Interdisciplinary Units


1. A number of innovative units have been established in recent years, which cross disciplinary, School or Faculty borders – as a result of individual or group initiatives. The University welcomes and encourages such initiatives as a means of offering a richer curriculum to students within the formal part of their University experience. Examples include the ‘Big Ideas in Science’, ‘Sustainable Development’ and ‘Quantitative Analysis for Social Sciences’.

The following guidance describes the specific considerations that ought to be made in the design, arrangement and provision of this type of unit.

Please also see the original paper on ' Enabling Cross Disciplinary Units in the Undergraduate Curriculum (PDF, 26kB)' [pdf, 27kb], as agreed by Education Committee (March 2013) uob-only.


2. Inter-disciplinary units (also known as a 'thematic' or 'cross-disciplinary' unit) are taught collaboratively across disciplines and generally available to students across a Faculty or the University. Such units may also include ‘guest lectures’ from experts in the field who are external to the University.

3. As opposed to an ‘open unit’, which refers to the student’s relationship to the unit, an ’interdisciplinary unit’ is a term used to identify the relationship of a unit to the programme governance structure in the University. It refers to units not primarily provided for one particular cohort of students, but is available, recommended, or possibly even mandatory for a set of students, defined by the Faculty or is available to all students, but is not primarily provided for students on one programme / in one discipline.


3. For such units, the material and learning outcomes are applicable to any student on any undergraduate programme across a Faculty or the University and reflect:

4. The unit will not normally have any pre-requisites and therefore will normally be at level 4 or 5.

5. For programmes where there is space in the curriculum, students will be able to undertake the unit for credit that counts towards their programme of study.

6. All new units should be proposed and agreed by the contributing faculties and approved through the normal approval process.

Ownership and Financial Arrangements

7. Units should be academically organised and attached to either: a single School and treated as an integral part of that School’s provision; a Faculty where the teaching resides or mostly resides across a number of schools within that faculty; or the Institution where the cross-disciplinary nature of the unit makes it inappropriate to associate with a single school or faculty.

8. For financial purposes, however, the unit must be attached to the relevant 'home' School or, in the case of a faculty or university unit, to a nominated school, determined at the point at which the unit is established. Central systems should reflect the academic positioning of the unit, with the financial arrangements mapped behind the scenes.

9. The detailed arrangements are that:

Quality Assurance and Administration

10. The responsibility for the quality assurance of an interdisciplinary unit should follow the unit director in that this individual should ensure that the unit is reviewed as part of their home school's Education Action Planning (EAP) process and subsequently evaluated by the University Quality Team.

11. It is anticipated that an existing external examiner from the Unit Director's school will have the necessary expertise to comment upon the standards of learning and of the student experience, but some flexibility may be required to ensure the most appropriate external examiner is appointed.

12. All administration for the unit should be provided by the host School that receives the funding, unless an alternative arrangement is made.