The University of Newcastle, Australia

Game-changer lets students decide how they want to learn

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

In a world-first for higher education, the University of Newcastle will place students at the centre of their own learning by adopting the Big Picture Education design, which is implemented in some of the most innovative high schools across the globe.

Passion-based learning is at the heart of the approach, with students independently deciding what, how and when they learn, allowing them to tailor their degree to their career aspirations.  

The design will be adopted in the University's Bachelor of Public and Community Health – a new degree being offered entirely and exclusively on the Central Coast.  

Interim Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University’s Faculty of Education and Arts, Professor John Fischetti, said the degree would see the University place an emphasis on internships with expert public health mentors in the community, where students have the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills.

“The Big Picture Education design is the most progressive approach to personalising schooling in the world,” Pro Vice-Chancellor Fischetti said.  

“The Big Picture features embedded in the new degree will enable students to take charge of their own learning in a culture of support and preparation for a dynamic career in public health.”

The qualification will be launched at a special event in Gosford today (11 September) attended by prospective students and guests including Dr Andrew Montague, chief executive of the Central Coast Local Health District.  

Professor Erica James, from the School of Medicine and Public Health, said there was no other Big Picture Education-based bachelor’s degree in Australia or internationally, distinguishing the University of Newcastle from the rest of the world.  

“The University of Newcastle prototype has the potential to be a game-changer in tertiary education,” Professor James said.  

“One of the biggest challenges facing universities is how to enhance student engagement1.

“The Big Picture Education design is based on research that shows we learn best when we are personally motivated. By putting students at the centre of decisions around what, how and when they learn we develop independent and motivated students.  

“Whilst Big Picture Learning is well-established internationally in secondary schools, this will be the first bachelor degree underpinned by it.”

The new degree will be based on the Central Coast and has been developed in response to the needs of the Central Coast community.  

The Central Coast experiences higher social and health disadvantages compared to other areas of NSW2, and the Local Health District has identified integrated care as a priority area to help improve the population’s health3.

Integrated care is the engagement of community organisations and interdisciplinary aspects of health and health care delivery. Public health incorporates prevention, health promotion, and intersectoral action to improve the health status of communities by meeting their specific needs.  

The degree itself is focused on preventing disease and illness, enhancing health and wellbeing, and reducing health inequities.  

It is a multi-disciplinary qualification that draws on expertise from a wide range of disciplines. These include environmental health, marketing, human services, public health, maths, statistics, health economics, health promotion, sociology, Indigenous studies, global studies, and business administration.

Professor James said there would be eight majors available across the degree, including health promotion, environmental health and global health.  

“We’re also proposing to draw on expertise in industry through casual and conjoint teaching appointments, industry-engagement in the design of assessments, and the involvement of local employers in work experience and internships,” she said.  

“The Bachelor of Public and Community Health has been designed to enhance the employability of graduates, as well as provide opportunities for existing workforces across government and non-government agencies to re-engage with our University for ongoing professional development.”

The new degree builds on the University’s investment in health on the Coast. In 2021, it will open its new $85 million Central Coast Clinical School and Research Institute. Based at Gosford Hospital, the Institute is a joint project of the University of Newcastle and Central Coast Local Health District.

Applications for the 2020 intake of the Bachelor of Public and Community Health are now open. The qualification takes three years full-time or can be studied part-time.  

For more information, go to newcastle.edu.au/degrees/bachelor-of-public-and-community-health.

For further information please contact University of Newcastle Communications and Media on 02 4921 5577 or email media@newcastle.edu.au.

1Kerri-Lee Krause and Lisa Armitage. Australian student engagement, belonging, retention and success: a synthesis of the literature. The Higher Education Academy, 2014. 
2www.hneccphn.com.au/media/14631/hnecc-population-health-profile-2018.pdf
3Dr Hazel Dalton, Dr Donna Read, Dr Tonelle Handley, Mrs Angela Booth, Dr Kate Davies, Dr Nick Goodwin, Prof Anne Hendry and Prof David Perkins. Central Coast Integrated Care Program. Formative Evaluation Report. March 2018.

STUDY PUBLIC AND COMMUNITY HEALTH


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