MSc Social Work Research

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Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law
Awards available MSc , PG Certificate (Postgraduate Certificate), PG Diploma (Postgraduate Diploma)
Course length One year full-time
Two to five years part-time
Part-time study available Yes
Open to international students Yes
Number of places 20
Start date September 2016

Programme overview

Social Work, both in the UK and internationally, has been defined as a profession that ‘promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance social justice.’ Accordingly, social work takes a variety of forms and engages with a broad range of individuals, groups and communities. The scope of social work research is equally broad and requires researchers to be aware of, and able to engage with a variety of disciplines in a range of settings, often working alongside those with different ideas of what social work and social work research are and what each is intended to achieve (Economic and Social Research Council, 2006).

Social Work research, in other words, does not simply concern the work of social workers. It may also be concerned, for example, with programmes of community development in the context of poverty or interventions to tackle domestic violence and programmes for young offenders. It may focus on the needs of a particular group, for example disabled children or people with severe and long term mental illness, whether or not they receive social work services. It may draw on theories and research methods from any of the social sciences, including economics, law and philosophy.

This programme is designed to build on the links between research and practice in a range of settings in developing the particular skills and capacities needed by practice-based professionals and postgraduate students interested in carrying out social work and social care research.

Note: This programme does not include practical training in social work and does not lead to a professional qualification in social work. If you want to study for a qualification in social work practice, please see the MSc in Social Work.

Fees for 2016/17

Full time fees


Part time fees


Fees quoted are per annum and subject to annual increase.

Funding for 2016/17

The Faculty of Social Sciences and Law has an allocation of 1+3 and +3 ESRC scholarships.

Further information on funding for prospective UK, EU and international postgraduate students.

Programme structure

The programme is delivered through a series of intensive 3-day block visits held in Bristol, with the aim to be most accessible to full-time students, busy policy professionals and practitioners. Each unit is delivered during one of these blocks, allowing you to accumulate credits flexibly and organise the patterns of visits to suit your own needs and circumstances.

The structure for the MSc and PG Diploma consists of four core and two optional units. A dissertation of 10-15,000 words is required for the MSc. The PG Certificate is awarded for the successful completion of three units (two of which must be core units).

Core units

  • Philosophy and Research Design in the Social Sciences
  • Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods in the Social Sciences
  • Philosophy and Research Design in the Social Sciences
  • Further Qualitative Methods

Optional units

You then choose two of the following units which allow you to develop specialist knowledge of the application of research methods to key areas of social work and social policy.

  • Further Quantitative Methods
  • Domestic Violence: Research, Policy and Activism
  • Researching Health and Social Care
  • Researching Child and Family Welfare
  • Researching Poverty, Inequality and Social Exclusion
  • Economics of Public Policy

Entry requirements

  • An upper second-class honours degree (or equivalent) in a social science or other relevant discipline
  • or an upper second-class honours degree (or equivalent) in any subject and a Masters degree in Social Work
  • or a professional qualification in social work and substantial relevant experience AND evidence of ability to benefit from the programme demonstrated through a personal statement

NB: a professional social work qualification is NOT a requirement for admission to the programme.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

Selection process Online application form
English language requirements Profile E
Further information about English language requirements
Admissions statement Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.
How to apply
Application deadline:

Not fixed but early application is advised.


The programme stresses the development of social work and social research and analysis methods, as well as substantive knowledge. In addition to careers in academia, this programme prepares students for careers as social work and care researchers and analysts, research commissioners and managers in public or private agencies or organizations, both in the UK and internationally.

International students

Find out more about becoming a student at Bristol, and the support we offer to international students.

I chose Bristol because of its outstanding academic reputation. It's reassuring to be taught by people who truly love their subject - their passion becomes contagious.


REF 2014 results

  • 20% of research is world-leading (4 star)
  • 40% of research is internationally excellent (3 star)
  • 30% of research is recognised internationally (2 star)
  • 10% of research is recognised nationally (1 star)

Results are from the most recent UK-wide assessment of research quality, conducted by HEFCE. More about REF 2014 results.

Get in touch

Dr Demi Patsios Programme Director Phone: +44 (0) 117 954 6774 Email:

Senior Postgraduate Admissions Administrator Phone: +44 (0) 117 954 6785 Email:

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


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