University of Newcastle launch "Passion-based" degree with Big Picture

Game-changer lets students decide how they want to learn

As reported in the Newcastle Herald.

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 for learning, which is implemented in some of the most innovative high schools across the globe.

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

There is also an emphasis on internships with expert public health mentors in the community, where students have the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills.

The design will be adopted in the University's new Bachelor of Public and Community Health.

The 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 social and health disadvantages compared to other areas of NSW. The Central Coast Local Health District identified integrated care as a priority.

Integrated care is the engagement of community organisations and interdisciplinary aspects of health and health care delivery. Public health incorporates prevention, health promotion, and intersectorial action to enhance the health status of the community and fits local 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 Erica James said there was no other Big Picture Education-based 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 engagement.

“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.”

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 $85million Central Coast Medical 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 on the qualification, go to