MA Social Work modules

The MA Social Work is run over a two year period, on a full-time only basis. Teaching consists of a variety of lectures, seminars, workshops and supervision in different areas of social work. Although it is largely carried out by experienced academics, the course also benefits from the input of social workers and service users.

Visiting scholar leading a seminar

Over the two years you will take 180 credits (60 credits each year, plus the 60 credit dissertation spread over both years), including all core modules for your programme of study. The professional nature and accreditation of the degree means that the modules you study are prescribed. Students must pass all modules in each year to progress. 

Law and Policy for Social Work (30 credits)

This module examines key areas of the law and social policy relevant to social work, and will introduce you to key concepts in the legal system and social policy. You will critically examine law and policy relating to human rights, youth justice, mental health, community care, the family and child protection. Material from public enquiries and actual cases reported in the courts and the media will be used to supplement learning, and you will also consider social policy from comparative perspectives, using examples from other countries.

Social Work Practice - Contexts, Values and Skills (15 credits)

You will be introduced to a range of key principles and values underpinning professional activity, and be provided with an introduction to core professional skills to enable you to prepare for and progress to their first practice placement. Activity will seek to focus on identifying service user perspectives and the skills and strategies required to practice in a safe, responsible and ethical way.

Human Growth and Development Through the Life Course for Social Workers (15 credits)

You will engage in critical evaluation of theories and literature in the areas of child and adult development and consider ways in which these relate to social work practice across the human life course and at end of life. You will also consider the research evidence and theoretical perspectives which underpin a range of approaches to social work practice interventions based on these differing perspectives. There is a focus on developing your ability to make age-appropriate assessments across the life course; to understand the importance of cultural context; to explore and examine critically aspects of parenting and the influence of family structures on child and adult experience.

Readiness for Practice Placement One

All students following a qualifying level social work programme are expected to undertake a minimum of 170 practice learning days, including approved independent study time. For the first practice placement, you will complete a total of 74 days, including 70 practice placement days and four additional skills days. Under new professional arrangements, no student can be allowed to commence their first period of practice placement without the University having satisfied itself that the safety of vulnerable service users will not be compromised. The four preparatory skills days included in this module, together with the relevant assessment elements of other academic modules, will provide an assessment of your readiness for practice and your capability and entitlement to progress onto your first practice placement.

Practice Placement One

The first practice placement is for 78 days, including four preparatory skills days prior to placement commencement which will contribute to the assessment of your readiness to undertake direct practice and four further (a total of eight) skills development days, as set out in the new national curriculum proposals, designed to enhance student learning on more specialist skills. It consolidates and builds your skills relating to social work theories and approaches, life course development, legislation, policy and guidance informing practice. It provides opportunities to apply this knowledge to direct work with service users in a diverse range of settings; and to develop skills in working in organisations and increase their understanding of, and skills in, multi-disciplinary practice.

Safeguarding in Social Work Practice (30 credits)

You will have the opportunity to further develop skills in assessment, planning, intervention and evaluation in practice, with a particular focus on the safeguarding of vulnerable adults and children. Throughout the module, you will consider contexts for safeguarding children and adults with particular reference to the impact of substance misuse, mental ill-health, domestic abuse, disability and older age risks and vulnerabilities on individuals and families. You will also critically evaluate risk assessment in relation to child and adult protection and explore the critical interface with the law and multi-disciplinary approaches to safeguarding adults and children.

Skills for Social Work Practice (15 credits)

You will explore in greater depth a number of key theories for practice intervention, which will equip you with some core skills for practice. The work undertaken on this module will link to work already undertaken on your first practice placement and will be carried forward in their final placement, offering the opportunity to put some of the skills into practice and to develop a critical awareness of their situational applicability and a balanced view of their advantages and disadvantages in the practice context. Some opportunity to explore specialist pathways will be offered. The module contributes nine skills development days, as set out in the new national curriculum proposals, designed to further enhance learning on more specialist skills.

Social Work Professional Development (15 credits)

This module will build upon knowledge of social work methods and approaches that you gained through academic and practice learning in year one. You will critically evaluate the main theoretical models relating to issues and circumstances, which may impact upon service users at the point at which you interact with your environment. The module will also consider anti-oppressive and critically reflective practice, in order to develop your skills in the area of evidence-informed practice and their ability to identify and reflect critically on areas for personal and professional development.

Practice Placement Two

Your second practice placement is for 103 days and is linked to the year two taught modules. It provides opportunities for you to increase your knowledge of the legislation, policy and guidance informing practice by working with a service user group different to the one worked with during practice placement one. You will also have the opportunity to apply this knowledge to direct work with service users, improve skills in working in organisations and increase their understanding of, and skills in, working in a multi-disciplinary context, with a particular emphasis on safeguarding issues. The placement also incorporates three skills development days, as set out in the new national curriculum proposals to further enhance your learning on more specialist skills.

The dissertation enables you to undertake a substantial literature based study on a topic relevant to social work of your own choice. This provides the opportunity for you to develop and demonstrate skills in the planning, definition and management of a substantial academic project. You will have the chance to demonstrate research-mindedness and an evidence-informed approach to practice and are aided by supervision from an academic tutor.

Students undertaking the MA should begin working for their dissertation as early as possible in the course and no later than the summer period between year one and year two (ideally during semester two of year one). Students are expected to define their own topic in consultation with tutors. This topic must be related to practice issues in social work.

The dissertation is worth 60 credits.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it is up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research, funding changes, professional accreditation requirements, student or employer feedback, outcomes of reviews, and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

Information last updated: 27 November 2019

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