Students presenting an interdisciplinary project

20 industry partners on board for undergraduate projects

5 February 2018
Over 20 businesses and organisations have backed the University of Sydney's new undergraduate curriculum, which is set to launch in 2018.

AGL, PwC, Randstad and Westpac are among the first industry partners to embrace project-based units of the University’s new undergraduate curriculum, which emphasises external partnerships.

More than 20 leading Australian businesses and organisations have enthusiastically engaged with the new curriculum program, launching in 2018.

Interdisciplinary groups of students will experience and contribute to real-world issues across a broad range including the arts, community development, law, the public service, technology, farming, sustainability, banking and health.

“We are delighted by the unanimous and enthusiastic industry response to this program that is unique in Australia and just one element of our reimagined curriculum,” said Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence

“We are responding to the reality of the changing nature of work and the global workforce.

“The curriculum answers the call by students, staff and leading employers to create graduates who are inventive, resilient, digitally and culturally competent with experience addressing real-world scenarios.”

We are delighted by the unanimous and enthusiastic industry response to this program that is unique in Australia
Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor

The 2018 projects include:

AGL – disconnecting from the grid

Despite technological challenges, some consumers are still interested in going off-grid. In this project students look at the lifestyle and wider societal implications of going off-grid. They will explore the technical and economic feasibility of completely disconnecting; how houses in an urban and rural environments as well as communities and apartments might disconnect.

“This partnership is a great way to not only develop our future leaders, but to highlight an authentic industry problem that can be looked at in an interdisciplinary way. What better way to do this than to work with students from various disciplines working collaboratively in groups.”

- Alistair Preston, Executive GM Organisational Transformation and Strategy

PwC – building better cities

The needs of millennials living in cities of the future will be vastly different from those of the generations who came before.  PwC is working with stakeholders about what future cities should provide as the engines of Australia’s economy.

Students will consider community collaboration, policy, investment and planning to make suggestions for how we could live and work in our future city.

“As a leader of industry, it is our responsibility to equip the next generation of leaders with interpersonal and collaborative capabilities in meaningful and practical ways at the beginning of their professional journey.” 

- Stephanie Hall, PwC Infrastructure and Urban Renewal, Associate Director

Randstad – office of the future

“As the world’s second largest human resources services company, it’s only natural that Randstad stays abreast of development in the world of work including the changing nature of work itself. We're really looking forward to the program in 2018 and what predictions the students will make about topics such as how emerging technology, changes in Australia's economy and an aging population will impact jobs. Working with third-year University of Sydney students from a breadth of disciplines will allow us to see some new perspectives on the future of work in the next five to ten years in Australia and help us understand how we need to adapt as both an employer and service provider.”

- Frank Ribuot, CEO Randstad Australia/New Zealand and India 

Westpac - the impact of AI on banking

The booming growth of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) is both exciting and intimidating. This project will consider the risks and the opportunities AI poses for banking.

“Bringing key perspectives from a broad range of students together is an exciting approach for Westpac to see how University undergraduate students can use their disciplinary knowledge in an interdisciplinary context. We hope students from disciplines such as commerce and economics, engineering, mathematics, data science, psychology and politics will be involved.”

- Shenaz Khan, Group General Manager for Enterprise HR Strategy and Services 

The projects expand the scope of the University’s current engagement with industry, which includes research and entrepreneurial relationships and workforce placements, including overseas. 

Professor Richard Miles, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education – Enterprise and Engagement) said,

“The program supports the University’s multi-disciplinary focus which recognises the importance of breaking down of intellectual ‘silos’ to capitalise on the possibilities of combined discipline expertise. Students collaborating in this way gain extra skills to bring to the workforce and benefit the community.”

In 2018 one thousand students from their third year will have the opportunity to be involved. The number of projects will scale up within the next four years adding more partnerships, including with start-up companies. By 2020 more than 4,000 undergraduate students graduating from a three or four-year degree will have experienced an authentic interdisciplinary project in an industry, community, research or entrepreneurship setting.

The new curriculum also includes an Open Learning Environment comprising short, modular courses open to all students throughout their degrees that allow them to acquire broader skills and foundational concepts and methods from other disciplines. The subjects cover a broad range including language and business skills, ethics, coding, entrepreneurship, communication, wellbeing, community engagement and cultural competence. 

2018 Interdisciplinary Projects and Partners (Semester 1)

Disconnecting from the Grid

Is it possible to completely disconnect from the grid?  Going off-grid specifically means having no connection to the current electrical grid.  With increasing electricity prices and falling costs of technologies such as solar panels, battery storage and fuel cells, going off-grid may now be feasible.  For households not to pursue options off-grid is a bit like foregoing emails for the sake of sending a letter, using camera film instead of digital photos, or using a landline in favour of mobile. This project will have the group looking at the lifestyle and wider societal implications in going off-grid.  It will explore whether it is technically and economically feasible to completely disconnect from the grid today.  The project group will explore how to disconnect from a house in an urban and rural environment as well as how communities and apartments might disconnect.

Engaging Chinese Visitors through Art

With continued growth in tourism from China to Australia, this project will seek to understand if Chinese audiences seek different experiences for engagement.  This project will give you an understanding of art museum audiences, visitor services and audience engagement practices. The group will look at the many facets of how to engage audiences through art by researching how an Art gallery educates the public, how the curatorial team considers exhibitions, how the marketing and communications team needs to promote an exhibition, all whilst understanding the cultural, language and tourism perspectives for a Chinese audience.  Throughout the semester the group will research the types of cultural experiences Chinese visitors seek and determine if the current art programs align to audience expectations.  The project will devise a proposal outlining the needs of Chinese visitors and propose strategies to better engage this audience.


Diversity in Australian workplaces to prepare businesses for future generations

There has been growing recognition and focus on the importance of increasing diversity in Australian workplaces, yet there are complex structural and cultural factors which seem to limit progress. Opportunities continue to exist for workplaces to implement changed practices to address all forms of diversity. As Australian society continues to change in size and nature, how should businesses respond to prepare for and meet the needs of future generations of employees? This project will involve a combination of research and strategic problem solving to develop specific and practical recommendations for Australian employers to incorporate into their business strategies in order to increase diversity in their workplaces.  The project group will look at addressing a range of questions from, how diverse are workplaces in Australia, to what can Australian employers learn from best practice and what strategic interventions they could employ in order to prepare for future generations of employees.

The future of live music performance

Live music performance is a multi-billion dollar industry in Australia but it is under pressure.  Venues and cultural presenters need to consider what their role is in a society where so much cultural product is on-demand, free and global in scope.  There is a significant rate of change in how audiences consume cultural product and audiences have an increasing level of discernment and choice in cultural offerings.  What’s on stage has evolved, though the basic concert hall experience has changed little since the 19th century.  Similarly, there is a sense of potential impact from developments in Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR) and how these will impact a concert-going experience.  The project group will explore what the future of performance is, with an emphasis on music. It will consider the impact of digital developments, online distribution, VR/AR concert experiences, live performance and venues, including the impact on the performer.

Data Analytics for Decision Support in the Dairy Industry

Do you have an interest in dairy, food or agriculture?  Innovation in the dairy industry has focused on automation and cost reduction with less emphasis on food to milk conversion. The NSW Department of Primary Industries is working with CSIRO to better improve the way data is being managed to support decision making on farm and throughout the value chain. The project group will review and report on related local and international research, analyse data to drive insight to support farm decision making and work with the Data 61 | CSIRO project team to develop solutions, focussing on optimisation of milk production and management of production cost and risk. The objective of this interdisciplinary project is improved dairy profitability by optimising feed conversion to milk.


Minimum Viable Product sprints with new leading-edge functionality

DXC is the world’s leading independent, end-to-end IT services company, known for helping their clients harness the power of innovation to thrive on change. DXC is seeing that User Experience and the future of the human to robotic interactions is an area for further exploration with interdisciplinary focus. The group will seek to define and understand the user immersive interfaces of the future. It will look at the key business challenges that are facing front line operations and how to frame and execute an innovation response. The group will gain access to DXC subject matter experts and technologists in relevant competency domains and ecosystems partners.  The project will work as a sprint and each sprint will be measured to strive to solve a bounded scope.

Development and ownership of green space

There is a need for access to current green space around Camperdown, to instil a sense of ownership over the space for the local community.  The space is currently not utilised and is one of the few green spaces left nearby for residents to use.  The social housing blocks near the space are renowned for being affected by a variety of issues, including high incidences of substance-use, violence, police presence and mental health issues.  This project is vital to undertake as currently, the residents of housing nearby have no real access or sense of ownership of the existing green space.  The green space is highly underutilised and could be improved to cater to the needs of the community.  The project group will identify community needs, consider a plan to develop the green space, and work with the Camperdown community to design a plan to best suit community needs.  The group will liaise with the City of Sydney regarding development of the space and look at ways to fund the improvement and development of the green space.

Sustainability plan for HaveAchat café

The Have a Chat Café in Glebe has been running since 2015.  The Café operates without a business plan and primarily on the work of volunteers and donated foodstuffs. The café is a non-government, non-religious, not-for-profit establishment providing a safe, welcoming space for community members. It provides good quality food and coffee at affordable prices for the local community; encourages having a chat to reduce social isolation and improve the mental well-being of its patrons, and also provides free food drop-offs in collaboration with Baker’s Delight and OzHarvest for local tenants. The project group will work towards a business plan for the café, undertaking market research, considering ways to help the café run sustainably, and branding/promotion of the café to help with funding opportunities. To be able to continue running this service in the Glebe community, a business plan and management of the issues need to be addressed. The group will work in partnership with local residents and organisations to build community capacity and increase social cohesion in the Glebe and Camperdown communities.

Auction system for the Sydney Produce Market

Can switching from a traditional market set up versus a technology focussed auction system deliver a higher price for producers?  Almost one-third of Australia's population, consume the fresh produce sold through the Sydney Produce Market. It caters primarily to professional buyers from supermarkets, restaurants and green grocers but is also open to the public.  In this project the group will make a recommendation on the best system, traditional market or auction system, to deliver the highest price for the producer.  The group will look at the perishability and value of goods being sold, the number of buyers and sellers, and their characteristics, the benefits and risks of the various systems and the cost of switching to an auction system.  Tradition versus technology will determine the outcome.

Meet me in court – mock trial

As ways to train some police officers and provide undergraduate interdisciplinary students with mock trial experience, we have partnered with NSW Police, Leichhardt Local Area Command, where an authentic legal case will be presented for the preparation to meet in court for a mock trial.  The project group will be presented with a case to gather evidence, cross examine real police, confer with expert witnesses and examine forensic issues, amongst many other fact finding requirements.  In the mock trial the roles across the project groups can range from being the defence, the expert witness or the prosecutor.  This project would mostly suit students studying law, and those students with a major in psychology, neuroscience, pharmacology, health and medical sciences. 

Diversity in leadership

The Public Service Commission has responsibility for strategic workforce management across the NSW public sector, employing about 10 percent of all working people in NSW.  For the last 40 years, there has been effort to diversify workforces in Australia.  Much of this work arose initially as a response to equal employment opportunity frameworks that began to emerge in the 1970s and the emphasis was on increasing the participation of groups traditionally underrepresented in the workforce.  But leadership groups are starkly in contrast and diversity is mission-critical for organisations, in terms of employee engagement and in terms of an organisation’s ability to innovate.  This means diversity is front and centre in thinking about productivity improvement.  The project group will look to examine the literature and examples of good and best practice to determine optimal business process design as it relates to workforce diversity; recruitment practice, how reorganisations are done, how roles are designed, how flexible workplace practice is designed and deployed, how workforce planning is undertaken.  A key output of the project will be to outline key features that can help organisations to determine how likely their processes are to produce the diversity outcomes that the sector is committed to.

The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on banking

The booming growth of machine learning and artificial intelligence is both exciting and intimidating.  In shifting conventional computing paradigms, can innovations led by AI provide new and lucrative opportunities for businesses across all sectors? A number of clear potential applications for AI already exist for the banking sector: customer service interactions, providing financial advice, mitigating risk and decision making.  In this project the group will provide a brief that prepares for or takes advantage of artificial intelligence on Banking.

Emerging technologies impact on the future health workforce

As part of the Westmead Precinct, the Westmead Development is building a contemporary state of the art health facility where staff and students will integrate education, training and research with healthcare.  In keeping with the future focus of the building design, it is critical to consider emerging and future impacts on healthcare workforce roles and development needs.  There are a number of emerging technologies which may have an impact on how healthcare is delivered now and into the future. Emerging technological advances include automation, robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR), mobile sensors and 3D printing. It is foreseeable that these technologies will impact on future healthcare workforce roles and requirements, and these changes can happen at any level in the health workforce.  Currently, there is a lack of an integrated body of knowledge on the effects of technology and more specifically robotics, AI, AR, mobile sensors and 3D printing on workforce planning in the healthcare context. The project group will review emerging technologies to help identify future workforce role change and opportunities in health, assess impact and requirements for workforce and organisational development in the context of the Westmead Precinct, and seek to identify key partners to meet these requirements.

Verity Leatherdale

Manager, Faculty Media and PR

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