Unravelling Complexity

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Applications for Semester 2 2023 will close COB Wednesday 19 July 2023.
Late applications welcome through to the start of classes.

Universities serve to make students think: to resolve problems by argument supported by evidence; not to be dismayed by complexity, but bold in unravelling it.

2021 Guides:

Course Information

Unravelling Complexity takes up Lucas & Boulton’s challenge by offering later-year students from any part of the ANU the opportunity to explore a series of complex issues. The connections between economic, historical, social, legal, scientific, engineering, environmental and moral dimensions of complex problems will be explored.

Academics and professionals will share their experience and provide case studies of complex problem solving in action through weekly seminars. Students will work in an interdisciplinary team to unravel a complex issue and deliver a policy response. Students will also work in an academic environment to provide peer review on student work and to enhance their own investigation of a complex problem.

Note: to access these links, you need to be logged into the course Wattle site.

During the first part of semester, you will be asked to provide a summary of one of the following book chapters:

  • Bammer, Gabriele and Michael Smithson 2008, Uncertainty and risk: multidisciplinary perspectives, Earthscan (Chapters 2 and 26) PDF
  • Bar-Yam, Yaneer 2004, Making things work: solving complex problems in a complex world, NECSI Knowledge Press (Overview, Chapter 1 and conclusion) PDF
  • Brown, Valerie A., John A. Harris, Jacqueline Y Russell 2010, Tackling wicked problems through the transdisciplinary imagination, Earthscan (Chapters 1 and 2) PDF
  • Harris, Graham 2007, Seeking sustainability in an age of complexity, Cambridge University Press (Preamble, Chapter 1 and 2) PDF
  • Lineweaver, Charley, Paul A. Davies and Michael Ruse, 2013, Complexity and the Arrow of Time. Cambridge University Press (Chapter 1 and 2) PDF
  • Mitchell, Melanie 2009, Complexity a guided tour, Oxford University Press (Preface, chapter 1) PDF
  • Yunkaporta, Tyson 2019, Sand Talk, Text Publishing (Introduction) PDF

Postgraduate variation VCPG6001

Postgraduate students will be asked to complete more intensively researched work. The extended marking criteria is outlined on relevant assessment sheets.

Law variation LAWS4001

Law students undertaking LAWS4001 must explore a complex issue that has a strong legal element in their Learning Portfolio, but are still encouraged to apply perspectives from other topics the course to this issue. Enrolment in LAWS4001 is via the College of Law.


Dr Chris Browne
Vice-Chancellor’s Courses
Email: Chris.Browne@anu.edu.au

Updated:  19 Jul 2023/ Responsible Officer:  VC Courses Convenor/ Page Contact:  Webmaster