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Unit of study_

SUST5001: Introduction to Sustainability

Semester 2, 2022 [Normal evening] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit of study will introduce students to the concepts and multidisciplinary nature of sustainability, starting with the physical basis of climate change and its impact on the environment and human development. This will be followed by several case studies covering Energy, Health, Development and Environment. The case studies will be presented by industry professionals and will illustrate sustainability issues currently before Australia- their origins, impacts and industry responses. The unit of study will provide students with a holistic systems lens through which to view their learning throughout the Masters program. This will underpin understanding of the integrated nature of sustainability and facilitate the challenging of silo-based assumptions- their own and those of others. The intention is to ground understanding of complex systems in the real world through the use of case studies that will demonstrate organisational change and problem solving in a world with competing values and conflicting views of what it means to live sustainably. Students completing the unit of study will have a "sustainability tool kit" to apply to sustainability issues in their professional and community activities.

Unit details and rules

Unit code SUST5001
Academic unit Science Faculty
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Neil Coe,
Lecturer(s) Phil McManus,
Neil Coe,
Tutor(s) Kiran Maharjan,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Presentation group assignment Group Presentation on Comparative International Sustainability
Oral presentation
30% Multiple weeks 15 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO5 LO6
Assignment Individual essay on what is sustainability
Written assignment
30% Week 05
Due date: 02 Sep 2022 at 23:59
2000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO4 LO6
Assignment Report on a sustainability case study
Written report
40% Week 09
Due date: 07 Oct 2022 at 23:59
2000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO6 LO4
group assignment = group assignment ?

Assessment summary

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

At HD level, a student demonstrates a flair for the subject as well as a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the unit material. A ‘High Distinction’ reflects exceptional achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates the ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding to produce original solutions for novel or highly complex problems and/or comprehensive critical discussions of theoretical concepts.


75 - 84

At DI level, a student demonstrates an aptitude for the subject and a well-developed understanding of the unit material. A ‘Distinction’ reflects excellent achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates an ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding of the subject to produce good solutions for challenging problems and/or a reasonably well-developed critical analysis of theoretical concepts.


65 - 74

At CR level, a student demonstrates a good command and knowledge of the unit material. A ‘Credit’ reflects solid achievement and is awarded to a student who has a broad general understanding of the unit material and can solve routine problems and/or identify and superficially discuss theoretical concepts.


50 - 64

At PS level, a student demonstrates proficiency in the unit material. A ‘Pass’ reflects satisfactory achievement and is awarded to a student who has threshold knowledge.


0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction to sustainability and sustainable development Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5 LO6
Week 02 Developing countries, economics and sustainability Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 03 Indigenous perspectives and sustainability Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 04 Waste and sustainability Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 05 The Olympic Games site and sustainability Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 06 Water and sustainability Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 07 Transport and sustainability Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 08 Urban sustainability Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 10 Environmental and Social Corporate Governance Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 11 Sustainability and social justice Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 12 Comparative international study of sustainability in practice Presentation (2.5 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 13 Comparative international study of sustainability in practice Presentation (2.5 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6

Attendance and class requirements

Due to the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance requirements for this unit of study have been amended. Where online tutorials/workshops/virtual laboratories have been scheduled, students should make every effort to attend and participate at the scheduled time. Penalties will not be applied if technical issues, etc. prevent attendance at a specific online class. In that case, students should discuss the problem with the coordinator, and attend another session, if available.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. define, discuss and understand various concepts of sustainability and sustainable development
  • LO2. articulate your own preferred understanding of sustainability and be able to justify this position
  • LO3. discuss a range of sustainability issues in different fields and academic disciplines
  • LO4. communicate through essays, reports and verbal presentations on aspects of sustainability
  • LO5. work effectively with group members to understand and communicate sustainability issues from different countries
  • LO6. undertake further study at Master level in specific aspects of sustainability and understand how this work articulates with the history, scope and debates within sustainability.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Many thanks to those students who did respond to the USS process - 38% of the class provided helpful feedback. The overall tone of the responses was positive (with 83% of students in agreement about q1-6 and the overall survey, and the mean ratings being 4.11 for q.1-6 and 4.08 overall). It is pleasing that students appreciated the work of the academic team who tried to provide an outstanding learning experience. In particular, 100% of students who completed the survey said that staff were responsive to students, with a mean rating of 4.33. Some of the most positive comments focused on the quality of the lectures, the variety of topics, getting to know other students, the breadth of sustainability topics, the intellectual challenge of lectures and assignments, peer engagement, the friendly lecturers, and so on. Some students found the unit of study "super interesting" and clearly derived benefit from it. There are a number of areas for improvement in the future. The quantitative survey showed that some students did not feel part of a learning community - this is more challenging at the postgraduate level and with both in-person and online cohorts in the class. It is something that we are trying to foster, and will continue to make efforts to do so, but need to enhance the experience for some students. Some students felt the unit of study was disjointed. This is partly the nature of the introductory unit covering a range of topics, and there were efforts to draw cohesion and links between topics, but I believe it was also due to a number lectures having to be reordered in Semester 1 due to Covid-19 issues. Unfortunately this probably did increase the perception of the unit being disjointed, but it was beyond our control. There were concerns expressed about the 2nd assignment, the report, not having examples of past reports to show. The report assignment outline and marking guide in Semester 1 had even greater emphasis than previously on the assignment being a report, that it needed to include certain components, etc. Following discussion with the tutors we feel that one of the key reasons why some students struggled with this aspect of the assignment was the early release of the assignment and then the Easter break and the hand-in following a public holiday, which all meant that students had less time to ask questions when they were focused on completing the assignment. We will pay more attention to this matter of report format and working closely with students during a part of the semester that is most disrupted by breaks and public holidays. There were a few comments on the marking of assignments - we attempt to provide timely and useful feedback so that it can be used in future assignments. This was done in Semester 1, 2022 - thanks in particular to Kiran's assistance with the marking. There was also a comment about the role of the introductory unit and its relationship to other units. We recognise there is some overlap in content between units, but we do try to minimize that - an example being that prior to introducing a new lecture of ESG as advocated by some students in a previous USS round, I checked with the coordinator of SUST5006 to ensure that this would not be an overlap. There were some changes in other units of study that have meant greater overlap with SUST5001 in some regards, and these are being discussed with a view to avoiding such a scenario in the future. The other issue raised was assignments in different units of study being due at the same time, with two weeks notice. This is a challenge because of the timing of the semester, and in particular no-contact weeks and public holidays, but in SUST5001 we gave as much notice of upcoming assignments as possible (handing them out and discussing them before the previous assignment was submitted) in order to give students the maximum possible time to think about and work on an assignment. Finally, thanks again to those students who provided feedback. While the response above has focused more on the critiques to explain why some actions were taken or to acknowledge that changes are needed, the overall tone of the quantitative and qualitative feedback was positive. We are pleased that students enjoyed the unit of study in first semester, 2022. Hopefully this is a great foundation for your ongoing learning. Your feedback is also very important in assisting us to maintain the high standard of this unit of study and to continually look for ways to make it even better. Thank you.

Work, health and safety

We are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety at work. The University’s Work Health and Safety policy explains the responsibilities and expectations of workers and others, and the procedures for managing WHS risks associated with University activities.


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