  • 18000-20000 word thesis on a topic devised by the student in consultation with a supervisor appointed by the department;
  • Participation in an Honours mini-conference where constructive peer review is given and received on a 20 minute thesis presentation;
  • Completion of Arguing the Point (ATP), a unit which provides training in thesis research and writing and includes a series of practical research skills; and
  • A seminar/coursework unit chosen from an approved 4000 level suite.
  • The final assessment involves 60% thesis and 40% coursework (20% ATP + 20% elective seminar).
Advanced Coursework

The requirements for advanced coursework in Gender Studies are described in the degree resolutions for the Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Advanced Studies.

24-36 credit points of advanced study will be included in the table for 2020.

Contact and further information

More information and current contact details for Academic Coordinators may be found at:

The Department of Gender and Cultural Studies is administered by the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI).