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Social Work (MSW)

Course Description

Why this course?

The MSW in Social Work is a 2-year, full-time, postgraduate degree course.

The qualification is recognised throughout the UK and it’s expected that in due course it will meet the criteria for recognition in the EU and elsewhere overseas. The course is based on the Standards in Social Work Education (SiSWE) and is to be validated by social work's professional body in Scotland, the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).

The course provides a stimulating blend of university-based teaching and agency-based learning opportunities across both years.

See the website https://www.strath.ac.uk/courses/postgraduatetaught/socialwork/

You’ll study

You'll undertake a range of taught modules, a dissertation and assessed placements in a range of social work service settings.

Work towards the Masters dissertation is mostly scheduled for the period beyond Year 2 of the programme. You’ll be told of the arrangements during year 1.

Teaching staff

The School of Social Policy and Social Work has a long and rich tradition of education, research and consultancy in social work. It brings together a staff group with extensive experience in the varied areas of social work practice i.e. children and families, criminal justice social work and community care.


The Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (a multi-million pound development funded by the Scottish Government to support research and training in residential child care), the Centre for the Child and Society, and Community Care Works are all based within the School and contribute to teaching in the course as well as to research and consultancy.

Relevant work experience

We normally expect you to have had at least six months full-time work experience, or its equivalent in part-time work, at the point of the application.

We’re more concerned with the quality of experience than whether or not it’s paid. It’s useful to think about experience in three dimensions - duration, range and depth. While longer and more diverse experience is of great value, depth (or quality) is perhaps more important since this is what allows learning and professional development. Often experience is "deeper" in contexts where supervision is offered regularly, allowing for in-depth discussion in practice issues and dilemmas. Undertaking relevant reading and training while working often helps people to "deepen" the quality of their work experience.

- Criteria for work experience
The following indicate the kinds of criteria we look at in considering the relevance and suitability of your work experience:
- does it involve direct contact with people either as service users e.g. individuals, families or groups where the focus is on helping them live with or manage major difficulties in their lives, or in stimulating collaborative ventures to seek social change?

- does it develop critical awareness of the range, depth and complexity of social and personal problems and the variety of individual and agency responses which can address these?

- does it develop basic knowledge of the functions of social work, social care and/or community development agencies?

- does it develop skills in helping other people in difficulty e.g. skills in identifying and assessing problems, jointly planning and supporting a response to them or coping with stress?

- does it provide opportunities to reflect on, and take action to combat, discrimination and oppression in people's lives?

- does it generate an awareness, and an ability to act in the light of the value dilemmas involved in both helping activities and social change activities e.g. reflecting on the tensions between individual rights and freedoms and collective social obligations?

- Relevant work settings:
- work may be undertaken in a wide variety of settings e.g. community-based offices, residential provision, day care services, community organisations.
- work may be carried out with a range of client groups. These will commonly be people who experience various forms of disadvantage.
- it should be supervised by a member of staff of the status and experience to provide a reference indicating suitability for entry to social work education.

Personal qualities

The kinds of personal qualities which we look for in an applicant include:
- the ability to convey genuine warmth and interest in people
- an ability to see strengths and potential in even the most difficult circumstances and people
- a genuine interest in difference and diversity and an obvious ability to adapt and change
- a willingness to question conformity and risk discomfort in challenging attitudes which encourage discrimination and complacency
- the ability to support people who live with difficult, sometimes worsening circumstances
- an ability to help people set and follow their own agendas while being capable of asserting your authority where their welfare requires it
- being level-headed and helpful in the face of people's distress, pain and anger, even when it's turned on you
- a quiet confidence in your own ability and the capacity to argue and defend your views in a constructive way
- satisfaction in helping manage and, where possible, resolve conflict, but never at the expense of sacrificing the interests of vulnerable people
- taking enjoyment from both using your own initiatives as well as working accountably as part of team
- the ability to accept constructive criticism and learn from your mistakes
- a passion to fight for the rights of disadvantaged people

Communication skills

The communication skills which we would expect all applicants to demonstrate would include the capacity to:
- engage appropriately with a wide range of people
- communicate expressively, fluently and convincingly in verbal and written form
- understand, calculate and present accurately, basic numerical and financial information
- possess at least a basic understanding of information and communication technology and be able to acquire sufficient competence by the end of year 1/level 1 of the course


There are no specific age restrictions for undertaking the course although funding bodies may impose an upper limit. Employability on course completion is a factor in selection.

Professional suitability

All entrants must register with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) and meet suitability criteria regarding offending history, employment record etc.

Overseas students

As with home students, overseas applicants should be able to demonstrate their motivation, aptitude and preparedness for social work training. You must have substantial relevant paid or voluntary work experience. In addition, you must have a recognised degree or an equivalent qualification.

Application for entry to the course must be made through UCAS. The subsequent selection process is broadly the same as for UK and EC applicants. However, in order to ensure that applications from out-with the UK are given full consideration it is advisable that in addition to applying to UCAS you should send additional information directly to us. This should include:
- detailed information about degrees held and the awarding institution(s)
- where English is a second language please provide information about your levels of proficiency in English
- details of work experience, with particular reference to the aspects referred to in the guidelines on work experience
- a statement about reasons for wanting to study in the UK
- financial arrangements for meeting the cost of tuition fees and living expenses during the two year course
- an indication that you would be available to come to the UK for interview. Applicants who are not able to come for interview may be asked to supply additional written material and/or references.

Learning & teaching

The teaching and learning approach is student-centred and aims to promote reflective learning. Our key approach is problem-based learning which is universally recognised as an effective way of developing the critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed by busy professionals.

The course is taught through lectures, seminar groups, simulations and individual skills rehearsal with a commitment to use interactive e-learning wherever relevant. At the heart of the course is practice learning in social work service agencies with formally assessed placements being undertaken in both years.


Our assessment methods consist of regular feedback on specific tasks related to teaching and learning as you work through a module.

Modules are formally assessed in a range of different ways, including essay, report, presentations and peer group assessments.


Qualified social workers are increasingly valued. Promotion and career development opportunities are excellent. Social workers can be found in:
- Local authorities - from main-grade workers to directorate level. Social workers will be providing, managing, purchasing and organising services to people with very diverse needs across the life span in different settings

- Voluntary organisations - at all levels, usually working in relatively specialist ways with children and young people with particularly challenging needs, as well as vulnerable adults, especially those with learning disabilities and those affected by mental health issues. Settings and contexts vary as widely as in local authorities.

- Private sector - often at senior practitioner and management level with services focusing on home-based support to vulnerable adults and residential services to older people as well as foster care support and services to people with offending histories.

- Central government - experienced social work managers advise and support ministers in monitoring and developing social work services.

- Social work regulation - a range of independent bodies, like the Care Inspectorate and Scottish Social Services Council employ social workers at a senior level to lead and manage registration and inspection of social work services to ensure they meet appropriate standards.

Find information on Scholarships here http://www.strath.ac.uk/search/scholarships/index.jsp

Visit the Social Work (MSW) page on the University of Strathclyde website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Emma Briggs

As well as providing an insight into the sector, the MSW course enabled me to develop a wide range of knowledge, theory and practical skills required for a career in social work. Learning from the course has already been invaluable to my new job and I look forward to using the skills I gained further in the development of my career.


Entry Requirements

You must normally have achieved or be on track to achieve a 2:1 honours degree preferably in an area of social sciences. In very exceptional circumstances, candidates who not do have a first degree may be considered, if you have very extensive professional experience and can demonstrate academic ability at graduate level. It’s preferable that candidates should have mathematics and English at Standard Grade (credit level), Intermediate 2 (A-C) or GCSE (A-C), or a recognised equivalent.

Course Fees

2015/16: Scotland/EU £3,415; Rest of UK £3,415; International £11,000

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