MSc Social Work

This two-year programme is provided under the new framework for Social Work qualifications. It is a joint professional practice and academic award. On successful completion of the programme you will be eligible to apply for registration with the regulatory body Social Work England.

Aims, values and principles

The University is committed to ensuring that future users of the personal social services have effective and competent workers who uphold the dignity of individuals and, where possible, establish a shared approach to problem-solving. Qualifying students will understand the structural and personal factors that lead to oppression and discrimination and be able to work within an anti-oppressive framework. They will develop skills as reflective practitioners, able to appraise critically a range of relevant evidence, including research, to evaluate their own work and that of others, and to contribute to the development of policy and practice.

Collaboration with stakeholders

The University of Bristol has longstanding partnership arrangements with a consortium of social work agencies in the region, including statutory, voluntary and independent agencies providing a range of social work services. Staff from these agencies have worked with us to develop the new programme. We also enjoy long-standing links with a range of service user and carer organisations. Representatives from these groups have been involved in teaching on our social work programmes and have helped us to develop our policy and practice. A Service Users and Carers Forum has been established since 2003. The role of the Forum is to ensure that service user and carer perspectives inform the teaching and learning which students undertake, and permeate all other aspects of the programme, from selection to assessment. Service users and Carers have an active role in all elements of the programme including its design, admissions process, delivery of teaching and assessment of students' work. Students are also stakeholders and students’ ideas and feedback are highly valued.

Relevant experience

To be eligible to apply for the MSc in Social Work programme at the University of Bristol, you will ideally have a minimum of six months’ experience in any area of work which is relevant to social work. This may be either full-time or part-time paid work and/or voluntary experience. If you do not meet this threshold, the admissions officer has discretion on whether to progress your application to interview depending on your ability to evaluate your experiences within your personal statement.

You will need to be able to demonstrate that you have gained this experience before starting the course. However, if you are in the process of gaining this experience at the time of applying, the application may still be considered, but a further reference would be needed at a later date to confirm the level of experience achieved.

We will also consider individuals who may have had personal experience of social care or social support services, and who are interested in social work as a career. Again, this will depend on the applicant’s ability to utilize their life experiences within their personal statement - particularly on how these led to a decision to pursue studies in social work.

What is 'relevant' to social work?

Understandably, we are often asked by applicants what we consider to be 'relevant' experience. The following guidance is not intended to be prescriptive or comprehensive, since social work is a dynamic field of work where new needs, responses and organisations are regularly developing. The examples given below, of work which is directly or partly relevant to social work, are mainly illustrative of work in the UK. Please note that we also welcome applicants with international experience, either because you are an international student, or because you have undertaken paid or voluntary work abroad. The range of experience which students bring to the course is an important element in the learning and teaching available for all students.

The key elements we are looking for in any experience involve demonstrable interest and commitment combined with practical experience. Whatever form this experience takes, it should ideally include the following elements:

  • face-to-face work or telephone work with people,
  • working with people in different emotional states,
  • problem-solving and/or counselling skills,
  • responsibility and decision-making,
  • some knowledge of the social work task, law and procedures.

Together, these elements should provide you with the opportunity to gain a foundation understanding of the knowledge, skills and values of social work.

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School admissions:
+44 (0)117 954 6785

School for Policy Studies
University of Bristol
8 Priory Road
Bristol, BS8 1TZ

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