Key Facts

Course Title: Social Work
Course type: MA (incorporating the professional qualification in Social Work) UCAS code: L501
Mode of Study:Full Time
Contact Details:Jemma Sharrock
Website: Go to School homepage
Faculty: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Subject Area: Social Science and Public Policy


Social Work is a practice based profession which engages people and groups to address complex life challenges and enhance well being.  The social work discipline is underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and practice based knowledge.  Our enthusiastic staff group bring a wide variety of experiences from practice and research which include: child rights, gerontology, protection and safeguarding and the value base of social work.   We have a long established history of providing social work at Keele and offer an informed and critical approach to knowledge about the social content in which social work is practiced.  We offer an excellent range of practice placements and our highly regarded skill based learning is led by social work practitioners and people who use services.  Graduates from the MA programmes have consistently demonstrated high rates of progression into relevant employment.

We also offer a Professional Doctorate in Social Work for registered social work practitioners.  More information is available at the following links:

Doctorate in Social Work

Social Work Research Subjects

Aims of the Course

The course prepares you at postgraduate level for employment as a professionally qualified social worker and lays the foundation for your continuing professional development. It also provides an academically rigorous education at Masters Level, focusing on critical, research and evaluative skills. In order to qualify, you will be assessed through assessed practice and relevant academic study. After qualification you are eligible to apply for registration to the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). For this process all social work students (undergraduate and postgraduate) must be able to demonstrate knowledge, understanding, critical evaluation and practice application of the following:

  • Principles, values and ethics, theories, models and methods;
  • Legislation and policy/social work services and service users; 
  • Organisational/service delivery context;
  • Practice. 

Entry Requirements

The following entry criteria must be met:

  • minimum 2.1 honours degree (a professional/ postgraduate relevant qualification may be considered as an equivalent if the candidate can also demonstrate relevant experience in a social care setting).
  • English Language and Maths GCSE Grade C or above (or Functional Skills Level 2)
  • a satisfactory Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) (Enhanced and Barred Lists) check
  • satisfied health checks by student self-declaration and Occupational Health referral where appropriate
  • meet the HCPC requirements for registration.

You would be expected to have some general knowledge of social services and broad social problems.  It is important that you can demonstrate awareness of the field you are seeking to enter.  Although it is not a requirement for entry, relevant experience is recommended.

We are unable to consider international candidates for Social Work.

Course Content

This professional qualifying programme continues for two full calendar years (24 months) full-time, starting in September. Teaching methods include seminars, lectures, workshops and skills workshops employing a range of methods. All parts of the course are compulsory. The programme incorporates the following elements:

  • 300 Masters Level credits, of which 60 credits are awarded on the basis of a dissertation and 240 credits through taught modules – these are to be passed at Masters Level, with a pass mark of 50%, for the award of MA;
  • Assessment in line with the Professional Capabilities Framework for Social Work comprising practice learning  of 170 days and practice associated assignments which are to be passed at Masters level; 
  • The core curriculum content as specified by the College of Social Work; 
  • Compliance with QAA benchmark statement for social work.

In Year One of the course you must demonstrate your suitability for professional training in order to progress to the next stage of the award.  This year will also introduce you to the general principles of social work.   Year Two aims to develop analytical, research and evaluation skills integrated with your developing practice, knowledge, skills and values. Each year includes practice learning in a social work setting.

Year One

Year One introduces you to the general principles of social work, and by building on social science knowledge and understanding and skills, aims to enable students to further develop systematic knowledge, critical awareness, new insights and skills in relation to: the social context of social work; social work values and ethics; the legal system; the life course; social work with adults; social work with children and families; interpersonal communication and professional practice.  In your first year you must demonstrate readiness for practice before being able to undertake your first assessed practice learning opportunity of 70 days. 

Taught Modules (Assessed at Masters Level - 130 Level 7 credits)

  • Power and discrimination (10)
  • Introduction to legal processes (10)
  • Social work theory and methods 1 (10)
  • Area of practice 1: children and families (15)
  • Area of practice 1: adults (15)
  • Life course development (10)
  • Personal and Professional Development (70 days practice learning and associated assignments) (45)
  • Taught element (interpersonal skills, preparation for practice learning) (15)

Year Two

Year Two provides opportunities for you to develop and demonstrate your research capabilities.  Analytical, research and evaluation skills will be developed in relation to: reflective practice; social work research; social work with adults; social work with children and families; and social work practice.  You will develop knowledge of methodologies, be able to critique those methodologies and where appropriate, propose new hypotheses.  In order to demonstrate understanding of techniques applicable to your own advanced scholarship, you will be required to complete a dissertation of 15,000 words. You  will undertake 100 days assessed practice placement in a social work setting.Year 2 Taught Modules.

Taught Modules (Assessed at Masters Level - 170 Level 7 credits)

  • Social work theory and methods 2 (10)
  • Social work research (10)
  • Area of practice 2: children and families (law, disability, mental health, inter-professional working, risk) (15)
  • Area of practice 2: adults (law, disability, mental health, inter-professional working, risk) (15)
  • Personal and Professional Development (100 days practice learning and associated assignments) (60)


  • 15,000 word dissertation (60 Level 4 credits)
  • Taught element (interpersonal skills, preparation for practice learning)

Practice Learning Arrangements

There are two full-time block practice placements, one in each year. They are arranged in a wide variety of statutory and voluntary agencies under approved practice teachers and with regular tutorial contact. They are usually within a radius of 50 miles of Keele, in Staffordshire, Shropshire, Cheshire and the West Midlands.

Teaching and Assessment

You are required to pass all written assignments including essays and case studies, and examinations (year two only), together with a dissertation.  You must also reach a satisfactory level of competence in relation to the Standards of Proficiency and Professional Capabilities Framework for Social Work. 

Teaching Philosophy

The social work education team's approach to higher education attempts to apply the basic assumptions of 'andragogy' (adult education, as opposed to 'pedagogy' literally 'the education of children'), to the development of the curriculum, the learning methods and the types of assessment this involves and the recognition that adults learn in different ways and are performance-centred in their orientation to learning.

We strive to be creative in using a range of teaching and learning methods which offer a variety of opportunities to engage with the curriculum.  The experiential techniques of discussion and problem-solving provide opportunities for those students with extensive practical experience to use and recognise the value of their existing knowledge.  All students are assigned a personal tutor whose primary duty is to support academic and practical learning, hold tutorials by appointment and take regular tutor group meetings.

A central feature of this approach is the recognition that you are responsible for your own learning.  The role of the lecturing staff is to facilitate learning through:

  • playing a part in creating a stimulating and supportive atmosphere conducive to learning;
  • providing information and a critical perspective on established knowledge;
  • providing advice and guidance to individuals or groups;
  • introducing and supervising learning exercises - discussion, video, skill rehearsal etc;
  • chairing group discussions and promoting debate;
  • enhancing positive group interactions and intervening in negative ones, where necessary offering constructive critical comment on written work. 

Effective learning involves a partnership in which you:

  • recognise the active nature of learning (learning involves more than passively absorbing information);
  • take advantage of the learning opportunities offered;
  • make a contribution to discussions, as and when required;
  • do not interfere with the learning of others;
  • manage your own study time as effectively as possible;
  • review critically you own learning in order to seek to maximise progress;
  • acknowledge the need to ask for support at times (needing help is not a sign of weakness);
  • are prepared to change - personal and professional development involves more than acquiring knowledge and so we must be willing to broaden our perspective on experience;
  • are prepare to 'unlearn' - developing anti-discriminatory practice involves challenging previously unquestioned assumptions.

Teaching Methods

We recognise that different people learn in different ways and so we use a variety of methods to ensure that you have ample opportunity to develop you knowledge and skills. These methods include:

Lectures - which are used to introduce new material and provide summaries of key issues.  They often incorporate participative exercises and encourage active discussion.

Group discussions  - typically in small informal groups of 6-8 students these sessions are likely to focus on a case-study or a question to stimulate discussion and exchange of ideas.

Skills workshops - are small group sessions provided by experienced practitioners in which basic skills such as interviewing and record keeping are developed.

Skills rehearsals - these typically involve very small groups of 2, 3 or 4 students undertaking short role plays to practice particular skills.

Seminars - these are small to medium-sized groups of 6 to 10 students who meet with a tutor to focus on a particular topic.  Typically, you are required to read beforehand or present material for discussion.

Computer-aided learning and information technology - you will be provided with an email account and have access to the University network, for information search and access to e-learning materials and electronic journals.

Directed study - tutors may require you to access and read materials in non-timetabled course hours to support learning

Private study - a proportion of study time is devoted to self-directed study (reading, note-taking, essay preparation etc).

Self-help groups - you are encouraged to learn from each other and we encourage the formation of informal self-help groups that also provide valuable peer support

Direct practice - you will be required to complete 170 days of assessed practice learning in an appropriate placement setting where you will be supported in your learning by a designated practice teacher.

Tutorials - you will be allocated a personal tutor who you will meet in both individual and group tutorials to provide individual support, assist learning and encourage reflection upon your education and practice.

Additional Costs

  • Additional costs for textbooks, inter-library loans, photocopying, printing, and potential overdue library fines.
  • DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks: In addition to meeting academic requirements, all offers are conditional on candidates obtaining a satisfactory, enhanced disclosure and barring service check.  This procedure is carried out before the start of the course and will incur a charge of £44 (the current cost of a DBS disclosure).

No other additional costs for this postgraduate programme are anticipated.

Admission to the course is via the UCAS website,  followed by a written task, group exercise and interview at Keele University.

Social Work Bursary

As you may be aware, due to changes in Department of Health policy on social work bursaries, the number of bursary recipients from 2013 onwards has been reduced.  Each University is allocated a certain number of bursaries for its MA social work students and therefore some students on the course have bursaries and some fund themselves.  In order to be offered a conditional place at Keele, you will have undertaken a rigorous selection process.  During the first stage of this process, the academic team screen paper applications received from UCAS.  At this stage, academic qualifications and references are checked.  We pay particular attention to your personal statement and the extent to which you have demonstrated:

  • an ability to present a coherent statement of relevant experiences;
  • an understanding what a social worker does;
  • an awareness of discrimination and social work values;
  • a willingness, ability and commitment to undertake social work education and training. 

If you are called for interview, our selection process addresses:

  • The NHS Business Services Authority’s ‘Inclusion Criteria for Postgraduate Students’ states that students to be nominated for a bursary should be prioritised for inclusion on the following criteria:
    • they meet the outcomes set out at entry level of the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF), which is owned by The College of Social Work (TCSW) on behalf of the profession; and
    • have experience of the sector e.g. work related, or user/carer experience; and/or
    • have other work/life experience related to the sector or likely to be of value to the sector;
    • have undertaken a written exercise and group activity;
    • attended an individual interview.

If you are offered a conditional place, we then apply our own selection criteria based on a ‘first come, first served’ basis in terms of your acceptance of the place on the course that we offer you.  In other words, the quicker we receive your firm acceptance via UCAS of a place at Keele, the more likely you are to be nominated for a bursary. Through this selection process we compile a list of nominated students to meet the number of bursaries allocated to us, and send this to the NHS Business Services Authority.  A reserve list is then compiled, again, in order of date of offer acceptance.

The social work bursary is administered by the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) on behalf of the Department of Health, who fund and set policy for the bursary.  The number of bursaries we are awarded varies from year to year, therefore it is not possible to state in advance how many bursaries we will be awarded.  Further information and application packs are available via:

The basic grant includes a fixed contribution towards your placement travel expenses between your term time address and your placement agency.   No further payments will be made for placement expenses through the social work bursary.

If you are not allocated one of our bursary places then you may still be eligible to receive the fixed contribution towards your placement travel expenses, as above. You will be required to satisfy all of the normal eligibility and residency criteria.

PLEASE NOTE:  The information above regarding bursaries for MA Social Work programme at Keele is accurate at time of publication, but can be subject to change at short notice, in order to respond to external changes in government policy.