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MSW Social Work

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Make a difference to people's lives by choosing a career in social work, providing people with help, support and guidance when they need it and protecting vulnerable children, families and adults. You split your study time between teaching and learning at university and practice learning in service settings. This approach ensures that you qualify with the skills, knowledge and experience you need to succeed in your career.

• Work in specialist facilities that include the £13m Health and Wellbeing Building.
• Learn from lecturers and practitioners who have worked as social workers and in related professions.
• Develop your knowledge, skills and experiences by attending 200 days working in professional settings and attending specialist skills days.
• Benefit from our strong partnerships with service users, carers and service providers in the region.


Full-time – 26 months
Taught modules take place, on average, two days a week.

You must be available for and complete one day of self-directed learning for each taught University study day you attend.

Periods of practice learning require you to attend for five days week.

Starts January (this is subject to change depending on the course revalidation)

Professional recognition

This course is approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

After successfully completing the course you are eligible to apply to register with them to practise as a social worker.

Health and Care Professions Council

Fees – home and EU students

Course fees may be subject to annual inflationary increase. For further information see our fees and funding pages.

2014/15 academic year

Full-time typically £9,000 a year

If you are a home or EU resident, you can normally apply for a NHS-funded bursary.

To qualify as a home student, you must have been living in the UK for over three years and have indefinite leave to remain or refugee status.

For information about the social work bursary scheme visit the NHS Social Work Bursaries website.

2015/16 academic year

Full-time – typically £9,000 a year
Part-time – typically £4,500 a year

Fees - international students

Course fees may be subject to annual inflationary increase. For further fee information see our international fees or scholarships and bursaries pages.

2014/15 academic year

Typically £12,150 per year

2015/16 academic year

Typically £12,400 per year

Course description

Study the theories, skills and values of social work on this course which is well connected with social work and social care service providers in the region. As a result of these connections you get the benefit of supervised practical work in a range of social work settings.

Parts of your studies focus on learning how to work with people who have problems in their lives or whose actions cause significant problems for others. This might involve dealing with people who behave in a volatile manner. As a student on this course and for your career, you must develop the strength and skills to manage uncertain situations. There is a strong interprofessional learning environment where some of your learning would be along peers from a multi-disciplinary perspective.

During your studies, you spend some of your time studying in our £13 million purpose-built Robert Winston Building, described as 'a beacon for the future development of health education in this country' by a leading UK health body. You also use other specialist facilities including a practical skills room in our Woodville Building.

As well as specialist facilities, you also benefit from a teaching team made up of qualified and experienced social workers, or practitioners from related professions. Many are involved in research in social work and have a well-established reputation in various international projects. This engagement with research helps to keep course content up to date and relevant.

One key aspect of the degree is that you spend at least 170 days across the degree putting what you’ve learnt into practice in real working situations such as social work teams, nurseries, family centres, primary care practices, hospitals and residential settings.

Your placements take place with our partners in local authority, private and voluntary agencies across South Yorkshire and the North East Midlands.

Service users and carers are central to all aspects of the course delivery and development, including teaching, assessment and placements. Other key aspects of the course and assessment include essays, presentations, exams and a dissertation.

Your dissertation is an independent piece of research work based on a topic of your choice. It involves original research, a review of an appropriate body of research or an original critique of theory using a case study. It is between 12,000 and 15,000 words.

Our teaching staff
All our teaching staff are qualified and experienced social workers, or have experience in related professions. Many are involved in research in social work and have a well-established reputation in various international projects, including
• international practice learning opportunities for students
• EU-funded projects to develop an international curriculum
• projects developing social work practice and social work education


Includes • essays • examinations • practice-learning portfolios • group presentations • report writing.

You put together a number of portfolios as evidence of your personal and professional development. You can use them to demonstrate your specialist ability when you go on to post-qualifying study.

We involve service users and carers in teaching and assessment, including service user-led workshops.

Health and Care Professions Council

Entry requirements

You must have some experience of delivering care in a professional or voluntary capacity and a reference from a current or recent employer or educational institution.

You must normally

• hold at least a first degree of 2.2 or above in a relevant subject, which includes psychology, sociology, social policy and public administration


• hold a professional qualification at degree level in areas such as teaching, nursing, occupational therapy, youth work or allied health/education professions

You also need to complete a personal statement to support your application. You do not need to confirm your research interests at this stage.

Professional requirements
You must meet the requirements for social work training, where you must
• have the appropriate personal and intellectual qualities to be a social worker
• mathematics and English at grade C or an equivalent qualification, such as Key Skills level 2 in English and Application of Number
• be able to make use of written materials and communicate clearly and accurately in spoken and written English. Non-native English speakers need to be proficient in English, typically shown by an overall IELTS score of 7.0 with no single element less than 6.0 and 6.5 in the spoken element.

If your English language skill is currently below IELTS 7.0 we recommend you consider a Sheffield Hallam University Pre-sessional English course which will enable you to achieve an equivalent English score.

If you do not have a suitable qualification in mathematics, Learn Direct offer on-line tests and support packages to assist with gaining a level 2 qualification in numeracy.

The selection event
If you are shortlisted, we will invite you to a selection event, and you should bring a passport or photo driving license with you. You can bring other forms of photo ID for the selection event, but if you do, you will still need to present valid identity documents required by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) at your pre-course day.

View our selection event guidance to ensure you understand the selection process.

Course enrolment – professional requirements
Before enrolling, you must fully declare during the admissions process any
• unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings. For further information on convictions that must be declared see the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) website.
• disciplinary proceedings during paid or voluntary employment or educational establishments
• involvement with safeguarding proceedings, social services or related organisations

You also need to complete
• a DBS Enhanced Disclosure, and provide us with a copy of your DBS Enhanced Disclosure Certificate if requested. Enrolment also depends on the DBS check being deemed suitable for professional training.
• occupational health screening to determine your suitability to undertake the course and an approved programme of immunisation, as recommended by the Department of Health. Health screening and immunisation are provided by the University.
• a pre-course day

If you have a criminal record, it does not necessarily prevent you from taking this course. All applicants must be clear of any convictions or statutory supervision linked to a sentence of the court for two years by August 31 on the year of enrolment. Download our procedure for applicants with criminal convictions for more information.

If you are an overseas student, you must have been granted permanent leave to remain in the UK. If you have spent time abroad, you must provide a certificate of conduct, which must cover the years not spent in the UK. This is necessary when you apply for the enhanced disclosure required to work in the health and social care sector.

Students on this course are not normally tested for immunity and infection. However, some high risk placements may require you to complete immunisation as specified by the placement provider.

If you fail to comply with any of these requirements your offer could be withdrawn.

If your personal circumstances change in relation to any of the professional requirements – from when you apply to the end of your course – you must tell the Professional Issues Team immediately by calling 0114 225 3995 or 0114 225 5786.

Work experience
You must demonstrate in your application, and at interview, an understanding of some of the challenges facing you as a social worker. This may include issues in social care or other areas including • education • health • criminal justice • childcare • community or youth work. You also need to demonstrate a commitment to valuing the culture and diversity of others.

You must have at least six months recent experience of working with service users and carers. This can be paid or voluntary work and we ask you to bring a reference to your interview.

If you have relevant life experience as a service user or carer this can be used to support your application. You should discuss this reflectively as part of your application form. Personal experience alone would not be sufficient for entry to the programme.

Accredited prior learning
Previous study or work experience can sometimes count towards your qualification. Successfully completing all or part of a higher education course may allow you on to the second or third year of a course. A smaller amount of credit, at higher education level, may count towards your qualification. We call this accreditation of prior credited learning.

We may also consider relevant work experience, provided it is at an appropriate level for your course. This is called accreditation of prior experiential learning.

Disability support
We strongly recommend that you tell us about any long term health conditions, learning difficulty or disability you may have. This is so we can assess whether we can deliver the course in such a way that you can meet the HCPC standards of proficiency and take part without disadvantage both in University and on placement.

The Disability Disclosure booklet provides information for students on health and social care courses and will help you understand the importance of disclosing your disability at the earliest possible stage. This is so you can be assessed for the support you may require to succeed on the course. You can contact our disability co-ordinator for social work and social care on 0114 225 5769 to discuss any queries you may have or you can contact our university disabled student support team on 0114 225 3964 (voice and Minicom).

Open day
As social work can involve psychologically and emotionally taxing work, we recommend that you come along to a University open day to learn more about the general expectations of the course.

You apply directly to UCAS for this course using the UCAS code L508.

International and European entry qualifications

For applicants from outside of the UK, you can find the qualifications we accept from your country on our international qualifications page.

Course content


Introduction to social work practice
You gain an overview of professional social work, looking at practice settings, policy and values. You are assessed against the Department of Health’s safety to practice requirements. You must pass this before you start your first practice placement at the end of year one for full-time students, and the beginning of year two for part-time students. This is an interprofessional module, taught with MSc Occupational Therapy students.

Social work theory and methods

You study the social science theories behind social work. You learn about social work intervention methods in ethical, service user centred practice. You explore sociological, psychological and social policy perspectives alongside theories of power (anti-oppressive practice). You then evaluate how appropriate it is to apply these theories to different practice interventions.

Foundations for practice
You examine the legal background of social work including • laws that shape assessments • professional codes of practice • the role of social work. You apply anti-oppressive theories to social work assessments in areas such as mental health and learning disabilities. You also complete an exercise which helps to assess your progress and highlight areas for improvement.

Research for practice
As a qualified social worker, you need to understand and contribute to the research base of the profession. Topics include • ethics and research governance • writing up research • presenting and distributing the results. You study research methods and develop a possible research topic to prepare for your dissertation.Practice learning experience 1 and 2
You produce a portfolio that provides evidence of your practice competence. You complete 200 days on placement to meet the GSCC requirements for practice learning and the GSCC codes of practice. International placements may be available.

You must demonstrate competence across the six roles defined in the 21 National Occupational Standards for Social Work.

Development for practice
You evaluate the political, organisational and legislative frameworks that support interprofessional social work. You also examine the impact of these on service users and carers. Topics include • models of risk • professional judgement and decision making • communicating with children.

You gain specialist knowledge of social work law in children and families or adult practice. You cover mental health law, human rights law and the ethical problems arising from laws imposed on practice.Social work in context
You apply your knowledge and social work theories to • assessment • intervention • planning • review. You use research evidence to reflect on social work • policy • practice • theories • values.

You look at social work practice from an international perspective, focusing on organisational concerns arising from the modernisation agenda, such as integrated care. After successfully completing these modules, you gain the Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work.

Enhanced professional practice
You focus on your career by developing your leadership skills. You identify creative solutions to challenges in social work practice, focusing on a service user group or a community of service users.

You develop strategies for applying evidence-based practice, seeking the expert opinion of • the service user • professional colleagues • employers • academics.

Your dissertation is an independent piece of research work based on a topic of your choice. It involves original research, a review of an appropriate body of research or an original critique of theory using a case study. It is between 12,000 and 15,000 words.

After successfully completing all the modules including the dissertation, you gain the Masters in Social Work. If you do not complete the dissertation we award a Masters in Social Care.


You can work in careers alongside other professionals including • nurses • lawyers • teachers • occupational therapists • doctors • social security officers • housing officers.

Organisations you may be employed by include • social services and social work departments • health education and other local authority departments • residential homes • housing associations • a range of national and local voluntary organisations • the independent sector.

You work with a range of people such as • children and young families • people with mental health problems, learning difficulties or physical disabilities • old people • young people.

Course enquiries

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How to apply

You apply directly to UCAS using the UCAS code L508.

Further information