UNSW Foundation Studies

Academic Programs

Academic Programs

Subjects

The UNSW Foundation Studies Curriculum is composed of core and specialist subjects designed to suit the demands of an undergraduate degree in the student’s chosen stream of study.

Each subject within the curriculum aims to further develop the student’s discipline-specific knowledge; general academic skills, independent and reflective learning and familiarity with the teaching and learning styles of Australian universities.

Topics listed are based on the Standard Program. Variations exist for the Standard Plus Foundation Program and the Transition Program.

UNSW Foundation Studies Academic Subject summaries in alphabetical order

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Academic English (All Streams)

Foundation Academic English is a skills-based subject which contextualises content within the four macro skills of reading, listening, writing and speaking. The subject focuses on the development of English language skills appropriate for entry into an undergraduate university. It combines theoretical knowledge with practical language development activity.

Topics vary according to the Program and from year to year. All topics are chosen for their suitability for developing the four macro skills as shown below:

  • Reading: skimming and scanning; comprehending main points; recognising styles appropriate to different contexts and purposes; critical reading; understanding relationships between ideas; understanding the meaning of unknown words; identifying bias, attitude and purpose; comparing and evaluating.
  • Listening: following and understanding the structure of an academic talk or discussion; comprehending the main points of a lecture or talk; taking effective lecture notes; recognising styles appropriate to different situations; understanding stress and intonation patterns; recognising marker words or phrases that indicate the level of importance of information; recognising the stage of information in a lecture; identifying the relationship between ideas.
  • Writing: producing a well-structured paragraph; essay-writing in an appropriate academic style at both paragraph and essay level; practising various written genres; developing primary and secondary research skills; note-taking; summarising, paraphrasing, acknowledging and referencing; developing bibliographies; incorporating evidence of critical thinking skills.
  • Speaking: becoming familiar with English spoken in an Australian academic context; participating effectively in a debate; participating effectively in small and large group tutorial discussions; preparing and presenting Summary and Seminar Presentations.

Assumed knowledge: Foundation Academic English assumes achievement of the IELTS skills level (or equivalent) required for entry into the Foundation Program the student has enrolled in. An ability and willingness to work both collaboratively and independently is required.

Introduction to Accounting (Commerce & Commerce Actuarial Streams)

This is a one semester subject providing students with a basic understanding of the language, skills, concepts and relationships pertaining to accounting. It is expected that students will develop a capacity for problem solving, an understanding the operation of a business and the role of accounting in decision making, as well as demonstrate financial analysis skills and an informed perspective of the accounting process.

A key feature of Foundation Introduction to Accounting is independent learning. The information for the subject, including all lectures, is delivered online via Moodle Learning Management System. Videos and lectures help to explain important concepts related to each unit of study. Students are required to access these learning resources online in their own time. They are then expected to read the supporting material and complete the exercises in the Tutorial Book before the associated tutorial. During each tutorial, students are required to answer questions and complete an in-class exercise to demonstrate their understanding of the unit content.

A key skill in this subject is that students are required to complete an online practice set. The assessable practice set is part of the independent learning skills that students are expected to acquire.

Topics: classify accounts under the five elements of the accounting equation; apply the double entry rule to transactions; prepare and balance a T format account and prepare a columnar format account; prepare a chart of accounts; prepare sales, purchases and returns journals; prepare cash receipts journal, cash payments journal and general journal; post to the ledger from journals; prepare a trial balance; identify significant information in the profit and loss statement and the balance sheet; calculate ratios related to profitability, efficiency, liquidity and solvency; follow through each step of the accounting cycle; complete a practice set for a sample business.

Assumed knowledge: Students should have an ability to work independently and to perform basic mathematical calculations. Confidence in using computers for learning is an advantage in independently completing online activities and the practice set.

Australian Studies* (Arts/Social Sciences, International Studies, Fine Arts & Design and Built Environment Streams)

Australian Studies introduces students to social, cultural, political and historical phenomena that have shaped, and continue to influence Australian national identity. This Foundation subject provides an opportunity to develop informed perspectives on local, national, regional and global issues. It engages students in an appreciation of human endeavours and achievements of the past, and how these impact on contemporary Australia. Students of Australian Studies will apply various academic tools used within the social sciences which, when transferred to other contexts, may assist them to better understand and appreciate their own and other societies.

Topics: The theme of the course is Australian National Identity. This theme is developed through a study of select aspects of Australian natural and human environment; history; indigenous issues; media studies; global issues, civics and citizenship; politics; and culture including film, art and lifestyles.

Assumed knowledge: The course has no pre-requisite knowledge but previous study in the humanities, such as history and geography, may be advantage. Australian Studies requires an ability to read and assimilate information from a range of different sources including images, media, academic articles, film and oral presentations. A willingness to actively engage in discussion and explore cultures from a variety of perspectives will assist student performance in this subject.

* The Australian Studies 1 course is based on the first semester of the full program.

Biology (Life Science Stream)

The Foundation Biology course aims to provide a range of knowledge and skills required for further study in Life Science. On successful completion of this course a student will:

  • have a knowledge of the language and basic ideas of biology
  • be able to describe and explain the phenomena observed or studied in the living world using established laws, theories and concepts
  • be able to perform a range of simple manipulative and measurement skills associated with a biology laboratory and during a field trip
  • collect, organise, analyse, interpret and discuss data related to the living world
  • use the scientific method to solve problems.

Topics: Cell structure and function; mitosis and meiosis; chemical components of cells, DNA. Classification hierarchy; classes of plants and animals. Ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles. Ecological change. Structure and function in plants. Translocation, transpiration, photosynthesis. Digestive, circulatory, respiratory, excretory, skeletomuscular, coordination and immune systems in animals. Microstructure of cells; cellular respiration, photosynthesis and reproduction; sexual reproduction in humans and flowering plants. Mendel’s laws of genetics; nature of genes; mutations. Biological evolution; natural selection and its genetic basis; biotechnology.

Assumed knowledge: The course has no pre-requisite knowledge but those who have studied Biology previously will have an advantage. As with all science-related subjects, the study of Biology requires an ability to assimilate specialist words and to develop the language of science. The ability to process visual information and to present data in pictorial and tabular form is an advantage

Chemistry (Physical Science & Life Science Streams)

The Foundation Chemistry course aims to provide a range of knowledge and skills required for further study in Science and Engineering. From basic principles, this subject develops a deeper knowledge of modern chemistry ideas and applications. On successful completion of the course a student will:

  • have a knowledge of the language and basic ideas of chemical science
  • have an understanding of the properties of materials and the changes they undergo
  • be able to explain the chemical reactions, properties and structures observed or studied using established laws, theories and concepts
  • be able to perform a range of simple chemical calculations
  • be able to perform a range of simple manipulative and measurement skills associated with a chemical laboratory.

Topics: Fundamental concepts; names of common elements, symbols, formulas and equations; mole concept and mole calculations; periodic table - patterns and trends; atomic structure and chemical bonding, VSEPR theory; states of matter - properties and structure; solutions; gas laws; fuels, calorimetry, enthalpy and thermochemistry. Electrolytes and solubility/precipitation; net ionic equations; reactions of acids and bases; chemical equilibria (Ka and Ksp); oxidation-reduction reactions; electrochemical cells. Organic compounds, nomenclature and typical functional group reactions.

Assumed knowledge: While there is no subject-specific pre-requisite knowledge, this is a highly conceptual subject. Success in Chemistry requires an ability to think abstractly and the confidence to apply past learning in new applications. Prior achievement of basic mathematical skills, especially in algebra, is recommended for students commencing Foundation Chemistry.

Computing Studies (All Streams)

Foundation Computing Studies prepares students for university, both practically, by covering software that is useful across all disciplines, and by introducing students to technological issues that may impact on their personal, academic and professional life.

Computing Studies takes a hands-on approach in which software is taught in our computing laboratories. The software covered includes MS Office and students also receive practical experience of Bibliographic software (EndnoteWeb) which is useful for Foundation Studies assessments as well as for further academic life.

The theory component of the subject explores technological concepts and issues which impact both on students as individuals and on society, now and in the future. Students explore topical issues such as problems of inequality of access to technologies and Ubiquitous computing.

Topics: Fundamental software skills and theoretical content (Hardware, Software, Internet, World Wide Web, Web 2 & beyond, Ubiquitous Computing, Communications & Networking and Systems Analysis and Design). The Computing Studies course prepares students for future study and a career in any context.

Assumed knowledge: In addition to attendance at lectures, students are required to have a reasonable level of typing and to complete practical exercises in the computing laboratory. Group work is an integral component of the subject.

Design (Design and Built Environment Stream & Fine Arts Stream)

Students interested in entering Design-related disciplines at University (including Fine Arts) need to develop visual literacy: that is an understanding of visual language common to all art and design disciplines. They also need the opportunity to explore historical and theoretical issues in a Design context. Foundation Design is composed of three inter-related elements: Design Studio, Design Studies and Design Computing.

Topics:

  • In Design Studio students develop technical and critical skills, and work towards managing an effective working process. Students learn to ‘read’ visual work and gain an awareness of the elements and principles of form and space. Ongoing teacher and peer feedback and critique are essential, as students engage in critical analysis of their own and others’ work and process. There is also a strong emphasis on fostering independent learning and creative risk-taking, and experimentation with materials and methods.
  • In Design Studies students study the history and theory of Western design.
  • In Design Computing students are given the opportunity to develop their digital skills culminating in a project that brings all aspects of the course together.

Assumed knowledge: In addition to attendance at lectures and tutorials, students are required to follow project briefs, manage their time effectively and prepare oral presentations to introduce their work and work in groups. Students visit galleries and exhibitions to expand their understanding of design and visual culture in a broader context.

Economics (Commerce & Commerce Actuarial Streams)

Economics is a compulsory area of study in all Commerce/ Business courses at Australian universities. This Foundation subject aims at providing a broad introduction covering many of the possible major topic areas offered at first year undergraduate level. The aim of the subject is to give students an introduction to economic theory; to increase their awareness of the main features of the Australian economy and to expose them to current issues in Australia and the world economy.

At the completion of the subject it is expected that students will have developed the ability to:

  • Evaluate economic theories, concepts and relationships in a rational way
  • Competently manage the undergraduate academic processes of reading, writing, quantitative and analytical skills.

Topics: The subject covers Micro Economics in Semester 1 and Macro Economics in Semester 2

Micro topics covered include economic systems, markets, demand & supply, market failure and government intervention, economics of the firm, market structures, efficiency and competition policy.

Macro topics explore the Keynesian National Income model, inflation& unemployment, economic growth. International trade and protection, balance of payments, exchange rates, financial sector, Macro Economic policies.

In addition to attendance at lectures and tutorials students are expected to read economic texts, prepare formal tutorial answers. Also to communicate economic ideas and concepts through oral and written tasks and to work independently and in groups to achieve appropriate goals.

Assumed knowledge: There is no pre-requisite knowledge for this subject, however, competence in high school mathematics and academic English is an advantage.

Essentials of Mathematics (Arts/Social Sciences & Design and Built Environment Streams)

Essentials of Mathematics is a compulsory subject for the Foundation Studies Arts/Social Sciences Stream and the Design & Built Environment Stream and is worth 8 units of credit.

The subject aims to develop a range of skills required for future learning such as further study in Arts, Architecture and Design at university.

In this subject, students should develop knowledge and skills encompassing mathematical facts, procedures and concepts necessary for understanding the various mathematical processes to be applied.

Students will consider problems requiring the application of knowledge and skills in a range of topics.

Topics: Basic Skills, Geometry and Similarity, Business Applications of Arithmetic, Measurement, Statistics, Algebra and Coordinate Geometry, Probability, Trigonometry, Calculus.

The subject content as listed above is based on the Standard Program. Variations exist for Standard Plus and Transition.

Assumed knowledge: This subject assumes a level of knowledge equivalent to Stage 5.1 of the NSW Mathematics Years 7 - 10 Mathematics Syllabus. See the NSW Board of Studies website for details of the syllabus content.

International Issues and Perspectives (Fine Arts, Arts/Social Sciences and International Studies Streams)

This Foundation subject challenges students to respond to future and contemporary problems confronting the international community. Through a problem-based learning approach this multi-disciplinary subject provides opportunities for students to further develop their academic skills and ability to reflect meaningfully on their learning. Students are challenged to develop informed opinions on international, regional and global issues that recognise multiple perspectives. In semester one, students are taught a problem solving process and use this to respond to challenges predicted to emerge in the future. In semester two, students develop their own personal approach to problem-solving and use this to respond to contemporary international issues. Students are required to participate in both team and independent problem solving assessment tasks.

Topics: Skills of collaborative team work; Techniques of problem solving, Analysis and research skills, Action planning; Reflective learning; Globalisation; Citizenship.

Assumed knowledge: There is no assumed knowledge for this subject. Students will develop skills of blended learning (combining classroom and online learning activities) and problem solving. An openness to new ways of learning will be an advantage in this subject.

Mathematics (for Commerce) (Commerce Stream)

Mathematics (for Commerce) is a compulsory subject for the Commerce Stream and is worth 10 units of credit.

This Foundation subject aims to develop a range of skills required for future learning such as further study in Commerce, Business, Economics and Social Sciences.

Students will be introduced to mathematical techniques which are relevant to the real world with an emphasis on applications to areas of commerce and finance. In this subject, students will consider problems requiring the application of knowledge and skills in a range of topics.

Topics: Terms in Mathematics, Basic Number and Algebra Review, The Number Plane, Functions and Graphs, Differential Calculus, Logarithmic and Exponential Functions, Sequences and Series, Further Differential Calculus and Applications, Mathematics of Finance, Integral Calculus, Probability, Data Description and Probability Distributions.

Assumed knowledge: This subject assumes a level of knowledge equivalent to Stage 5.2/5.3 of the NSW Mathematics Years 7 - 10 Mathematics Syllabus. See the NSW Board of Studies website for details of the syllabus content .

Mathematics (for Science) (Physical Science, Life Science & Commerce Actuarial Streams)

Mathematics (for Science) is a compulsory subject for the Foundation Studies Physical Science, Life Science and Commerce Actuarial Studies Streams and is worth 12 units of credit.

In this subject, students should develop a range of mathematical skills required for future learning such as further study in mathematics, the life and physical sciences and the technological sciences.

Students will be required to solve a variety of practical mathematical problems using a range of strategies, methods and techniques, and should be able to select and use appropriate mathematical language and notation to explain and verify mathematical arguments and concepts.

Students will develop skills to construct mathematical arguments in both concrete and abstract settings. In this subject, students will consider problems requiring the application of knowledge and skills in a range of topics.

Topics: Terms in Mathematics, Indices and Logarithms, Algebra, Functions and Relations, Coordinate Geometry, Differential Calculus, Quadratic Theory, Trigonometry, Polynomials and More Algebra, Geometrical Applications of Differentiation, Sequences and Series, Mathematical Induction, Integral Calculus, Further Trigonometry, Calculus of Trigonometric Functions, Exponential and Logarithmic Functions, Applications of Calculus to the Physical World, The Inverse Trigonometric Functions, More Calculus, Further Polynomials, The Binomial Theorem, Probability.

Assumed knowledge: This subject assumes a level of knowledge equivalent to Stage 5.2/5.3 of the NSW Mathematics Years 7 - 10 Mathematics Syllabus. See the NSW Board of Studies website for details of the syllabus content.

Physics (Physical Science Stream)

Foundation Physics aims to provide a range of knowledge and skills required for further study in Science and Engineering. On successful completion of this subject a student will:

  • have a knowledge of the language, formulas and basic ideas of physics
  • be able to explain the physical phenomena observed or studied using established laws, principles and concepts
  • be able to apply laws, principles and concepts to the solution of physical problems
  • be able to perform a range of physical calculations
  • be able to perform a range of simple manipulative and measurement skills associated with physics laboratory exercises.

Topics: Classical mechanics: motion, vectors, Newton’s laws, universal gravitation, momentum, work, energy, power, conservation laws, motion of rigid bodies, statics, rotational motion. Wave motion and Optics: nature of waves, sound, light, geometrical optics, image formation, optical instruments, interference, diffraction, polarisation. Electricity and Magnetism: electrostatics, direct currents, Ohm’s law and electric circuits, magnetism, electromagnetic induction, electromagnetic waves. Radioactivity, fission and fusion reactions, mass-energy equivalence.

Assumed knowledge: Students should have achieved good results in intermediate to advanced high school mathematics before commencing Foundation Physics. As vector mathematics is a core skill that is further developed in this subject, prior knowledge of trigonometry is essential.

Management (Commerce, Commerce Actuarial, International Studies and Fine Arts Streams)

Management is a one semester course that exposes students to a range of opportunities to critically evaluate their current skills, identify gaps, focus on their strengths and weaknesses and build the necessary skills for successful academic study. The course describes the interconnection between successful individuals, teams and organisations and provides a basic understanding of the language of organisations and management. It is underpinned by the idea that many of the skills needed for successful study at university are also those shared by successful managers in today’s challenging global environments.

Topics: Student will be introduced to the definitions of management using historical and current management perspectives. An overview of the management framework of planning, organising, leading and controlling, will be enhanced with practical skill building in these areas. Key skills covered in the Management subject include decision making, effective teamwork, time management, conflict resolution, coping with change and developing clear written and oral communication practices.

Assumed knowledge: There is no assumed knowledge for this subject. Students require an ability to read and assimilate information from a range of different sources including academic management theory as well as current business case studies and practices. A willingness to actively engage in discussion and build management skills though teamwork and class participation will assist student performance in this subject.

Business Law (Commerce, Commerce Actuarial and International Studies Streams)

A basic understanding of law and legal frameworks is necessary for all students intending to undertake a degree in commerce, business and/or law.

The Foundation Business Law curriculum examines the relationship between law and business. Case studies involving issues such as negligence, contracts, e-commerce and intellectual property allow students to actively participate in discussion and to develop academic argument about the impact of law on business.

In addition to attendance at lectures and tutorials, students are required to read legal texts, prepare formal written answers to tutorial questions, respond to case studies and prepare and deliver team oral presentations.

Topics: Introduction to The Australian legal system, Corporations Law, Negligence, Contracts, Resolving Business Disputes, Consumer Law, Intellectual Property Law, E-Commerce and the Law.

Assumed knowledge: There is no assumed knowledge for Foundation Business Law. The study of Business Law requires an ability to assimilate specialist words and to develop the language of law.

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