• Class Number 8977
  • Term Code 3060
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • DisP Xuemei Bai
    • Dr Lee White
    • DisP Xuemei Bai
    • Dr Yuan Peng
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 27/07/2020
  • Class End Date 30/10/2020
  • Census Date 31/08/2020
  • Last Date to Enrol 03/08/2020
SELT Survey Results

Sustainable Urban Systems aims to provide an in-depth understanding of urbanization and sustainable urban systems to students without a systemic previous exposure to the topic. Urbanization is one of the major social transformations of our time that has profound impacts on people and the planet. Cities play an increasingly critical role in local, regional and global sustainability, presenting enormous challenges but also a window of opportunity to “get it right”. The course will explore key topics such as the trend and impacts of global urbanization, the role of cities in sustainability, theoretical and conceptual understanding of cities as systems, analytical tools in measuring sustainability performance of cities, managing urban environment, and urban sustainability experiments and transition towards sustainability. A systems perspective is a common thread throughout the course. The course is strongly interdisciplinary, drawing on both classic and most recent literature in urban geography, urban ecology, urban environmental management, urban sustainability, systems innovation and transition. The course builds on Human Ecology, where the evolutionary history of human-nature relationships as well as a systems approach towards understanding such relationship is explored. 

Honours Pathway Option

Subject to the approval of the course convenor; students taking this option will be expected to complete advanced weekly readings and to be prepared to discuss this advanced material in tutorials. In addition, students will be expected to make a seminar presentation on one week's reading and to lead the subsequent discussion. A concise paper must accompany the presentation. The paper, quality of presentation and quality of subsequent facilitation will all form part of the student's mark (a minimum of 15% of overall assessment). All other assessment and requirements remain the same.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Demonstrate a basic understanding of the state, drivers and impacts of global urbanization, and the role of cities in global sustainability
  2. Demonstrate a conceptual understanding of various key perspectives towards understanding urban system, from cities as place, as organism and super organism, to cities as human dominant complex systems, as well as associated concepts and analytical tools, including urban metabolism, ecosystem approach in cities, urban-rural gradient, etc.
  3. Demonstrate a basic understanding of the challenges and opportunities in managing and governing real world cities, and exposure to innovative and successful practices in cities.
  4. Develop a systemic understanding of cities with appreciation of various interconnections among different urban structures, functions, agencies, and processes, being able to identify and avoid the siloed approach in their future professional practices.

Research-Led Teaching

The co-convenors of this course are active researchers in the field of city sustainability policy. This expertise informs readings and assessment design in the course.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Introduction: Course content, purpose, organisation and discussion of assignments. Global Urbanization – past, present, and future
2 Global Urbanization: - Different drivers, regional characteristics, and migration patterns - Impacts of urbanization Cities in global sustainability
3 Understanding Urban Systems: - Cities as organism, super organism, and system - Urban system structure, function, processes - Urban dynamics, evolution, “tinkering” and resilience
4 The Ecology In, Of and For Cities - Ecosystem approach in cities - The role of nature in cities
5 Urban Metabolism: - The concept - Urban stocks and flows: material, energy, nutrient, water etc - Eight metabolic characteristics of urban systems - Mining the cities
6 Urban Metabolism: - Assessing urban sustainability, and future urban metabolism
7 Urban Environment - Managing air, water, and waste - Cities and climate change - Environmental/social justice in cities - Changing urban risks
8 Urban-rural linkages - Urban-rural gradients - Spatial patterns of expansion - Urban food
9 Managing and Governing Cities - Measuring urban sustainability - Initiatives for change
10 Urban Sustainability Experiments, Innovation and Transition - Introduction of concepts/theories - Examples from Shanghai
11 Urban Sustainability Experiments, Innovation and Transition - ACT as front runner in renewable energy and zero emission target setting - Co-designing for urban sustainability
12 Recap and the Future of Cities - Future cities in the Anthropocene - Knowledge gaps and exciting questions

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Workshop participation and preparation 15 % * * 1,2,3,4
Online discussion forum 15 % * * 1,2,3,4
Quiz 1 10 % 25/08/2020 08/09/2020 1,2
Quiz 2 10 % 29/09/2020 20/10/2020 3,4
Essay outline 10 % 06/10/2020 16/10/2020 1,2,3,4
Final essay 40 % 30/10/2020 * 1,2,3,4

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Integrity . In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 15 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Workshop participation and preparation

Due date: every week Thursday by 5pm

Workshop participation and preparation will be graded as the best 8 out of 11 workshops. You are expected to read the reading, and actively contribute to workshop discussions. You are required to identify three elements (such as topics, concepts, and/or terminology) and one question from each week’s readings, and submit them to the online Workshop discussion board before the workshop. These discussion questions will account for half of the total mark. The other half will be given to the level of your participation and contribution to the workshop discussion.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 15 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Online discussion forum

Required to post at least 2 original posts of around 150 words each and respond to at least 4 posts by others. One of the posts must be reflection on a guest talk. Purpose of this item is to stimulate peer learning, active engagement, and critical analysis.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 25/08/2020
Return of Assessment: 08/09/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,2

Quiz 1

A short online quiz which you can complete independently over a 24 hour period. Graded quizzes will be returned within three weeks.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 29/09/2020
Return of Assessment: 20/10/2020
Learning Outcomes: 3,4

Quiz 2

A short online quiz which you can complete independently over a 24 hour period. Graded quizzes will be returned within three weeks.

Assessment Task 5

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 06/10/2020
Return of Assessment: 16/10/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Essay outline

An outline created for expansion into the final essay assignment. Feedback will be given promptly on the outline to support essay development. This assignment requires thinking about essential components of the final essay, and creating a plan that will be assessed for feasibility. The assignment is intended to provide support to strengthen final essay submissions. There is no word limit, but we suggest that concise is better for helping you to organize your thinking for the essay. We will go over your outlines the following week in the Workshop, to provide feedback and guidance for your final essay.

Assessment Task 6

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 30/10/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Final essay

You will be able to choose one of several prompts for your final essay. These will be provided at the start of semester.

Word limit (where applicable): 3000

Grades will be returned two weeks in advance of last grade appeal date.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.

The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with.

The Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Returning Assignments

Assignments will be returned via Wattle upload, through Turnitin where specified.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

Re-submission will be considered on a case-by-case basis, bearing in mind that disruptions are more likely than usual due to ongoing coronavirus measures.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

DisP Xuemei Bai

Research Interests

Environment Policy


Socio-technical transition

Urban And Regional Planning

DisP Xuemei Bai

By Appointment
Dr Lee White
+61 2 6125 4882

Research Interests

Dr Lee White

By Appointment
DisP Xuemei Bai
+61 2 6125 4882

Research Interests

DisP Xuemei Bai

By Appointment
Dr Yuan Peng
+61 2 6125 4882

Research Interests

Dr Yuan Peng

By Appointment

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions