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Agents of change: the humanities and the social sciences

New arts and social science courses at the University of NSW are teaching students to apply the classical skills of the humanities to a rapidly evolving modern work environment.

Undergraduates are encouraged to hone their capacity for critical thought, effective communication and rigorous research and apply these abilities to such contemporary issues as climate change, international relations and the new media, says the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Professor James Donald.

“A solid foundation in the fundamental disciplines of the humanities and social sciences, a great breadth in terms of what students can study, and the applicability of research techniques and evaluation to a range of jobs are making these degrees increasingly relevant,” he says.

“Our graduates leave with flexibility and an alertness of mind, a realisation of the need to step back and understand. They are young people who will make a difference.”

UNSW’s reputation for excellence in the humanities,  social sciences and creative and performing arts was enhanced this year by its outstanding performance in the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative, scoring equal first in social sciences and equal third in humanities and creative arts.

With 10 undergraduate degrees, including over 30 majors, and 15 masters programs, students are likely to spend as much time in the media lab, theatre studio or music practice room as they are in the lecture theatre.

A significant increase in the number of international students choosing arts and social science degrees at UNSW is providing even greater opportunities for cultural exchange in the classroom.

Its prestigious Bachelor of International Studies – a central component of which is a year’s study overseas at a partner university – as well as Masters in Development, Social Development, Policy and International Relations are highly sought after by overseas students.

At the same time, UNSW’s strength in the performing arts has seen exciting new developments in the areas of creative writing, dance, music and theatre and performance studies.

“We are not an academy, but if you are a student who has a passion for music, dance or writing and wants to do that in the context of a rigorous academic humanities degree, then it’s a really good opportunity,” says Professor Donald.

International students have been particularly attracted by the introduction of appealing new degrees in Media in Public Relations and Advertising, new this year, and in Media in Communication and Journalism.

These degrees cover media studies, specialist communication streams and a wide variety of electives, combining traditional understanding of the humanities with the new skills that will set students up for jobs as the media landscape develops.

For example, students are exposed to a classical approach to understanding how language influences people, combined with practical courses in public relations. They are taught the theoretical base of the new and conventional media as well as professional skills in writing and image making. Internship opportunities further boost their career prospects.

At postgraduate level, the Master of Public Relations and Advertising, launched last year, and the Master of Journalism and Communication, launched in 2009, balance theory and practice to develop high level professional skills.

They are taught within the Journalism and Media Research Centre, a centre of excellence for research which is setting the agenda in public and industry debate about the media in Australia and the region.

An increasingly popular postgraduate choice with international students is the Masters in Interpreting and Translation, which has national accreditation and provides professional training in Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indonesian, French, German, Russian and Spanish.

“We are the leader in this area in NSW and nationally – it’s not just about learning a language, but the skills of translation and interpreting which are increasingly in demand in the globalised economy,” says Professor Donald.

Other new postgraduate options include Educational Leadership, Secondary Teacher training and University Learning and Teaching.

For further information about the University of New South Wales contact:
T.  +61 2 9385 6996

For further information about Arts and Social Sciences at UNSW contact:
T. +61 2 9385 0684

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