Social Work MA


Fact file

MA Social Work
2 years full-time
Entry requirements
2.1 (Upper 2nd class hons degree or international equivalent)
Other requirements
6 months of social work, social care or closely related experience. Maths and English grade C or above at GCSE or equivalent.2 references; one work, one academic.
7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
University Park
Tuition fees
You can find fee information on our fees table.


This course combines university and practice-based learning and is regulated by the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC), with significant contributions by experienced social workers and by service users.
Read full overview

The MA Social Work is delivered through the Centre for Social Work. The Centre views the role of the social work profession as being to promote social and personal change and problem-solving in human relationships and communities and all our teaching and research activities support this philosophy.

The staff who teach on the programme have national and international reputations for their quality of their research and publications and this knowledge informs their teaching. Significant contributions to teaching are also made by experienced social workers and by service users.

The programme is regulated by the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) and our students are expected to work within the standards set by the HCPC.

The programme combines university and practice-based learning; both elements must be completed satisfactorily for the degree to be awarded. Places are limited to ensure the quality of the student experience and the availability of suitable placements.

We believe that at the heart of social work lies the relationship which social workers develop with individual service users - be they children, young people or adults. Positive relationships enable the social worker to support service users as they negotiate transitions and decisions in their life which may be complex and painful in nature.

We aim, therefore, to select people for the MA programme who have the potential to develop the qualities that service users want from social workers: reliability, understanding, warmth, respect for others, an authoritative approach to difficult issues and an ability to get things done.

Apply online

Applications for this postgraduate course must be made online through the UCAS undergraduate process (University of Nottingham institution code N84, Social Work Postgraduate Course Code L508).

The application process commences 1 September and the deadline for applications is 6pm on 15 January. Any applications received after the deadline will be treated as a late application and will only be assessed once we have ascertained whether places remain on the course. This will be after we have assessed, interviewed and made offers to eligible applicants who applied before the deadline.

If invited for interview applicants are required to make a signed declaration regarding any criminal record or health condition and then complete a Disclosure and Barring Service check once registered on the programme. Although a criminal record or a health condition is not necessarily a bar to acceptance, failure to disclose relevant information may subsequently result in the offer of a place, or registration being withdrawn.


Course details

The programme starts in September and runs for 22 months. Teaching and placement times do not always follow the normal University terms and semesters. There are approximately ten weeks of vacation over the 22 month course.

Academic curriculum

The majority of academic teaching takes place in the autumn term of each year. A total of 180 credits of modules are required for the MA. Teaching methods include lectures, seminars, tutorials, case discussions, and experiential exercises designed to encourage the integration of theory and practice.

Assessment includes written assignments, individual and group presentations, research projects, and seen exam.

Practice curriculum

Through practice based learning - undertaken in a variety of settings, with a range of service users -  students are introduced to a variety of approaches to helping people. A total of 170 days is spent in practice settings across the two years of the course. Each period of practice learning will be assessed against the requirements of the Professional Capabilities Framework set out by The College of Social Work.

We have  excellent links with local agencies and an outstanding record in providing high-quality placements. We recognise that placement learning is an extremely important part of your educational experience and we work hard to ensure placements are successful in meeting individual learning needs. Students and practice assessors are well supported by the programme throughout the practice learning.

All placements are undertaken on a full-time basis and while on placement students are expected to work the same hours as other members of staff in that setting. When allocating practice learning placements, care is taken to match your learning needs and personal requirements to the individual learning opportunity offered. Placements are normally within the geographical boundaries of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.



Core modules

Critical Perspectives on Social Work

The module critically examines some of the main social theories which conceptualise the nature of social work and its relationship to the state, society and the individual.

Students will be enabled to understand how different theoretical approaches provide different ways of thinking about the nature of social work and their implications for social work practice. 

The theories and debates covered will include:

  • the nature of best practice
  • anti-oppressive practice, power and authority
  • the role of research in social work and evidence-based practice
  • service user perspectives
  • the contribution of sociological theories regarding personal life, risk, movement, and everyday objects

This module aims to:

  • provide a critical understanding how different theoretical perspectives seek to explain and define what social work is
  • build an understanding about being a humane, generous practitioner and ethical uses of power and authority
  • examine competing theoretical and ideological perspectives on the self, the individual and social action
  • enable students to further develop their critical understanding of theory and practice and of strategies aimed at promoting relationship-based practice and social justice

The module encourages students to critically engage with fundamental questions at the heart of social science research and their impact on social work practice. This module:

  • points to the importance of 'evidenced-based' research for the social work profession
  • develops a critical understanding of the range of research informing social work practice, including practitioner research
  • stresses why social work practice needs to be grounded in social research which is critical of 'official' accounts of social welfare
  • aids student participants in the 'process' of formulating research plans
  • introduces student participants to the electronic resources which are available at the Hallward Library
  • focuses on the research methods, particularly qualitative methods, which will be central to the writing of the dissertation
  • explores issues related to the ethics of social research
  • highlights how the presentation of research findings is a major component of research activity

This module aims to:

  • ensure that students understand key aspects of qualitative research methods, use of information technology and literature survey methods
  • allow students to engage in self-directed learning and management of their own research activities, in order to produce a dissertation against agreed timescales
Human Growth and Development across the Life Course

The module provides students with an introduction to a range of theories and evidence about human growth and development. Students will be enabled to understand the ways in which human growth and development is affected by a range of factors across the life course and how these factors may impact on the development of resilience and well-being.

They are encouraged to develop a critical awareness of the various theoretical perspectives alongside an ability to apply this knowledge to social work practice. 

The module follows a life course perspective, tracking human growth and development from the cradle to the grave and draws on theoretical material from a range of different disciplines.

This module aims to:

  • provide an overview of human development through the life course, exploring how this is influenced by a wide range of determinants
  • offer an introduction to some of the major theoretical perspectives around human growth and development
  • consider challenges to human development across the life course and their implications for the development of resilience and well-being
  • consider the application of these theories in social work practice
Law for Social Work

This module prepares students with an introduction to relevant legislation, policies and guidance for social work practice with a variety of service users.

The programme recognises the centrality of the law and its interaction with policy and research in promoting and safeguarding the welfare of children and adults, and the necessity for practitioners to be confident when representing agencies and working with service users in legislative contexts. 

To enable a better understanding and application of law to practice, the module includes a general consideration of the English legal system and considers areas around the court structure, civil vs. criminal procedures; differing burdens of proof; duties vs. powers; delegated legislation and so on. It focuses on specific legislative frameworks for working with children, including youth justice, older people and people with mental health problems.

This module aims to:

  • affirm the centrality of social work practice within a legal context
  • build legal knowledge and skills, particularly around court work, to help recognise the relationship between the law and social workers' accountability
  • identify and evaluate the ethical principles informing good practice under the law
Research Methods and Research Management

This module provides a general introduction to a range of key issues in the design and conduct of social research, plus guidance on writing both a dissertation proposal and a dissertation. 

The module combines more formal taught sessions with practical exercises, some of which are group based.

By the end of the module students will be equipped with the methodological and practical skills to carry out independent research using a variety of research designs and methods.

This module aims to:

  • explore some of the major issues (epistemological, practical and ethical) involved with undertaking social research
  • develop an appreciation of the factors to be considered in designing a piece of research
  • examine the pros and cons of key research methods used in social research
  • enhance skills in devising and managing pieces of research
  • outline the major issues associated with undertaking postgraduate dissertation research in the social sciences

This module will introduce students to key theoretical, legal and practice aspects of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.

It will require students to engage in learning from previous situations in which social work intervention has failed to protect children or vulnerable adults from abuse. Please note that both undergraduate and postgraduate social work students will be attending this module. 

For undergraduate students the overall pass mark for the module is 40% and all module elements are non-compensatable (ie. you must pass each assessment at 40%). For postgraduate students the overall pass mark for the module is 50% but compensation between module elements is allowed for marks of 40% and above (ie. if you have an average over 50% you can compensate for assessments if the mark was 40% or higher).

This module aims to:

  • introduce students to existing child protection and adult safeguarding systems, including an awareness of the contexts in which these services have developed
  • enable students to understand the different approaches indicated by the terms 'protection' and 'safeguarding' 
  • introduce students to concepts of risk assessment and risk management 
  • enable students to acquire some knowledge of current law, policy and practice in relation to both child protection and adult safeguarding - including the importance of learning from past cases 
  • deepen students' awareness of how issues of power and discrimination are relevant to this aspect of social work practice 
  • challenge students to consider how their personal and professional experiences may impact on their interpretation of service users' lives
Service User Perspectives

This module will introduce students to the unequal power relationships to which service users are subject. It will briefly consider some of the theoretical approaches to understanding how these dynamics emerge and are perpetuated.

Students will then receive teaching delivered by a range of different service user group, each of which will provide perspectives on their lived experiences. Students will be required to present and reflect on a chosen aspect of their own life experience.

This module aims to:

  • make students aware of the power dynamics which exist between service users and social workers, from the perspective of the service users 
  • provide an opportunity to hear, from service users themselves, how social work interventions are experienced by different service user groups
Social Work Theories, Models and Methods

This module prepares students for social work practice. It concentrates on the skills necessary to engage with service users and offers an overview of the social work process of assessment, planning, intervention and evaluation (APIE).

This provides students with a basic theoretical framework for social work practice in which the nature of social work theory is examined in relation to assessment, planning, intervention and evaluation. The module also considers the influence of values on social work practice. 

This module aims to:

  • prepare students for practice situations through the development, enhancement and rehearsal of social work skills, such as communication, observation and reflection

Optional modules

Social Welfare with Children and Families

This module is designed for those students who have an interest in exploring social welfare with children and families, and wish to extend their knowledge of this area in relation to social policy and social work.

This module aims to:

  • introduce students to a range of perspectives relevant to understanding child maltreatment and its effects, and to delivering the services required by children and young people in need and their parents
  • enable students to acquire a knowledge of the policy and social care practices involved in delivering social welfare to children and young people in need and their families
Social Work with Adults

This module acts as the bridge between academic learning and professional qualifying practice. It provides students with an insight into topical issues for practice through a series of workshops led by expert practitioners and/or academic staff.

Issues based teaching sessions will be run that enable and expect students to make the links between the learning and their own professional development. Please note that both undergraduate and postgraduate social work students will be attending this module. 

For postgraduate students the overall pass mark for the module is 50%, but compensation between module elements is allowed for marks of 40% and above (ie. if you have an average over 50% you can compensate for assessments if the mark was 40% or higher).

This module aims to:

  • develop in students a framework for reflective learning that they continue to use in practice 
  • introduce students to topical themes in contemporary practice and policy with children and families 
  • provide students with an understanding of the lived experiences of those needing and using social work services 
  • support students to begin to develop an understanding of their professional development and current and future learning needs
  • provide opportunities for students to connect academic learning with practice
  • provide students with the opportunity to reflect on the values and ethical frameworks for effective social work practice


The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.



Social work bursaries

Following changes to the funding of social work education at national level, a limited/capped number of bursaries are available each year. Unfortunately this means that there is therefore no longer a guarantee that you will receive a bursary if you take up an offer of a place on our MA Social Work course.

Social work bursaries are administered by the NHS Business Services Authority and are only available to students who meet residency and other eligibility criteria set out by this body. The most important bursary eligibility criteria relates to having 'ordinary residence' in England.

View further details of eligibility criteria.

Of the bursaries which The University of Nottingham receives each year (currently 27 for the MA programme, though this is subject to annual review by central Government) we allocate these to individual students based on the quality of their application and their performance at the assessment day and interview. 

If you are awarded a bursary, this will cover your tuition fees and a contribution towards travel and cost-of-living expenses. If you are not awarded a bursary you will have to pay tuition fees from your own monies.

Students who are eligible for a bursary but are not offered one may still receive a placement travel allowance from the NHS Bursary Authority as a contribution towards the cost of travel to and from placement.

International, EU and non-eligible students

Students who are not resident in England are not eligible for either the bursary or the travel allowance.

As social work education in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales operates separately from the English system, students from these parts of the UK are classified as non-eligible students.



Upon successful completion of the programme graduates are eligible to register as a qualified social workers with the Health and Care Professions Council.

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2014, 100% of Social Work postgraduates in the School of Sociology and Social Policy who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £25,951 with the highest being £31,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home and EU postgraduates, 2013/14.

Career prospects and employability

The acquisition of a masters degree demonstrates a high level of knowledge in a specific field. Whether you are using it to enhance your employability, as preparation for further academic research or as a means of vocational training, you may benefit from careers advice as to how you can use your new found skills to their full potential.

Our Careers and Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops.



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