Social Work BA


Fact file - 2019 entry

BA Hons Social Work
UCAS code
3 years full-time
A level offer
Required subjects
GCSE English and maths, 4 (C) or above, or equivalent
IB score
Course location
Course places


Social workers enable people to negotiate complex and sometimes painful transitions and decisions in their lives. As an academic discipline, our primary mission is to ensure that students are professionally capable of carrying out core social work tasks.
Read full overview

This course enables successful graduates to register as qualified social workers. As a result, it includes all the mandatory elements of a social work qualifying course. This includes assessment, communication skills, human growth and development, inter-professional working and the law.

More generally, it ensures that you will be able to demonstrate the capacity for critical thinking and creative action in relation to the complex problems of human life. In this respect, the connection between social work and social policy is critical.

You'll take a combination of academic modules that will develop the core knowledge, values and skills needed to be a social worker. In addition, in years two and three, you'll complete assessed placements in social work settings.

Modules are delivered through lectures, seminars, workshops and work-based learning opportunities.

We use a variety of teaching methods to help you develop the professional knowledge and practical skills required to become a qualified social worker, including the use of audiovisual technology and simulation exercises. Our teaching includes input from service users, carers and practising social workers.

During year one, you will shadow a social worker and observe their practice. In subsequent years, University-based learning during the first semester is followed by around three months of full-time work experience in a related setting.

Social work students are assessed both academically and against the professional standards for social work.

Year one

You will spend the first year based at the University, where you will explore social work's key functions and develop skills for social work practice. You will also study core aspects of sociology and social policy which underpin the profession's knowledge base.

Year two

You will be based at the University during the first semester, and study central aspects of social work's knowledge base, including the law, social work theories and human development. You will go out on placement for 80 days during the second semester.

Year three

You will again be based at the University during the first semester, and will have the opportunity to focus on studying key issues within social work with adults or children and families, depending on your preferred area of practice. You will also study central themes for all social workers, such as safeguarding. You will go out on placement for 90 days during the second semester.

Key facts

  • 3rd for social work in the UK in The Complete University Guide 2019
  • This course is regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council
  • The University is a member of the D2N2 Social Work Education Teaching Partnership with local employers, funded by the Department for Education and Department of Health
  • Our teaching is often recognised by awards such as a University Chancellor's Award for teaching quality
  • One of 18 institutions in the UK to have been selected to participate in the Q-Step programme, committed to developing students' quantitative expertise

Entry requirements

A levels: ABB excluding general studies and critical thinking

GCSE: GCSE English and maths, 4 (C) or above

Understand how we show GCSE grades

English language requirements

IELTS: 7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

For details of other English language tests and qualifications we accept, please see our entry requirements page.

If you require additional support to take your language skills to the required level, you may be able to attend a presessional course at the Centre for English Language Education, which is accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK.

Students who successfully complete the presessional course to the required level can progress onto their chosen degree course without retaking IELTS or equivalent.

International applicants

For country-specific information including entry requirements, contact details and representatives, see our website. If you need a visa to study, the University can provide all the information and advice you need.

Mature students

At the University of Nottingham we have a valuable community of mature students and we appreciate their contribution to the wider student population. You can find lots of useful information in our guide for mature students.

Alternative qualifications

We encourage applications from all sections of the community including applicants who may be returning to work or changing career. Mature applicants, including those on Access courses and with alternative qualifications are encouraged to apply.

Access courses: Access to HE Diploma, preferably in social work or social sciences, with 45 credits at level 3, at least 30 of which must be at Merit or Distinction plus at least 6 level 3 credits in study skills

BTEC National Diplomas: Grades DDD, and the Diploma will need to be in a subject area of direct relevance to social work (for example, the BTEC National Diploma in Health and Social Care)

Flexible admissions policy

In recognition of our applicants’ varied experience and educational pathways, the University of Nottingham employs a flexible admissions policy. We may make some applicants an offer lower than advertised, depending on their personal and educational circumstances. Please see the University’s admissions policies and procedures for more information.

Notes for applicants

The minimum age for entry is 18 years old. Applications must be made through UCAS. No applicant will be offered a place without first participating in our two-stage candidate assessment process.

The first stage is an assessment day which includes a written test, a group exercise involving service users, and an opportunity to meet Centre for Social Work staff. Applicants who are successful at the first stage will be invited back on a subsequent occasion to the second stage which consists of an interview conducted jointly by a member of University staff and a practising social worker. Assessment days and interview days will normally take place between December and April.

Although there is no requirement for prior experience of social work, applicants who have some relevant voluntary or paid experience in a helping role, or can demonstrate that they have personal insights or understandings to reflect upon are likely to produce a better personal statement and have more to draw upon during the interview.

If invited for interview, applicants are required to make a signed declaration regarding any health condition or criminal record and then complete a Disclosure and Barring Service check once registered on the course. 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.

From your application and interview, we look for:

  • evidence of motivation to become a social worker, shown by having a clear rationale for wanting to join the profession, and preferably some experience in a helping role
  • some understanding of the roles and responsibilities of social workers
  • some degree of self-awareness and empathy for others
  • the capacity to succeed academically


The following is a sample of the typical modules that we offer as at the date of publication but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change due to developments in the curriculum and the module information in this prospectus is provided for indicative purposes only.

A total of 360 academic credits are taken over three years, divided into 120 credits per year. This is the equivalent of 40 hours of University-based study per week, or 40 hours per week of practice-based learning.

Typical year one modules

Core modules

Communication Skills for Practice

The module introduces you to a range of theories, skills and evidence-based practice in relation to communication with service-users and carers. You will study theories of communication and perception. You will be assisted through group work, experiential learning exercises and self-reflection to develop basic skills for interviewing and assessment. These will be augmented by learning around theories and skills concerning work in group contexts and in situations of conflict where social workers are required to exercise professional authority.

Throughout the module your attention will be drawn to the values and ethics which underpin professional practice and the broad organisation, legal and policy context in which it takes place. You will be introduced to work with a diversity of service-user groups and required to consider the implications of this diversity for your mode of communication.

You will also be encouraged to develop a critical awareness of the various theoretical perspectives presented in the module alongside an ability to apply this knowledge to social work practice.

Introducing Social Policy

Focusing on the main concepts and approaches to social policy, this module assumes little or no background knowledge. It looks at the means by which something is framed as a social problem, with particular reference to poverty and issues of exclusion.

You will be introduced to the main areas of social policy, mainly in the UK, and explore how different social groups experience social policies, the interaction of public, private, voluntary and informal sectors in welfare provision, and ways in which it is financed.

Introduction to Social Work

This module will introduce you to the core knowledge, skills, ethics and values underpinning social work practice. You will be encouraged to develop a sense of what it means to be a reflective practitioner. You will be taught a range of approaches to social work practice, what it means to be 'professional' and the impact of the 'use of self'. You will explore the service user/carer perspective and underpinning anti-oppressive principles for working with inequality and diversity.

You will be given the opportunity to practice generic key skills and your understanding of the social work role through innovative teaching methods including role play and observations. You will also be given the opportunity to spend time shadowing and observing a social care practitioner in their work. This module incorporates three skills days.

Investigating Social Worlds

This module introduces you to the nature of social research through exploration of the fundamental philosophical, methodological and ethical debates on 'how to think of social research' and 'how to do social research'.

The module begins with discussions of the primary features, functions and characteristics of social research, the distinctions between social research and other modes of investigating and producing knowledge about the social world and the steps typically involved in conducting social research.

Next, attention is focused on social research paradigms and how the different ontological, epistemological and methodological specificities map onto research questions, methods and designs. Attention will then be placed on some of the principal methods of data collection in the social sciences such as surveys, social experiments, interviews, visual methods, group discussions and observation. The module concludes by examining issues of ethics, status, power and reflexivity in social research. 

Understanding Contemporary Society

The first part of the module introduces you to some of the contemporary and historical debates in social sciences in the 21st century.

The social sciences are centrally concerned with the investigation of a changing world and the recent arrival of the internet, globalisation, migration and other features will be investigated. However social science is a discipline with a long historical tradition. Here it is key that you have a working knowledge of Marx, Weber, Durkheim and Du Bois to understand the world of the 19th and early 20th century. The module explores the historical and contemporary relevance of these ideas.

The second part of the course mostly relies upon the social science thinking of the 20th and 21st century. Questions such as the impact of the arrival of the consumer society, the importance of difference and diversity, the role of utopia, the importance of art and social movements, the development of the network and mediated society, issues related to gender identity and sexuality, and our shared ideas about the urban setting and the future are all covered in this part of the course.

Overall, you will be introduced to a range of different perspectives in helping you understand a changing world.


Typical year two modules

Core modules

From Theory to Practice

The module provides an introduction to social work theories and models, and to the methods through which they are applied. The module seeks to develop the theoretical learning that is needed in order to practice reflectively and effectively by promoting understanding of the principles and concepts which constitute various approaches.

The module will include a consideration of some of the main theories underpinning social work, including person-centred approaches, systems theory, cognitive-behavioural theory, etc; some of the models that can be applied to social work, including task-centred work, assessment, etc and some of the methods of intervention that social workers are required to practice, including interviewing skills and solution-focused approaches. This module also requires you to demonstrate your readiness for practice.

Human Growth and Development Across the Life Course

The module provides you with an introduction to a range of theories and evidence about human growth and development. You 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. You 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.

Law for Social Work

This module prepares you 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 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.

Social Work Research

This module considers the ways in which social workers (should) use research in practice and explores the concept of research-mindedness in social work.

Social workers need research to practise effectively; to understand service users' lives, make informed decisions and to change/develop organisations. Putting empirical evidence into practice will be explored using an applied approach and concrete examples from peer-reviewed papers.



Practice Learning 1 - 80-day placement

This module comprises 80 days of assessed practice learning. It will focus on your ability to satisfy the requirements of the Professional Capabilities Framework at the interim stage of judgement.

The placement will be assessed on a pass/fail basis and must be passed in order to progress on the programme. The written assignment must be passed in order to progress on the programme; students who fail the written assignment may be required to resubmit without having to complete a further placement.


Typical year three modules

Core modules


This module will introduce you to key theoretical, legal and practice aspects of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. It will require you to engage in learning from previous situations in which social work intervention has failed to protect children or vulnerable adults from abuse.

Social Understandings of Mental Distress

Social work practice involves interactions with people of all ages experiencing mental distress. This module will challenge the dominant medical/illness model of mental health which is prevalent in UK service provision. It will consider social approaches to understanding causation, manifestations and support for mental distress.

The module will also address the challenges of working as a social worker in multi-disciplinary services which are dominated by medical model thinking. The module will incorporate the perspectives of service users and carers on their lived experience of mental distress. It will consider how we can promote good mental wellbeing for ourselves and others in the face of stress and adversity.


One of:

Social Work with Adults

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

Alongside these issues based teaching sessions will be run that enable and expect you to make the links between the learning and your own professional development.

Social Work with Children and Families

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

Alongside these issues based teaching sessions will be run that enable and expect you to make the links between the learning and your own professional development.



Practice Learning 2 - 90-day placement

This module comprises 90 days of practice learning. It will focus on your ability to satisfy the requirements of the Professional Capabilities Framework at the final stage of your qualification.

To pass this module both the 90 day placement and the practice analysis assignment must be passed. If the 90 day placement is not passed the entire 90 day placement has to be repeated and the assignment has to be submitted as a first sit. If the assignment is failed this can be resubmitted without the placement being repeated.



Designed to help you develop the skills required to register as a qualified social worker and regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council, this course includes supervised placements in years two and three. You will be supported throughout the process with resources and supervision from our team here at Nottingham.

Through practice based learning - in a variety of settings and with a range of service users - you will be introduced to a variety of approaches to helping people. You will spend a total of 170 days in practice during your degree. Each period of practice learning will be assessed against the requirements of social work qualification training.

We have excellent links with statutory and voluntary agencies in the region, which provide practice learning opportunities for our students. We have an outstanding record of providing high-quality placements and recognise that this is a vital part of your learning. Students and practice assessors are well supported throughout the practice learning.

All placements are undertaken on a full-time basis and you 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 individual learning needs and personal requirements to the opportunities offered within a particular organisation. Placements are normally within the geographical boundaries of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.



Most of our social work graduates obtain employment as qualified professionals in local authority children's or adult's services. Some take up positions in the independent sector.

Our graduates are valued by employers for their ability to:

  • develop an argument and justify it with evidence
  • write coherently and succinctly with a clear structure
  • complete work on time and to the specification required
  • think critically and challenge accepted ideas
  • select, collect and analyse relevant materials in order to carry out independent research
  • present their work verbally and in writing to a group
  • work as a team to achieve goals

Professional accreditation


This course is regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council.

Employability and average starting salary

Newly qualified social workers could expect to earn £22,000 and this could rise up to £40,000 as you take on additional tasks, gain responsibilities and experience.*

* British Association of Social Workers.

Careers support and advice

Studying for a degree at the University of Nottingham will provide you with the type of skills and experiences that will prove invaluable in any career, whichever direction you decide to take.

Throughout your time with us, our Careers and Employability Service can work with you to improve your employability skills even further; assisting with job or course applications, searching for appropriate work experience placements and hosting events to bring you closer to a wide range of prospective employers.

Have a look at our careers page for an overview of all the employability support and opportunities that we provide to current students.


Fees and funding

Scholarships and bursaries

The University of Nottingham offers a wide range of bursaries and scholarships. These funds can provide you with an additional source of non-repayable financial help. For up to date information regarding tuition fees, visit our fees and finance pages.

Home students*

Over one third of our UK students receive our means-tested core bursary, worth up to £2,000 a year. Full details can be found on our financial support pages.

* A 'home' student is one who meets certain UK residence criteria. These are the same criteria as apply to eligibility for home funding from Student Finance.

International/EU students

Our International Baccalaureate Diploma Excellence Scholarship is available for select students paying overseas fees who achieve 38 points or above in the International Baccalaureate Diploma. We also offer a range of High Achiever Prizes for students from selected countries, schools and colleges to help with the cost of tuition fees. Find out more about scholarships, fees and finance for international students.

Social Work bursaries

During years two and three, you may be eligible to apply for one of a limited number of social work bursaries. The NHS Business Services Authority administers this bursary scheme, which is subject to review.

The social work bursary is money over and above the financial support available to other undergraduate students and is intended to help with the costs of travel to and from placements and contribute towards tuition fees. Students who do not receive a full social work bursary, but who still meet residency criteria, may be eligible for a travel allowance to help with costs of travel to and from placement.

Eligibility for a social work bursary or travel allowance depends upon being 'ordinarily resident in England'; social work education in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is funded separately and students from these parts of the UK will not be eligible for this funding. For those who are eligible, the social work bursary is non-income-related, which means that earnings, savings and other sources of income such as local authority funding are not taken into consideration.


Key Information Sets (KIS)

KIS is an initiative that the government has introduced to allow you to compare different courses and universities.

How to use the data

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.


gaining essential practical skills on two placements as part of your degree
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