Key Facts

Course name: Professional Doctorate in Social Work (DSW)
Research Institute: Social Sciences
Type of Programme: Professional Doctorate
Duration: 4-7 (normal duration 6 years)
Starting Date: October

The part-time Professional Doctorate in Social Work, DSW builds on the established and very successful BA (Hons) Social Work and MA Social Work to provide a specialist route for social work or social policy professionals who wish to embark on doctoral study located within their own professional discipline. 

The Doctorate in Social Work (DSW) is a 4-7 year part-time programme.  In the first two years students are required to attend the university for taught modules. There are 5 modules in total, each of which is taught in 1-2 day blocks.    Around this formal teaching, there are regular opportunities for face to face and e-mail support. In years 3 - 4 (and beyond where necessary) students work under the guidance and support of a nominated supervisor to produce a 60,000 word thesis. 

The programme has been specifically designed for female and male professionals, practitioners, policy-makers, leaders and managers, and academics - across all areas of social work with adults and children & families. 

 The aims of the DSW are to:

  • Develop in-depth and systematic understanding of knowledge, skills and values in relation to contemporary social work policy and practice
  • Promote an understanding of research evidence and methodologies relevant to professional practitioners
  • Develop a critical awareness and application of research evidence, methodologies and methods at the forefront of contemporary social work policy and practice
  • Provide opportunities for interdisciplinary learning and collaboration through shared learning with colleagues from a range of public professions
  • Enable participants to undertake a doctoral research study of relevance to relevance to social work policy or practice.

Download the Doctorate in Social Work Leaflet here.  

The DSW has one entry point a year - in October.  

The general programme comprises:

  • Five units with five associated formative assignments taught in mainly two-day events to support the development of your research plan and proposal (years 1 and 2)
  • Regular e-supported learning between Course Sessions
  • Research thesis (up to 60,000 words) in years 3 and 4

Tutors guide participants through the first four modules and associated assignments. Students are allocated a supervisor at the stage where you devise your formal research proposal. The proposal is assessed orally and in writing before you can proceed to conduct your thesis.

The DSW sits alongside the Doctorate in Education (EdD) programme and the Doctorate in Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) both of which are located within the School of Public Policy and Professional Practice. A substantial number of modules are taught jointly across the three programmes.

Course Modules and Assessment

The programme is assessed by four formative assignments, one summative assignment and a research thesis.

Years 1 and 2

There five taught modules:

  • Module 1 EDU-40106: Introduction to theories and methods as a reflective practitioner-researcher
    Assignment: Self-Reflection and Personal Development Plan
  • Module 2 EDU-40104: Critical theories and analytical perspectives in social work
    Assignment: Theoretical Perspectives on social work policy and practice
  • Module 3 EDU-40103:  Research methods and evaluation 
    Assignment: A General Research Methods critique
  • Module 4 EDU-40105: The pilot study 
    Assignment: a commentary and report on a pilot study that will inform the final research proposal for the thesis
  • Module 5 EDU-40107: Preparing and presenting a thesis proposal 
    This is a summative assignment (5,000 words written and 1,000 words oral presentation)

Years 3 and 4+: A Research Thesis 

This will be between up to 60,000 words and will draw from the previous five assignments. It should form a contribution to the knowledge of the subject area and show evidence of originality, either by the discovery of new evidence, or by the exercise of independent critical power. The thesis is examined by the conventional method of the viva voce.

Tutors guide the participants through their formative assignments and a supervisor is allocated for the Thesis Proposal and Thesis.

Alternative exit point for the DSW

Upon successful completion of the taught part of the EdD programme and a 15-20,000-word dissertation, students may be awarded an MRes (Social Work).

A candidate for the Degree of DSW should:

  • Hold a Masters Degree of this University or of another deemed equivalent
  • Hold that qualification normally in the general field of social work, policy and/or management and/or social sciences or its equivalent in professional experience and a professionally accredited programme (normally an accredited social work qualification)
  • Evidence of experience relating to social work practice or social work policy
  • Have access to email and the internet for the e-supported parts of the programme

The DSW does not lead to a professional qualification in social work that meets the requirements for professional registration as a social worker in England by HCPC.  Some DSW candidates may be registered social workers by virtue of a Bachelors or Masters award in social work.

There is no deadline for applications but you are strongly encouraged to apply before 1st August to secure your place and to receive the preliminary course information.  


Contact Details

Administrator Tracey Harrison
Tel : (+44) 01782 734256
E-Mail :