University of Sydney Handbooks - 2020 Archive

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Environmental Studies

Study in the discipline of Environmental Studies is offered by the School of Geosciences in the Faculty of Science. Units of study in this major are available at standard and advanced level.

About the major

Environmental Studies is the examination of the social, economic and regulatory contexts that surround the management and monitoring of environmental and ecosystem health.

Environmental Studies incorporates the study of both social and bio-physical phenomena within their regulatory and policy frameworks, and is therefore inherently multi-disciplinary. It provides students with an understanding of the governance frames in which their professional careers in the environment sector will operate. It encapsulates the fundamental aspects of sustainability, environmental assessment, law, ethics, development, energy use, economics and politics. Consequently, the Environmental Studies major strongly complements studies in the physical and natural science disciplines as well as social science disciplines.

Requirements for completion

A major in Environmental Studies requires 48 credit points, consisting of:

(i) 6 credit points of 1000-level core units
(ii) 6 credit points of 1000-level selective units
(iii) 6 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iv) 6 credit points of 2000-level selective units
(v) 6 credit points of 3000-level core units
(vi) 6 credit points of 3000-level core interdisciplinary project units
(vii) 12 credit points of 3000-level disciplinary selective or interdisciplinary project selective units

A minor in Environmental Studies requires 36 credit points, consisting of:

(i) 6 credit points of 1000-level core units
(ii) 6 credit points of 1000-level selective units
(iii) 6 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iv) 6 credit points of 2000-level selective units
(v) 6 credit points of 3000-level core units
(vi) 6 credit points of 3000-level core interdisciplinary project units

First year

Core: GEOS1X01 Earth, Environment and Society
Selective: BIOL1X06 Life and Evolution, BIOL1X07 From Molecules to Ecosystems, CHEM1X11 Chemistry 1A, ENVI1003 Global Challenges: Food, Water, Climate, GEOS1X02 Introductory Geography, ECON1040 Principles of Economics.

The Environmental Studies major and minor is designed to be of value to students working across a range of disciplines in the life and environmental sciences. The first year is built around foundational units in biology and geosciences, with selective options in biology, chemistry, geosciences and environmental economics. These units provide a solid foundation for specialisation in later years.

Second year

In the second year, students are required to take GEOS2X21 Environmental and Resource Management as the core unit. This provides an essential conceptual framework for understanding interactions between humans and the rest of the earth system that is of value in at 3000-level. Selective options in environmental politics (GOVT2228), resource economics (AREC2005), and natural hazards (GEOS2X11) provide a broad, multi-disciplinary platform for understanding and critically analysing complex environmental and development issues.

Third year

In the third year of the Environmental Studies major, students are exposed to common legislative, normative, and procedural aspects of professional practice in the environmental and life sciences (ENVI3X11 Environmental Law and Ethics and ENVI3888 Environmental Studies Project). Selective units in energy (ENVI3114 Energy and the Environment), environmental management and sustainability (GEOS3X14 GIS in Coastal Management and GEOS3X20 Urban Citizenship and Sustainability), resource economics (ECOS3013 Environmental Economics) and field skills (GEOS3X53 Asia-Pacific Field School) provide a range of options to complement core training, strengthen specialisations, or compliment other majors/minors.
In your third year you must take at least one designated project unit.

Fourth year

The fourth year is only offered within the Bachelor of Advanced Studies course.

Advanced coursework
The Bachelor of Advanced Studies advanced coursework option consists of 48 credit points, with a minimum of 24 credit points at 4000-level or above. Of these 24 credit points, you must complete a project unit of study worth at least 12 credit points.

Meritorious students may apply for admission to Honours within a subject area of the Bachelor of Advanced Studies. Admission to Honours requires the prior completion of all requirements of the Bachelor's degree, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units. If you are considering applying for admission to Honours, ensure your degree planning takes into account the completion of a second major and all OLE requirements prior to Honours commencement.
Unit of study requirements for Honours in the area of Environmental Studies: completion of 36 credit points of project work and 12 credit points of coursework.

Contact and further information

W School of Geosciences
T +61 2 9351 4796

School of Geosciences
Room 348, Madsen Building F09
University of Sydney NSW 2006

Dr Jeff Neilson
T +61 2 9351 4733

Learning Outcomes

Students who graduate from Environmental Studies will be able to:

  1. Exhibit a broad and comprehensive understanding of fundamental concepts and methods in natural and social sciences, and of how these apply to practice, policies and institutions relevant to environmental issues.
  2. Examine natural environments, resources and management in the context of contemporary Australian regulatory and policy frameworks.
  3. Work competently, confidently and safely in field and laboratory environments.
  4. Source, collate, synthesise and critically evaluate information in environmental studies from a range of relevant sources.
  5. Apply appropriate quantitative and qualitative methods to address a variety of environmental issues in a range of contexts.
  6. Communicate concepts and findings in environmental studies to diverse audiences through multiple modes, using logical arguments and responding effectively to scrutiny.
  7. Integrate and apply perspectives on complex environmental issues from the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.
  8. Address authentic problems in environmental studies, working professionally and responsibly within diverse, interdisciplinary teams.
  9. Critically reflect on the ethical, social and cross-cultural contexts within which environmental issues are situated.
  10. Examine and evaluate contemporary environmental and social issues from a range of ethical, disciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives.