HSC student studying on the computer

Supporting HSC students’ research projects

13 July 2021
Consultations for Society and Culture Personal Interest Projects
An innovative consultation process designed by the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies helps over two hundred HSC students through one-to-one interviews.

The University of Sydney’s Department of Gender and Cultural Studies has designed a unique program for high school students in New South Wales, studying Culture and Society in their final year. This program forms part of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences community outreach activity, which has recently expanded to include a high school talk series that supports learning for students and teachers.

In New South Wales the Higher School Certificate (HSC) is the top educational attainment for secondary students, with assessments and exams counting towards the final mark.  Students put significant effort into their HSC subjects, and in Society and Culture the syllabus calls for students undertake a Personal Interest Project (PIP), worth 40 percent of their assessment.

The Department of Gender and Cultural Studies – which sits within the School of Philosophical and Historical Enquiry (SOPHI) – is home to internationally respected acadmics and a strong postgraduate community whose research includes cultural policy, diversity, the environment, identity, gender, sexuality, and intimacy.

Working with Society and Culture teachers, the Department has designed a PIP consultation program to connect HSC students with our PhD student ‘experts’ to provide tailored one-on-one support and guidance for their PIP projects.

The secondary students are able to interview our individuals from within the Department who have been carefully matched to their PIP topics, in virtual 15 minute, one-to-one consultations. Students can use their time for an expert interview, a topic area discussion, or project design consultation. Participants have reported a wide variety of benefits from the consultations, including learning new ideas and perspectives, finding additional resources, increased understanding about their topic area, gaining confidence in their project, and connecting with the current PhD students who work closely  with the Department’s leading researchers and academic experts.

The consultation taught me new ways to approach my PIP with the research method that I was not confident in starting. I was able to delve deeper into my topic.
Year 12 student, NSW
The consultation gave me insight into certain ideas I had not considered in the past when developing my PIP. This helped me elaborate on a specific field of focus when developing specific focus questions within my PIP.
Year 12 student, NSW

Over 250 expressions of interest was received from across NSW including regional schools in Alstoneville, Raymond Terrace and Lithgow. Through a competitive selection process and careful scheduling, a total of 179 consultations were successfully delivered by our PhD student ‘experts’, who were equally enthusiastic about the consultation process.

It was great experience and I loved reconnecting with Society and Culture course that was so vital to my own career path and development as a researcher.
PhD student, PIP consultation program
We can use our training to help people outside the university to do research in what they want to know more and how to do it better.
PhD student, PIP consultation program


With the overwhelming number of expression of interest received growing exponentiallly in 2023, the PIP consultation process has moved to a new model in 2024. 

Upcoming programs

Visit ARTiculate High School Talk Series page to find out our upcoming topics in Arts, Humanities, Economics and Languages.

Sign up for our high school mailing list to stay up-to-date with our programs. If you have any suggestions for future ARTiculate topics or other resources to support your school, please contact us on fass.partnerships@sydney.edu.au.

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