University of Sydney Handbooks - 2021 Archive

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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. (Students interested in engaging with cultural diversity in particular have the option of pursuing a minor in Diversity Studies, also coordinated by the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies.) 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

The Gender Studies major and minor requirements are listed in the Gender Studies unit of study table.

Learning outcomes
No. Learning outcome
1 Demonstrate a confident and extensive knowledge of sex and gender in contemporary social contexts, and an appreciation of longstanding and changing modes of thinking about gender.
2 Demonstrate understanding of gender as an organising principle at personal and structural levels.
3 Demonstrate the ability to foreground gendered concepts as the lens for critical inter-sectional analysis (that is, how gender is always mediated by and circulating within orbits of race, sexuality, coloniality, dis/ability, class and other.
4 Demonstrate understanding of theory, discourse analysis and ethnography, and exhibit competence in the rigorous application of different theoretical frameworks and research methods relevant to gendered cultural critique.
5 Examine and solve complex gender related problems through research and critical analysis, with the confidence to work both independently and collaboratively.
6 Demonstrate the creativity, integrity and intellectual acuity to construct and defend a valid argument in a variety of scholarly formats, using different media.
7 Demonstrate cultural competence through understanding of and practice with concepts of intersectionality.
8 Apply theories and methods from Gender Studies to issues encountered in interdisciplinary contexts.
Advanced coursework

How do the perspectives you bring from your studies in History; Philosophy; Gender and Cultural Studies; Archaeology and Ancient History uniquely frame and explain a contemporary issue? The Bachelor of Advanced Studies in the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI) will enhance the skills and capabilities students have acquired over the course of majors undertaken within the School’s diverse departments. Students will learn how to apply research training from SOPHI’s unique disciplines, develop an interdisciplinary capacity with methodology, pose problems and consider their solutions in scenarios sourced from History, Philosophy, Archaeology, Ancient History, or Gender and Cultural Studies. Emphasis is placed on developing the ability to apply methods of philosophical, historical, cultural, gender or archaeological inquiry to contemporary problem-solving and to communicate findings to non-academic and culturally diverse audiences via emerging digital media.

Requirements and units of study for advanced coursework can be found on the Gender Studies advanced coursework units of study page.


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 percent thesis and 40 precent coursework (20 percent ATP + 20 percent elective seminar).
  • Honours admission requirements
  • 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.
  • Prior to commencing honours, you will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts or other bachelor degree, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major (which may be Cultural Studies).
  • Requirements and units of study for honours can be found on the Gender Studies honours units of study page.
Contacts and further information

More information and current contact details for academic coordinators may be found on the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies website.

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