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Interdisciplinary study opportunities explained

3 May 2019
What’s the difference between an ICPU, an OLE and an SRS?
With so much choice (and so many acronyms) across the University’s interdisciplinary learning opportunities, it can be difficult to know what sets them apart. Here’s a no-nonsense explainer to answer your basic questions.


What are Industry and Community Projects?

When you enrol in an Industry and Community Project Unit (ICPU) you’ll choose an industry partner to work with, such as Telstra, Westpac, Adobe or Public Defenders. They’ll outline a real problem in their business, and you’ll team up with other students from different faculties across the University to help come up with a solution. You’ll have the opportunity to present your project to the partner organisation and hear their feedback.

Who are they for?

Undergraduate student who have completed 72 credit points who are keen to collaborate with other students and make connections with industry leaders. You’ll also need to have a free elective in your degree.

Why should I enrol in an ICPU?

To gain industry experience, develop your problem solving and collaboration skills (great for the CV!), make connections with potential employers and build your network. Mixing with students in other disciplines means everyone brings a unique perspective to the table, which not only helps lead to innovative solutions, but everyone also gains a bit of insight into how others peoples’ brains tick.

How do I enrol?

Since ICPU places are hotly contested and not faculty-specific, there are a few special steps to take. First, if you’re eligible, you’ll need to enrol or change a subject to a ‘shell unit’, before selecting partner preferences. Visit the Student website for a walkthrough on how to enrol.

When should I enrol?

The ICPUs run each semester, so plan early. Enrolments for Semester 2, 2019 close Sunday 7 July. There are also global intensives, which run in between semesters in locations including the UK, India, Hong Kong, Italy and China. Keep an eye out, applications for the summer will open in Semester 2.


“Students from diverse faculties bring new perspectives to the table and the results are outstanding. This interdisciplinary experience is a key stepping stone in preparing you for the workplace and gives you an insight into what life is like beyond the doors of the University.”

    – Vincent Giannini (Bachelor of Commerce)


What are Sydney Research Seminars?

Sydney Research Seminars (SRS) are not technically seminars, but five brand new units of study which guide coursework students to forget about exams and start thinking like a researcher. Students enrol in a chosen topic, such as the future of learning or social issues in Southeast Asia, and work with academics in that field and classmates from across faculties.

Unlike many units of study which ask students to provide answers to specific questions, you will conduct academic research into broad topics and trends to develop a research question, similar to the early process of researching a thesis. Unlike a thesis however, SRS units contain elements of group work where individuals each contribute to a wider research goal.  

Who are they for?

Sydney Research Seminars are open to third year students and Dalyell Scholars. If you’re considering undertaking Honours, a PhD or a research project, an SRS unit is a great way to dip your toe into academic research.

Why should I enrol in an SRS unit?

To explore topics outside of your discipline, collaborate with academics and fellow students, learn from practising researchers, and learn how to apply knowledge and research methodology in new ways.

How do I enrol?

Visit the Interdisciplinary Studies handbook to find out more about the Sydney Research Seminar units of study on offer and apply via Sydney Student. Your faculty will review to ensure you’re eligible and may contact you if you need any additional enrolment documents. 

When should I enrol?

Similar to the ICPUs, the Seminars run each semester and also as intensives. Semester 2, 2019 enrolments close Monday 24 June.


“The emphasis is not on an outcome (i.e. getting an answer) but rather on the journey of discovery through collaborative and interdisciplinary research. And who knows? Maybe some of the students will return to explore their questions more deeply later, as a PhD student.”

    – Associate Professor McCallum


What is the Open Learning Environment?

The Open Learning Environment (OLE) is designed to expand your skillset and develop graduate qualities that complement what you learn in your degree. An OLE unit is either zero, two or six credit points. Many OLEs are online, so you can easily fit them into your schedule, while some are delivered throughout the semester, in intensive mode, or as in-country experiences.

Who are OLEs for?

Everyone. Students are free to complete as many zero credit point units as they like, in their own time. Students commencing certain degrees from 2018 are required to complete 12 credit points of OLEs as part of their degree, made up of a combination of two and six credit point units.

Why should I enrol in an OLE unit?

The OLE is all about learning and development beyond your discipline – learn new skills like coding, social media or ethics, travel the world with one of our cultural experience OLEs, or boost your personal development with a presentation skills unit.

How do I enrol?

You can enrol in zero credit point units at any time through Canvas. Enrolment for credit is through Sydney Student. Find out more.

When do I enrol?

For two and six credit point units, you should enrol in your OLEs when you pick your subjects for each semester. You can change your units up until the last day to add or change (usually the second week of semester). For intensive OLEs, check the enrolment deadline through Sydney courses.


“I overall loved the flexibility that OLEs provided – I was able to complete tasks whenever I had time to do them. I enjoyed learning in these subjects without the time pressure of normal subjects. It was also an added bonus that the information, based on complex topics, were broken down into sections so they were easy to digest and understand.”

    – Olivia Le Khac (Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Dental Medicine)

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