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Why choose the School of Society, Community and Health

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

The majority of our students graduate with an additional professional qualification that will gain them entry to an allied health or social services profession

Gain an accredited qualification in a sector where qualified professionals are in high demand

About the course

Gain a professional Master's level qualification in social work that equips you with the skills ethical principles deep knowledge critical awareness and reflexivity needed to pursue a career in this challenging and rewarding field. You can also complete a Postgraduate Diploma via the Step Up to Social Work programme

Social Work England

On this practice-based Social Work MSc your studies are supervised by experienced practitioners and you can expect an induction a protected workload and a study day most weeks while on placement. On successfully completing the course you are eligible to apply to the social work regulator Social Work England SWE for professional registration.

All placements are under constant development with our employer partners and you may be eligible for a social work bursary administered by the NHS Business Services Authority

Why choose this course?

  • Learn the knowledge skills and attributes needed for social work practice at qualification level with adults and children in the private voluntary and independent sectors
  • Explore the role of social work; its inter-relationship with other disciplines; and the ethical base for practice where initiative is balanced with accountability to employers the profession service users and carers
  • Develop a deep and systematic understanding of current theoretical and methodological approaches and acquire the skills necessary for analytical research-informed practice
  • Gain the skills in critical reflexivity and emotional literacy that underpin collaborative social work practice and proactive professional development
  • Benefit from classroom and placement activities that develop your collaborative and communication abilities and show you how they can be applied to complex problem-solving tasks

Course Leader - Dr Matthew Ellis

My research interests broadly relate to social work with children and young people, and qualitative research methodologies, including narrative, psychosocial, creative and participatory methods. My doctoral research was a longitudinal study focusing on the way that young people construct a narrative identity during therapeutic treatment interventions for harmful sexual behaviour (HSB), as well as the intersubjective experience of practitioners who work with them.

I currently teach across all of our qualifying Social Work programmes and lead on several units covering Social Work theories and approaches, Evidence-informed practice, and Research skills.

What will you study?

Human Development For Social Work Practice

What skills and knowledge do social workers need in order to practice effectively with service users and carers across the life course? This unit is designed to prepare students for practice by exploring key issues, theories and skills involved in working directly with people in social work practice. In particular the unit will focus on promoting a deep and systematic understanding of current theoretical discourses and research about human growth and development which can inform assessment, planning and intervention. The unit is also designed to enhance your understanding of anti-discriminatory practice as they apply to human growth and development in order to better understand the contextual and varied character of social work practice.

Sociological And Social Policy Perspectives

How do social workers make use of sociology and social policy perspectives in practice? Social work forms an integral part of the UK welfare system. This unit explores how society is structured and how the welfare system responds to different social issues such as poverty. It aims to provide you with a critical knowledge and understanding of different sociological concepts and perspectives and different explanations for key social issues in society, the role of political ideology and relevant social policy responses. You will explore how an understanding of sociology, social issues and social policy can promote or compromise social work roles, purposes and a commitment to social justice. The understanding gained in these areas will enable you to respond appropriately to social issues and to challenge inequality and oppression.

Social Work Law, Ethics And Values

How can social workers make ethical use of law in their practice? Social workers are under obligation to work within legislative frameworks and to conduct themselves in a sound ethical and non-discriminatory way. The relationship between law and ethics is complex. This unit will explore legal and ethical themes in the context of social work practice with diverse service user groups.
This unit will facilitate your development of a deep and systematic understanding of the range of legislative provision and statutes that impact the lives of the diverse range of people who use social work services and enable your management of the implications of legal and ethical dilemmas for practice. It will provide you with opportunities to critically appraise the theoretical base of ethical and anti-discriminatory practice and locate these in law and policy whilst having insight into the social work value and base and competing imperatives. You will critically review, analyse and evaluate the role of the social work practitioner in making ethical and legal decisions whilst managing complexity and uncertainty in social work. You will develop your ability to undertake analysis and critical evaluation of the role of law in promoting social work ethics, values and purposes, in challenging inequality and oppression.

Working With People: Theories And Methods For Social Work Practice

What skills and knowledge do social workers need to effectively engage people using services? This unit will enable you to understand, review and critique key issues and develop skills involved in working directly with people. The unit focuses on three main areas: the basis and practice of communication skills in the manner that they inform work with individuals, the methods of intervention used in practice and, the theories underpinning the core models and methods of working directly with people who use services. You will develop the practical communication and interpersonal skills required to build effective relationships with services users, families and other professionals. You will also develop your understanding of structural inequality and discrimination and how this can affect the ways in which service users engage with professionals and techniques to work with conflict or reluctance. The unit is designed to enhance your understanding of working in an anti-oppressive way and it will, therefore, make links with the ‘Social work law and ethics’ unit to inform the basis of your personal and professional development during the first placement.

Skills Development And First 70-Day Placement

What are the core skills required for effective practice with individuals, families, groups and communities? Successful completion of the MSc Social Work provides you with both an academic award and a professional qualification. To achieve this, you are expected to demonstrate professional capability as well as academic attainment. This unit focuses on the development of core skills for practice. It incorporates the first placement of 70 days alongside 20 mandatory skills days. Prior to commencing your 70-day placement, you are required to provide evidence of your readiness (and suitability) for direct practice. You will be supported to achieve this through attendance at 15/20 skills that focus on developing your communication and other professional skills and values. The 70-day placement will then enable you to demonstrate, via direct practice, assessed work and reflective learning logs, your understanding and ability to apply Domains 1 to 9 Professional Capabilities Framework (BASW, 2018).  A further five skills days will support you to integrate theory and practice.

You will be expected to analyse and apply learning from the Working with People and People in Context academic units and the mandatory 15 skills days in order to make links between theory, practice and policy and to demonstrate progressive development and effective use of knowledge, skills, and commitment to core values and ethics in social work practice.

Knowledge For Social Work: Critically Reflective And Research-Informed Practice

How is the knowledge that informs social work practice identified, critically evaluated and applied? This unit provides you with opportunities to develop the skills necessary for evidence-based social work practice, underpinned by self-awareness, reflexivity, and an appreciation of knowledge drawn from service users themselves.  You will then apply this learning to the preparation of a proposal for a primary research project (subject to appropriate ethical approval) or literature review on a negotiated topic of relevance to social work. Classroom and online activities and dedicated supervision will support you to develop effective strategies for the independent study that characterises the latter part of the unit and will equip you for research-minded qualified practice and continuing professional development. 

Critical Issues In Specialist And Inter-Professional Practice

How do social workers understand the relationship legal frameworks, policy directives, policy context and professional boundaries in working in an interprofessional or multiagency setting?

This Unit encourages you to examine the changing legislative, policy, theoretical and practice context in which social work operates. You will consider current best practice in relation to safeguarding, risk assessment, information sharing etc as they intersect across key fields of social work practice: adults, mental health and children, young people and families.

Incorporating teaching from expert practitioners, and in parallel with practice learning opportunities, you will consider how these themes manifest in practice and engage with teaching and learning related to your own area of interest via specialist research seminars and conferences.

The unit will incorporate ten skills days. 


Last Placement(100-Days)

How do social workers learn the essential knowledge, skills and values to become a capable and confident social worker in practice?

The MSc Social Work provides a professional qualification which allows successful students to become registered social workers with Social Work England (SW) as well as receiving an academic award. You are therefore expected to demonstrate professional competence as well as academic attainment. The 100-day placement component of this Unit will enable you to demonstrate, through direct practice, assessed work and reflective learning logs, your understanding and ability to apply and evaluate all of the domains of the Professional Capabilities Framework (BASW, 2018) at qualifying social worker Level, together with SWE (2020) professional standards.. In order to meet the requirements of this unit, you will be expected to synthesise, apply and evaluate your understanding of current theory, methodologies, research, policy and legislative frameworks building on learning from the first year of the course. The placement will run alongside the Critical Issues and Knowledge for Social Work units which, together with ten mandatory skills days, will equip and support you to progressively integrate and develop the knowledge, skills and values to work effectively, ethically and safely with a range of user groups, and the capacity and confidence to work with more complex and uncertain situations as expected of newly qualified social workers.

How will you be assessed?

Your academic learning will be assessed using a range of methods including reflective assignments case studies presentations research tasks examinations and evidence drawn from learning in the work place. Assessments are designed to integrate theory and practice throughout the course and the variety of assessment methods used develops academic and professional skills in writing concisely and drawing on your knowledge with confidence for different purposes and audiences. A summative assignment towards the beginning of the course complements input on expectations of study at M level and personal and unit tutors provide a range of assessment support including tutorials seminars and workshops.

Your practice learning will be supported by practice educators and on-site supervisors and assessed at each stage by the submission of a portfolio at the applicable level of the Professional Capabilities Framework (BASW 2018). Your personal tutor will support your learning in each of your placements and facilitate learning needs identified at the end of the first placement being incorporated in planning your learning in the next.

Overall assessments throughout the course are designed to provide a range of varied opportunities for you to develop increasing confidence and autonomy and ultimately demonstrate your knowledge and skills in all areas necessary for competent practice as a newly qualified social worker.


Approved by Social Work England (SWE) this course opens up a rewarding career path. In addition to gaining a postgraduate qualification successful students are eligible to apply to the social work regulator Social Work England for professional registration. Once registered you can pursue a professional social work career across a range of settings including within local authorities and many private and voluntary agencies throughout the UK.

Entry Requirements

2.1 honours degree in a broadly social science based disciplineGCSE grade 4/Functional Skills Level 2 MathsGCSE grade 4/Functional Skills Level 2 EnglishSafeguarding checks, including an Enhanced DBS, and Occupational Health check are requiredA minimum of 1 year of recent, relevant, experience

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