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Why choose the School of Applied Social Sciences


Over 95% of our Health and Social Care graduates are in employment or further study 15 months after graduating (HESA Graduate Outcomes, 2023)

Our Health and Social Care courses rank 1st in their subject table for graduation prospects – outcomes (CUG, 2024)

With our Change Maker programme we ask you to take an active role in bringing about change and working towards social justice

About the course

This Master's takes a global perspective to understanding and addressing social issues offering you the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed for a career in international social welfare and social development.

The course includes learning about humanitarian aid human rights ethics and social justice as well as acquiring practical skills like advocacy group work and intercultural competence - skills which are needed to work effectively with communities and individuals from diverse cultural and social backgrounds.

Your studies allow you to explore a variety of case studies and approaches to social welfare and development across various international contexts including in the Global South.

Why choose this course?

  • Develop cultural competence and the ability to work effectively and ethically in local and global contexts with diverse communities and institutions
  • Gain a comprehensive and critical understanding of the theoretical and ethical underpinnings and approaches to international social welfare and social development including attention to power decolonisation and anti-discriminatory practice
  • Learn from an expert academic team with significant research and practice experience

Course Leader - Dr Lena S. Opfermann

I am Senior Lecturer in Applied Social Studies and coordinate the MA International Social Welfare and Social Development. Prior to joining the University of Bedfordshire in September 2019 I worked as Teaching Fellow in Post-conflict Reconstruction at Durham University where I was Programme Director of two MSc Programmes at the Durham Global Security Institute (DGSi) from 2017-2019.

Course Leader - Dr Lena S. Opfermann

I am Senior Lecturer in Applied Social Studies and coordinate the MA International Social Welfare and Social Development. Prior to joining the University of Bedfordshire in September 2019 I worked as Teaching Fellow in Post-conflict Reconstruction at Durham University where I was Programme Director of two MSc Programmes at the Durham Global Security Institute (DGSi) from 2017-2019.

What will you study?


Complexities Of Forced Migration, Human Displacement, Trafficking And Refuge

The forced displacement of people across the globe is a defining characteristic of the twenty-first century although we live in an age wherein forced migration is often met by restrictive legislation and policies. This unit is designed to introduce you to the complexities of contemporary forced migration; including the international system for refugee protection, existing containment strategies in regions of origin, the shrinking space for asylum in the UK, separated children and global debates around human ‘trafficking’.
The unit encourages critical thinking and central questions to be addressed within the curriculum centre around why the protection of forced migrants is critical, what are the legal, policy-based and human rights issues involved, where are the world’s forced migrants and how do forced migrants recreate their worlds in the face of restrictive policy and practice.
This unit engages in the most current global policy aspects of forced migration, including the 2016 New York Declaration on Refugees and subsequent Global Compact on Refugees and Global Compact on Migration, to be signed by 193 member states of the United Nations in 2018. It also sits within the broader developmental framework of the UNs 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, a number of which focus on migration and/or human trafficking.
The unit is theoretically and empirically grounded, necessarily focussing on inter-disciplinary research that is topical and relevant, often drawn world-leading research conducted within the Institute of Applied Social Research. The unit also addresses the practical and ethical implications of working with displaced populations.

 

International Social Welfare And Social Development

Social work and social welfare are practised by a range of actors in different contexts around the world. Globalisation has highlighted our awareness of international issues, drawing attention to the global connections of local social problems wherever we are in the world. The main aim of this unit, therefore, is to introduce students to the theoretical, ethical and political underpinnings of social work practice and social welfare across the globe and, in particular, its relationship to international social development.

The syllabus will engage with key questions such as what is international social work and social welfare? How is it underpinned by theoretical, ethical and political frameworks, why is it important in the world today, how is it practised in different contexts and how does it relate to international social development practice? Further, this unit aims to develop students’ knowledge of the origins, development and future of international social welfare and social development, while building students’ understanding of the landscape in which the practice of international social work moves.

In addition, this unit will encourage students’ critical understanding of international models of international social development, opening students’ awareness of a global ecology of practice and how to identify the connection points between local and global issues and responses. Students will be supported to develop skills of critical reflection, particularly in regard to how their own personal, cultural and professional perspectives and value base may affect their response to unit learning. 

The unit will therefore draw on current literature and research particularly cognisant that this is an emerging and topical area of study as evidenced by the increasing number of international organisations, networks, journals and books locating themselves under the umbrella of social work. The unit will draw from the international research being undertaken in the Institute of Applied Social Research (IASR) in the University and networks across Europe and globally with which we are linked. Subject specialists will also be invited to contribute through guest lectures and seminars.

Comparative Social Welfare And Cultural Competence - Approaches, Policy And Practice

What are the social work, social welfare and social development practice skills that are currently relevant across diverse national and local contexts?                                                              

The International Federation of Social Workers  (2004) states that ‘The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance wellbeing. Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work’. 

Drawing on this and other definitions, the unit aims to equip students with practice skills relevant in diverse national and local contexts, to develop students’ critical understanding of social work and social development in these contexts, and to prepare students to be culturally competent. The unit will compare different practice approaches in different practice settings to help students think about how global social work values and ethics are integrated into local practice contexts with a range of service users. This unit will build on the theoretical, political and ethical foundations developed in Semester 1 through the core unit International Social Work and Social Development.

While students will be asked to critically engage with the concept of cultural competence, they will also explore in more depth the concept of indigenising social work, and be introduced to the skills needed to support or lead this process. This is particularly relevant for those who may be working with people from their own culture, but in a context where social work has yet to be developed well in response to the local context.

The unit also addresses the impact on local contexts of post-colonialism, globalisation and emerging and dominant models of practice within social work, including issues related to the international transfer of ‘evidence-based practice’ and concepts of ‘empowerment’ and ‘user involvement’.

Subject specialists from the university and beyond will also be invited to contribute through guest lectures. 

Humanitarian Aid, Non-Governmental Organisations (Ngos) And Social Welfare In Disasters

One of the most demanding contexts of international social welfare is that of humanitarian aid and disaster relief. Historic examples such as the famines in Ethiopia or floods in Mozambique, and more recent examples of conflict in Syria or the earthquake in Haiti, draw attention to the challenging and varied role social welfare and social development practitioners play in these contexts. However, while these events made the world news, there are many localised emergencies which also require skilled and knowledgeable practitioners to take a lead in responding to local needs. Therefore, the central question this syllabus intends to address is: What is the role of social welfare and social development practitioners in contexts of humanitarian aid and disasters, and how could this be further developed and improved?

  • Students will be encouraged to develop a thorough understanding of the ethical, theoretical and political underpinnings of humanitarian aid, and to critically engage with the political landscape in which (I)NGOs function.

Students will develop a nuanced understanding of the practical approaches involved with relief and recovery, the role of social welfare in these contexts, and reflect on the cultures, policies and goals present in organisations working locally and internationally.

The unit will draw on current literature, research and practice, particularly cognisant that this is an important and topical, but emerging, area of study in international social work and social welfare.

Gender And International Social Welfare And Social Development

 A critical understanding of gender that makes connections between theory and practice is central to anti-oppressive and effective social work and social development.  The late half of the twentieth century and the twenty-first century has witnessed tremendous shifts in attitudes towards gender equality and the growing influence of feminist ideas in some parts of the world. This is reflected, for instance in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and work on the post 2015 Sustainable Development goals (SDGs). (1)Equally, structural disadvantage, poverty, inequality, power relations, violence and discrimination characterises the ways in which gender relations shape the lives of women and men all over the world. This complexity requires nuanced and informed  understanding of theory, policy and practice.  

This unit is designed to introduce students to key theories, analytic concepts and debates relating to gender in the context of international social welfare and social development. It also aims to equip students with the ability to apply an understanding of the significance of gender to diverse cultural and practice contexts.

The unit encourages critical thinking, central questions to be addressed in the curriculum are: why gender analysis is critical to understanding issues and vulnerabilities faced by the world’s populations?

How gender informs culturally competent, anti-oppressive practice in social work and social development

The place of gender in making connections between global and local issues in social work and social development.

The unit is theoretically and empirically grounded, focusing on topical and highly relevant issues drawn from research and policy agendas, including examples from the work of members of the Institute of Applied Social Research. The unit also addresses the practical and ethical implications of gender dimensions in working effectively with people.

Dissertation In International Social Welfare And Social Development

In this unit you will actively engage in researching a question of organisational or practice importance that is relevant to the discipline of international social work, social welfare and development and your own area of interest. The research may be based on primary or secondary data but must present original analysis.

In consultation with an allocated dissertation supervisor, you will draw on the skills and knowledge developed in the two Research Methods units to provide an in depth study of their topic, aligning the work to appropriate theoretical framework(s) gained through engagement in core units in semester 1 and 2 and providing extended critical appraisal of the literature, and of the findings from their own investigation, and applying this learning to policy and/or practice in the discipline of International social work, welfare and social development studies and practice.

The unit aims therefore to support you in honing your specific subject knowledge and in gaining experience of conducting original research applied to the broad field of International social work, welfare and social development studies. 

Human Rights

As articulated by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) in 2004, principles of human rights are fundamental to social work across the globe. However, operationalising such principles in complex social environments requires substantial skill and determination. 

The main aim of this unit is to ground students in a practice framework underpinned by theories of human rights. The syllabus is therefore built around the central question, ‘What are the main ways in which social workers helping in challenging international contexts can critically engage with human rights to help advance the well-being of the people and communities they work with?’ 

Further, this unit aims to develop students’ knowledge of the origins, development and future of the international human rights framework. Integral to this will be to build students’ understanding of the landscape in which human rights practice moves and to support students to examine the dynamics of human rights at theoretical and practice levels. 

Students will be asked to examine the challenge and responsibility of human rights practice across a wide range of global social issues, particularly reflecting on the ways in which universal human rights weave themselves in and out of local and international social work values. This will be facilitated through students’ translation of organisational policy goals and cultures using the language of human rights. 

Students will be encouraged to reflect on their own personal, cultural and professional experiences and how these form the basis of their relationship to human rights practice within international social work contexts. 

The unit will therefore invite students to consider human rights perspectives and how these stand at the intersection between social work practice and ethics within both local and global contexts.

Syllabus material will be drawn from international policy documents and recent research regarding human rights, as well as both historical and recent case studies such as the holocaust, genocide in Rwanda, Apartheid in South Africa and current human rights challenges in countries across the globe. 

Abuse, Exploitation And Human Trafficking


This unit focuses on various forms of abuse, exploitation and human trafficking across the globe. It will look at abuse and exploitation both in historical perspective as well as in terms of its contemporary relevance. In particular, the unit will look at why, how and where it occurs, what the human rights frameworks are applicable to the protection of people affected by abuse and exploitation; and what policy and practice exist to guarantee this protection. The unit will look at state and non-state actors involved in responding to abuse and exploitation on the international, national and local levels as well as what the challenges are in terms of providing adequate support for victims and persecuting perpetrators. As such, the unit also addresses the practical and ethical implications of working with persons involved in and affected by abuse, exploitation and human trafficking.

The unit is theoretically and empirically grounded, focussing on inter-disciplinary research that is topical and relevant. It will draw on the world-leading research developed within the university relating to human trafficking, modern slavery, child sexual exploitation and associated forms of harm. As such, the unit will be delivered in collaboration with the International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking (IC) (https://www.beds.ac.uk/ic) which is internationally leading in its expertise and ongoing research on child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking.

Due to the relevance of the topic locally within the Bedfordshire, this unit will also highlight local issues and draw on existing links with local organisations working on these issues.

In terms of its relevance to the Social Enterprise aspect of the MA programme, the unit has a strong focus on the practice element of responding to issues of abuse and explicitly teaches transferrable skills that prepare students for their future engagement and employment within this sector.

 

Research Methods 1 : Setting Deep Foundations

The core aim of this unit is to enable students to combine existing policy and data with research evidence to develop a critical appreciation of their chosen topic. Students will be able to critically appraise and evaluate the existing evidence base and summarise this learning in the form of a scoping report.

These skills are increasingly considered essential for practitioners in the human services, particularly those in leadership roles where service outcomes need to be evidenced and approaches to practice justified. This unit will enable students to inform decision making with a wide range of evidence, evaluate and thus prioritise organisational objectives, and influence the development, and evaluate the impact, of organisational strategy.

Research Methods 2 : Design, Data Collection And Ethics

The core aim of this unit is to enable student to propose research which is grounded in the existing evidence, robustly designed, makes appropriate use of data collection methods and is ethically sound. Students will be able to design robust and appropriate research which, when undertaken, would provide a valuable contribution to the existing evidence base.

The ability to design research which influences the development of policy and practice is a valuable skill in the human services. This unit offers students the opportunity to become familiar with the tools and practice of social research.

Social Enterprise

This unit aim to introduce students to social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. The unit is organised around three main themes that will help students understand the various dimensions of social entrepreneurship. First, the history, growth and politics of social entrepreneurship. Second, the theoretical and conceptual frameworks that underpins social entrepreneurship, social innovation and social change. Third, the ‘how’ of social entrepreneurship, e.g. designing and setting up social enterprise project/ venture. The underlining premise  of the unit is for students to understand and appreciate the transformative power of citizens in tackling, addressing and advancing solutions to myriad of problems in the society such as poverty, human rights abuse, unemployment, homelessness, destruction of the environment, health inequalities, social and political conflicts, sustainable energy, sanitation, education, human trafficking and disabilities. 

 

The unit will introduce students to the contributions of civil society sector, and successful social enterprises. Hence, case examples would be drawn from different social enterprise ventures across the world, as this would give students an appreciation of ‘context’ and understanding of global issues. The relevance of this unit hinges on the need for students to appreciate and understand the importance of social entrepreneurship and the role of social enterprises in the 21st century, in particular seeing themselves as active participants, pattern breaking individuals, and change agents. 

How will you be assessed?


Case studies presentations and tools for reflective learning are used extensively in assessment to ensure a depth of knowledge is evidenced and the ability to communicate complex information in a variety of formats to both specialist and non-specialist audiences. The assessment methods used relate closely to the intended unit learning outcomes as evidenced in the UIFs and provide scope for choice and creativity in fulfilling them.

  • The assessment strategy is intended to enable students to:
  • Show originality in the application of knowledge and understand how the boundaries are advanced through research.
  • Deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively and show originality in tackling and solving problems.
  • Have the qualities needed for employment in circumstances requiring ethical judgement critical knowledge reflective skills and cultural competence as well as deep awareness of global and local issues and their connections.

Formative assessment is used in the course to support students learning building up their ability to receive and act upon feedback as they progress in their studies. A focus on the application of theory to practice will be expected in this Award and the ability to demonstrate knowledge of the ethical political and social underpinnings of practice in global and local contexts.

In summary the assessment methods used across the course include:

  • Written essay assignments - these vary from case studies to appraisal of practice approaches which allow students to demonstrate the ability to provide written evaluation and synthesis in their scholarship.
  • Oral presentations and posters and a podcast which demonstrate verbal and presentational skills in communicating complex materials/information to diverse audiences
  • The Dissertation allows students to undertake a complex research project in an area of their choice and communicate knowledge findings and recommendations demonstrating the ability to implement and deliver a self-directed complex and solution focused professional task.

Careers


There is a growing demand globally for the skills of social welfare and social development professionals with job opportunities in both the statutory and non-statutory sectors including specialist roles in NGOs and various humanitarian organisations as well as the United Nations.

Typical career paths include international development; international social work; work in the humanitarian sector; and human rights work in institutions such as international and local non-governmental organisations; local and central government; United Nations; and private and public sector research. Job roles include social development worker; child protection worker; community worker; advocacy worker; project worker; and researcher.

You may also wish to continue with further study at Professional Doctorate or PhD level.

Entry Requirements

2.2 honours degree or equivalent in related area

Entry Requirements

2.2 honours degree or equivalent in related area

Fees for this course

UK 2024/25

The full-time standard fee for a taught Master's degree for the Academic Year 2024/25 is £10,000 per year. You can apply for a loan from the Government to help pay for your tuition fees and living costs. Visit www.gov.uk/postgraduate-loan

Alternatively if you have any questions around fees and funding, please email admission@beds.ac.uk

International 2024/25

The full-time standard fee for a taught Master's degree for the Academic Year 2024/25 is £15,600

If you have any questions around fees and funding, please email international@beds.ac.uk

Fees for this course

UK 2024/25

The full-time standard fee for a taught Master's degree for the Academic Year 2024/25 is £10,000 per year. You can apply for a loan from the Government to help pay for your tuition fees and living costs. Visit www.gov.uk/postgraduate-loan

Alternatively if you have any questions around fees and funding, please email admission@beds.ac.uk

International 2024/25

The full-time standard fee for a taught Master's degree for the Academic Year 2024/25 is £15,600

If you have any questions around fees and funding, please email international@beds.ac.uk

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