General Education Program

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Objectives of the General Education Program
The following objectives were approved by the Council of the University in December 1994 (Minor changes were approved by Council in 2005):
  1. To provide a learning environment in which students acquire, develop, and deploy skills of rational thought and critical analysis.
  2. To enable students to evaluate arguments and information.
  3. To empower students to systematically challenge received traditions of knowledge, beliefs and values.
  4. To enable students to acquire skills and competencies, including appropriate written and spoken communication skills.
  5. To ensure that students examine the purposes and consequences of their education and experience at University, and to foster acceptance of professional and ethical action and the social responsibility of graduates.
  6. To foster among students the competence and the confidence to contribute creatively and responsibly to the development of their society.
  7. To provide structured opportunities for students from disparate disciplines to interact cooperatively within a learning situation.
  8. To provide opportunities for students to explore discipline and paradigm bases other than those of their professional or major disciplinary specialization through non-specialist courses offered in those other areas.
  9. To provide an environment in which students are able to experience the benefits of moving beyond the knowledge boundaries of a single discipline and explore cross and interdisciplinary connections, and cross-cultural contexts.
  10. To provide a learning environment and teaching methodology in which students can bring the approaches of a number of disciplines to bear on a complex problem or issue.

General Education Requirements

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(a) The basic General Education Requirements are the same for students in all single degree programs or concurrent degree programs drawn from one Faculty:
  • Students must satisfactorily complete a minimum of 12 units of credit (UoC) in General Education courses or their equivalent taken from outside the home Faculty (unless otherwise entitled to exemption or special requirements)
  • The University’s General Education Requirements are in addition to any core course requirement associated with the program or streams within the program
  • Faculties retain the authority to direct students against taking certain courses from outside the home faculty as General Education if it is the Faculty’s view that these courses substantially overlap with courses in the primary single or concurrent degree program.
(b) Concurrent degree programs drawn from two Faculties are deemed to have met the University’s General Education requirements;

(c) Concurrent degree programs that include the Bachelor of Education are deemed to have met the University’s General Education requirements;

Restrictions and students' choices
In order to ensure that students have the maximum amount of choice possible in the courses that can be taken to fulfill the General Education requirement, all programs have agreed to allow students to select either:
  • courses that were developed especially for the General Education Program (these have the course identifier that begins with GEN);
  • a limited number of 'mainstream' courses that are offered in the degree programs of other faculties.
However, certain restrictions apply to students' choices:

Effective from Semester 2, 2008: to meet their 12 units of credit General Education requirement, students may take up to 12 units of General Education, or courses substituted for General Education, from any faculty or faculties, other than the faculty that is the authority for the program in which the student is enrolled. ADFA students must take courses from outside their home discipline cluster.
The following rules will apply:

(a) Where students have been granted advanced standing in any program, any remaining General Education requirements in those programs must be met from courses offered in a faculty other than the faculty which is the program authority for the program in which the student is enrolled.

(b) In programs that have a partial exemption from General Education, the remaining General Education courses must be taken in faculties other than the faculty that is the program authority for the program in which the student is enrolled.

Faculties must identify any of their mainstream courses which overlap substantially with the General Education courses offered within that faculty and must stipulate that students who have completed or are completing these mainstream overlapping courses are excluded from enrolment in the related General Education course.
  • the program requirements for each faculty which relate to the undergraduate degree programs offered by that faculty, may in some cases limit the number or type of 'mainstream' courses a student may include in the total number of courses necessary to complete their General Education requirement, and
  • students' first choices cannot be guaranteed, as students in later program stages will be given preference over those in earlier stages; quotas may be set for different faculties and courses. Courses with insufficient enrolments will be cancelled by 31 January (for Session 1 courses) and 27 June (for Session 2 courses). Staff leave means that not all courses are necessarily offered each session or year.

Exemption from Part or All of the General Education Program

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There will be no general exemptions for students enrolled in single degree programs.

Students enrolling in combined programs
As a general rule, students enrolled in combined undergraduate programs leading to the award of two degrees, each in a different faculty, meet their General Education requirements.
Variation to the General Education requirement in some combined programs may have been approved. Students enrolled in combined programs should check their General Education requirements with their faculty or program office.

Special student exemptions
Students transferring from one faculty to another at UNSW, or from another higher education/tertiary institution, who believe that their prior learning and/or qualification satisfies the University's General Education objectives are eligible to seek exemption from all, or part of the UNSW General Education requirements.
Applicants for exemption must supply full written justification for their request, plus appropriate documentation, showing how they have satisfied the GE objectives (see above). Applications will be considered on a case by case, and course by course basis by the faculty, which will make a determination and notify the student accordingly. The faculty's yardsticks will be:
  • the extent to which the courses nominated for exemption satisfy sufficient GE objectives (i.e. cooperative interaction with students in other disciplines, most importantly; skills/competencies complementary to the major discipline area; social and ethical responsibility and development; empowerment to challenge traditional knowledge/paradigms);
  • the extent to which the previous program is different in paradigm and content to that in which the student is presently enrolled;
  • the length of previous study undertaken.
In all cases, the onus is on the student to present a written justification.

Note: Life experience and/or mature age entry are not grounds for exemption. Practical experience/industry placement is not grounds for exemption.

Students with an identified need may substitute approved academic English courses for up to 6 units of General Education.

Co-requisites and exclusions
The Committee on Education will determine co-requisites and exclusions as and when necessary.

Faculty General Education Requirements

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Each faculty has the responsibility for deciding what courses are not able to be counted towards the General Education requirement for their students. This may mean that courses offered by the faculty in which a student is enrolled, or courses which are a required part of a program even though offered by another faculty, are not able to be counted toward the General Education requirement.

Information concerning the substitution of other university courses or exemption from some General Education courses on the basis of previous formal study at tertiary level is available from the faculty or program office.

Student Involvement in the General Education Program

An important feature of the General Education Program is that student representation on committees that make decisions about General Education is assured. There are two student members on the Academic Board's Committee on Education. All General Education courses are required to be regularly evaluated by students and the results of the evaluations made known to the members of all faculties whose students are taking those courses.

Study Levels

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