Social Research (Social Work and Professional Practice) MA/PGDip

The MA Social Research (Social Work and Professional Practice) is recognised by the ESRC as a research training pathway designed to provide participants with a sound background in overall research design and the most up-to-date training in methods, including data collection and analysis for potential doctoral students. It is aimed at those who have practice experience in the fields of social work, health and social care or criminal justice, and who are interested in undertaking an academic or research career. The MA Social Research (Social Work and Professional Practice) welcomes applications from international students.

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The MA Social Research (Social Work and Professional Practice) is recognised by the ESRC as a research training programme designed to provide participants with a sound background in overall research design and opportunity to apply these within the context of professional practice and service provision. It is aimed at those who have practice experience in the fields of social work, health and social care or criminal justice, and are interested in undertaking an academic or research career.

The core elements of this programme are delivered by staff from across the College of Social Sciences, many of them engaged in cutting-edge research in their particular fields.

The MA programme includes assessed core modules and short courses (120 credits) and the completion of a 12,000 word dissertation (60 credits), while the Postgraduate Diploma includes the assessed courses only (120 credits).

Why study this course

If you have practice experience in the fields of social work, health and social care or criminal justice and are interested in undertaking an academic or research career, then this programme could be for you. The MA Social Research (Social Work and Professional Practice) offers students a rigorous and systematic social research training, and an opportunity to apply this to their particular areas of policy and practice interest.

The Department of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of Birmingham is an internationally leading centre for research in social policy and social work. The Department has developed a reputation for delivering high quality teaching and learning which enables students to develop into reflective and research informed professionals.

Modules

Core modules

Philosophy of Social Science Research

The module considers fundamental philosophical debates about what counts as ‘knowledge’ across the social sciences. Teaching addresses (natural) science as a method of obtaining knowledge and the interpretative tradition in the social sciences. Students explore fundamental philosophical debates about what counts as ‘knowledge’ across the social sciences and apply these discussions to their own disciplines and field of study.

Research Design, Practice and Ethics

The module introduces students to social science research designs and ethical issues in research practice. Learning supports students to be able to make strategic choices when developing their own projects, and to assess the design and research ethics decision making in others’ published research work.

Fundamentals in Quantitative Research Methods

Concepts, methods and skills central to quantitative research, including data collection approaches and concept operationalization, are core throughout this module. Building on a grounding in ideas relating to probability sampling, sampling error and statistical inference, coverage of techniques extends from comparisons of means and simple cross-tabular analyses to a discussion of multivariate analysis approaches, focusing on linear and logistic regression. 

Foundations in Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is examined across a range of topics, from different approaches and methods including ethnographic and observational research, discourse and conversation analysis, documentary and archival analysis, participatory research and the use of interviews. Ethics in qualitative research is specifically considered, as is the evaluation of qualitative research.

Researching Professional Practice

This module enables students to explore professional practice using different research approaches and considering the role of service users and professional practitioners as stakeholders of the research. Students are encouraged to draw on their own experiences of professional practice within social work and social care organisations.

Researching Social Policy (20 credits)

Module Lead: Jenny Phillimore

This module is concerned with the politics of social research, rather than research methods and methodology. It addresses issues such as: how are certain topics identified as subjects for research, how is research commissioned and funded, and what are the relationships between research and the policy process. It draws on real-life experiences of doing research and being researched to explore these issues.

Dissertation (60 credits) 

On completion of the taught (120 credits), Masters students undertake a 12,000 word dissertation on a subject of their choice. Each student is allocated a supervisor, selected for their experience of both the subject matter and supervision.

Related staff

Fees and funding

Fees for 2017-2018:

Masters (MA)
Code: 7596 £7,020 f/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 7597 £3,510 p/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 7596 £16,380 f/t (International students)

PGDiploma
Code: 7598 £4,680 f/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 7599 £2,340 p/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 7598 £10,920 f/t (International students)

Postgraduate Loans for Masters students 

A new postgraduate loans system for Masters degrees in the UK was introduced for students commencing their studies in the 2016-17 academic year. The government-backed student loans provide up to £10,000 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas, including part-time and distance learning.

For more detailed information view our Postgraduate funding page.

Learn more about fees and funding

Scholarships and studentships
Scholarships may be available.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government. 

Entry requirements

A good Honours degree or equivalent is normally required. This will usually be in a social science, although applications from those with degrees in other disciplines will be considered. Applications are also encouraged from those without an Honours degree who have five years or more relevant work experience in a policy or practice area.

Learn more about entry requirements  

International students:

We accept a range of qualifications from different countries – our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

  • by holding an English language qualification to the right level.
  • by taking and successfully completing one of our English courses for international students. 

How to apply

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

The Department of Social Policy and Social Work, School of Social Policy, has close links with a range of governmental or non-governmental/third sector organisations and our teaching draws upon both individual research interests of School staff.

All students are supported by a personal academic tutor and can draw on the support of the School's Welfare tutors and the University's learning support services. Participants will also benefit from access to e-learning resources as well as the University's main library and student services.

Assessment methods

The MA programme includes assessed core modules and short courses (120 credits) and the completion of a 10,000 word dissertation (60 credits), while the Postgraduate Diploma includes the assessed courses only (120 credits).

This course is designed for those considering research as a career. That includes those wanting an academic career, for whom this degree is ideal preparation for undertaking a doctorate (PhD). It also includes those seeking a research career in such areas as central government, charities and in consultancies and social research. The degree also provides good transferable skills in evaluation and in analysing data and the ability to critique published research.

Clare Hill"Clare Hill, MA Social Research (Social Work and Professional Practice),"Birmingham appealed to me not only simply because it was my local university. I was particularly attracted to the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at Birmingham because of its established tradition of Social Work teaching, strong links with practice settings and reputation as a leading centre for research. Having worked within the youth justice system for a number of years, I was keen not only to further my education, but also to be able to apply the knowledge which I had gained through practice experience. The MA Social Research (Social Work and Professional Practice) allowed me to do just that, with modules specifically designed to enable students to critically explore policy and research within their own areas of interest. Studying alongside work can be very challenging, but all of the staff whom I came into contact with were really encouraging; helping me to get the most out of my course and offering support when I needed it. The teaching which I received was excellent and this, together with the opportunity to interact with students from differing backgrounds, meant the learning environment was great. Throughout my time at Birmingham I have felt really valued, it's good to have a sense that you are contributing and can take a proactive role in your own and others' learning experiences. I would whole heartedly recommend the MA Social Research (Social Work and Professional Practice) to practitioners interested in either furthering their knowledge of the role of research within a particular setting, or keen to undertake their own research. The course has allowed me to develop personally and professionally; opening up a whole new world of opportunity. The ESRC recognised research training equipped me with the skills and confidence necessary to apply for a doctoral studentship and, having been successful in my application, I am now studying full time towards a PhD."