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Vignette 3 Interdisciplinary survival: The case of Murdoch University

By Lorraine Marshall

Abstract

Since its inception in 1975, Murdoch University in Western Australia has been unusual in the Australian context with its focus on interdisciplinarity in undergraduate education. Murdoch University has long claimed interdisciplinarity to be one of its distinguishing features. It has a university-wide policy on interdisciplinarity, and specifies ‘interdisciplinarity’ as one of the attributes students are expected to have when they graduate, that is: ‘A capacity to acquire knowledge and understanding of fields of study beyond a single discipline’. All Murdoch University students are introduced to interdisciplinary study in compulsory first-year foundation units that are the cornerstone of a Part 1 programme of studies. Foundation units aim to introduce students to university study, provide a broad perspective and expose students to a range of disciplines and teaching styles. Encouraging the exploration of a range of options before students proceed to their chosen field of study is dependent on a tradition of flexibility that enables students to move easily between and across disciplines. Over the years, the Part 1 programme at Murdoch University has been eroded by disciplinary demands on students, but the basic principles continue to be reaffirmed by external reviews and from within the university. Recently, the value of general undergraduate education has been further reinstated as other Australian universities have begun to investigate and instigate interdisciplinary programmes of study. The trend towards breadth in undergraduate education in Australia provides cause for reflection on interdisciplinarity at Murdoch University. This chapter describes the Murdoch University experience using the author's intimate knowledge of the University and draws on literature on interdisciplinarity to frame the lessons that have been learned over the past 30 years

Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au:15057
Provided by: Research Repository
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