Social Work is a career where you can make a real difference to the lives of individuals, families and communities. Using principles of human rights and social work values, social workers work in partnership with service users, carers and other professionals. They apply relevant theories, the law, knowledge and evidence to support individuals and families, promote independence and prevent harm, neglect and abuse.
A social work degree will enable you to develop important skills, knowledge and understanding of key areas of social work; including law, theories, methods and values. It will equip you with an understanding of evidence informed practice, making professional judgements, and the ability to employ a range of interventions and apply these in practice. There is an emphasis on fundamental professional principles, including a commitment to human rights, social justice, equality, diversity and inclusion. You will explore key areas of practice, including communication, relationship based practice, and working collaboratively within organisations. Find out more in the BA Social Work course brochure (PDF).
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If you are interested in studying social work, take a look at the Entry requirements (below).
About the department
The Social Work programme sits within the Department of Social Policy and Social Work (SPSW) in the School of Social Policy. SPSW is a leading centre for research in social policy and social work internationally. As its name implies, the Department spans the divide between academia and practice. The social work teaching is informed by specialist and expert research knowledge, as well as insight into and experience of, professional practice. SPSW provides a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate social policy and social work programmes, including accredited post-qualifying awards in social work. The Department has three research centres and staff within SPSW have a strong national and international research profile. Information about the centres and about the research interests of staff can be found on the SPSW website: www.birmingham.ac.uk/spsw .
The following is a brief outline of the course content for the three years of study on the BA Social Work, as well as170 days of professional practice learning (70 in Year 2 and 100 in Year 3). Our programme will offer you enhanced learning, facilitated through the involvement of a range of contributors, including service users and carers, professional social workers and academics. Exciting and innovative elements such as the International Exchange Programme, international social work student guests and Survivor Arts Projects, allow students to move beyond the core curriculum and explore different ways of seeing the world, and develop creative ways of working. Watch the following video diary of our first exchange visit to Rotterdam, and a film of our award-winning Survivor Arts Project.
International Exchange Project
Survivor Arts Project
You will have the opportunity to develop core academic skills and explore the key disciplines informing social work. You will study five modules that will introduce you to the social and organisational context of social work and give you the chance to develop and practise skills for working with services users and carers. The modules are: Social Welfare and Social Inequalities; Psychology and Human Development; Social Work Contexts; Social Work Skills, Values and Approaches; and Research for Evidence-based Learning. The social work regulatory body, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) require that before students go out into their practice placements, they have the basic skills needed to work with a variety of people and to communicate with service users with understanding and respect. As part of the assessment of your 'readiness to practice learning', you will carry out a role play interview with a service user or carer and also spend time in a local social care organisation.
You will complete 70 days professional practice learning, in addition to 5 Academic modules designed to help you develop and apply the knowledge, values and skills required in social work practice. These include Social Work Theory, Methods and Practice, Law for Professional Practice, Research for Evidence Informed Practice, and Social Identity and Citizenship. You will also complete an Enhancing Skills module, working closely with service user and carer colleagues and practitioners. For our Practice Learning placements, we work in partnership with Birmingham City Council, who provide the majority of the placements and a range of voluntary and private sector organisations. We also have a few placements with some neighbouring local authorities. However, we cannot guarantee any placements outside Birmingham itself and so students who live outside Birmingham will be required to travel. The placements on offer are challenging and also very rewarding. Some of the areas of social work covered on placement are:
- Family support and prevention
- Domestic violence
- Refugee and asylum
- Special educational needs
- Child protection
- Substance misuse
You need to be aware that placements in particular areas of interest are not guaranteed. However, all placements are quality assured, meet required HCPC standards and will provide a wide range of learning which is transferrable to any setting. In addition to your practice placement, you will participate in five modules designed to help you develop and apply the knowledge, values and skills required in social work practice. These include teaching and learning in law, research, theory and methods, enhanced skils and social identity and citizenship.
Find out what our students found enjoyable or challenging about the course
In your final year, you will complete a further 100 day professional practice learning placement, as well as 3 Academic modules. This includes an Advanced Practice: Individuals, Families and Communities module, designed to support you in consolidating and extending your ability to become competent, confident and critically reflective practitioners. You will also have the opportunity to undertake further specialist placement-related teaching in areas of specific interest, and complete a Dissertation module, where you will be preparing and writing a Dissertation on a social work topic of your own choice.
The University of Birmingham has been providing social work education since 1908 and recently celebrated 100 years of social work education (PDF). As the oldest running social work education programme in the country, we are proud of our history and we are committed to continuing our work to raise professional social work standards and promote good practice.
The Department has developed a reputation for delivering high quality teaching and learning which enables students to become critically reflective, research informed practitioners.
Find out why our students choose to study Social Work at Birmingham
Find out what our students were doing before coming to University
More about studying Social Work at Birmingham
You will participate in five modules designed to help you develop and apply the knowledge, values and skills required in social work practice. These include:
In your final year, you will complete 3 Academic modules. This includes an Advanced Practice: Individuals, Families and Communities module designed to support you in consolidating and extending your ability to become competent, confident and critically reflective practitioners. You will also have the opportunity to undertake further specialist placement-related teaching in areas of specific interest, and complete a Dissertation module, where you will be preparing and writing a Dissertation on a social work topic of your own choice.
Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. Unless indicated otherwise, the modules listed for this programme are for students starting in 2017. We aim to publish any changes to compulsory modules and programme structure for 2018 entry by 1 September 2017 and recommend you refer back to this page shortly after that date for any changes. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to compulsory modules after that date; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.
- Number of A levels required:
- Typical offer:
- Required subjects and grades:
- Critical Thinking is accepted.
- General Studies:
- not accepted
We will also consider one of the following:
- A2B (Access to Birmingham) plus the equivalent of two grades below standard offer, e.g. BBC instead of ABB. Access to Birmingham (A2B) Scheme leaflet - further information for students (PDF).
- International Baccalaureate Diploma: 6,5,5 at Higher Level with a minimum of 32 points overall
An Access Diploma in a related area (social science-based) with a minimum of 60 credits, with 45 at Level 3 of which at least 30 are to be achieved with Distinction and 15 to be achieved with Merit
- BTEC Extended Diploma, Diploma and Subsidiary Diploma are accepted but a related BTEC subject area is required. Grades: BTEC Extended Diploma DDM; typical offers when offered in combination with A Levels: A in A Level + DM in BTEC Diploma or B in A Level + DD in BTEC Diploma; or AB in A Level + M in BTEC Subsidiary Diploma or BB in A Level + D in BTEC Subsidiary Diploma
Other new UK qualifications will also be considered – eg, Cambridge Pre-U, Advanced Diplomas, AQA Baccalaureate, Open University 60-credit module
Please note, whilst we recognise the value and relevance of Vocational Diploma qualifications (previously known as NVQs)and professional qualifications, we are not able to consider them in place of academic qualifications.
A minimum of 3 months or 60 days related practice-based experience. Personal experience may count towards your practice-based experience but it is important that you are able to evidence some practice-based experience alongside this. This must show a sustained commitment, evidenced by a practice based reference (as appropriate).
If your qualifications differ from those listed here, please contact the Central Admissions Contact Team, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44(0)121 415 8900 or +44(0)121 414 5488.
Find out more about the University of Birmingham's Code of Practice on Admissions
Applicants must show, in the appropriate section of the application form, that they meet or intend to meet all of the academic criteria.
Their ability to meet the academic criteria should be confirmed in their academic reference.
In addition to this, applicants must provide details, within their personal statement, of their related personal or social care experience and the influence this has had on their commitment to and understanding of social work. A subsequent practice reference will be required if an offer is made.
Their personal statement should also provide evidence of their ability to write in a clear, coherent and accessible style.
Shortlisted applicants may be required to read a short academic text and complete a written test on their understanding general issues related to social work.
Applicants completing this test may then be invited to undertake an interview.
Selected applicants will be required to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and Declaration of Suitability for Social Work form, before registration on the programme.
Where an applicant has disclosed a criminal offence they will be asked to provide further details of this offence in a letter to the department.
A satisfactory social care practice reference will also be required.
Please note that work experience is not considered in lieu of meeting the academic entry requirements. You will be required to meet the practice element in addition to meeting the academic criteria.
Although modules on our social work programmes are compulsory, the university APL policy allows us to give credit for learning that has been assessed and certificated by another HEI. Any applicants wishing to apply for entry to years 2 or 3 of the BA programme, or year 2 of the MA programme can note this on their UCAS form. Any potential applicants are invited to contact the admissions tutor to discuss their situation in further detail, as each is considered on a case by case basis.
All applicants must confirm prior to interview/offer decision making that they have the ability to use basic IT facilities, including word processing, internet browsing and the use of email, and be asked to specify how these skills have been obtained.
A Disabled Person's Guide to Becoming a Health Professional
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) have produced a document called 'A Disabled Person's Guide to Becoming a Health Professional' for people with a disability or long-term health condition. You can obtain a copy of this on the HCPC website
Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) documents
Applicants are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the:
International Baccalaureate Diploma: 6,5,5 at Higher Level with a minimum of 32 points overall
Standard English language requirements apply
Learn more about international entry requirements (IELTs : 7.0 with no less than 6.5 in any band).
Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in one of our foundation pathways, which offer specially structured programmes for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on Birmingham International Academy web pages.
Apply through UCAS at www.ucas.com
Learn more about applying
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK organisation responsible for managing applications to university and college.
UK, EU and international students applying for most undergraduate degree courses in the UK will need to apply through UCAS.
You submit an application via the UCAS website with a list of up to five courses. All choices are confidential during the application process so universities and colleges considering an application cannot see your other choices. Applications must be completed by mid-January of the year that you wish to start university.
You can monitor the progress of your application using the UCAS Apply system.
Key Information Set (KIS)
Key Information Sets (KIS) are comparable sets of information about full- or part-time undergraduate courses and are designed to meet the information needs of prospective students.
All KIS information has been published on the Unistats website and can also be accessed via the small advert, or ‘widget’, below. On the Unistats website you are able to compare all the KIS data for each course with data for other courses.
The development of Key Information Sets (KIS) formed part of HEFCE’s work to enhance the information that is available about higher education. They give you access to reliable and comparable information in order to help you make informed decisions about what and where to study.
The KIS contains information which prospective students have identified as useful, such as student satisfaction, graduate outcomes, learning and teaching activities, assessment methods, tuition fees and student finance, accommodation and professional accreditation.
As a Birmingham student you are part of an academic elite and will learn from world-leading experts. From the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner. We want you to be challenged and will encourage you to think for yourself.
In your first year of BA Social Work, you will have an average of 12 hours of direct contact time per week, made up of lectures, seminars and small group workshops and exercises. In addition, you will be involved in guided self-directed learning and online tasks.
Your 2nd and 3rd years of the programme will involve a full-time practice placement (70 days in the 2nd year and 100 days in the 3rd year). You will receive education, supervision and support from a practice educator and a practice tutor throughout the placement.
The remaining parts of the 2nd and 3rd years will involve an average of 12 hours of direct contact made up of lectures, seminars and small group workshops and exercises. In the 3rd year this includes on average 10 hours of small group workshops to support you with your dissertation.
In all years of the programme, you will receive at least one individual tutorial with your academic tutor per term.
Your learning will take place in a range of different settings, from scheduled teaching in lectures and small group tutorials, to self-study and peer group learning (for example preparing and delivering presentations with your classmates).
You will be assigned your own personal tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies. They will provide academic support and advice to enable you to make the most of your time here at Birmingham.
We have dedicated welfare tutors who provide professional support, advice and guidance to students across a range of issues. They can meet with you to discuss extensions, disabilities, reasonable adjustments, extenuating circumstances, or talk through any problems you might be experiencing, and help you access wider support on campus and beyond.
During your first year, it is important that you have a smooth transition into University. You will be able to talk to your tutors about this and discuss if there are particular areas where you need support.
Our Academic Skills Centre also offers you support with your learning. The centre is a place where you can develop your mathematical, academic writing and general academic skills. It is the centre's aim to help you to become a more effective and independent learner through the use of a range of high-quality and appropriate learning support services. These range from drop-in sessions to workshops on a range of topics including note taking, reading, writing and presentation skills.
Service user and carer involvement
Service users, carers and practitioners work alongside academics to create a dynamic environment, both within the department and during supervised practice. The department values highly the contribution service user and carer colleagues make, and feedback from students confirms just how important the user perspective is in helping them to develop greater insight into the role social work can play in people's lives.
Involving service users and carers in all aspects of admissions and the development and delivery of our social work qualifying programmes is a priority for us. We believe it offers students the opportunity to have a thorough grounding in service users' and carers' experiences and expectations from the very start of their social work training.
More information about service user and carer involvement in social work education
Meet some of our contributors
It is Birmingham’s focus on service user involvement that attracted me to this particular course. Service users should be involved in shaping the services that they need. Service user involvement in delivering this course will produce social workers who will be more effective in their practice”.
A journal article on 'Involving Service Users and Carers in Admissions for Courses in Social Work and Clinical Psychology: cross-disciplinary comparisons of practices at the University of Birmingham' was published in the British Journal of Social Work (Matka, E, River, D, Littlechild, R and Powell, T, 2009).
Due to its location and strong links with partner placement agencies, the University of Birmingham is able to provide a wide range of practice opportunities within statutory, voluntary and independent social care settings. The Social Work Department is also fortunate to have a range of exciting new small student units and innovative practice projects, and we regularly receive excellent feedback from students about these. The learning gained from these placements support and build on the learning taking place at the University.
Whilst on placement all students will have a practice tutor and a practice educator, they might also have a day to day supervisor called a practice supervisor. Students all have 2 placements: the first for 70 days and the final is for 100 days. During both placements the practice educators will be qualified, registered social workers; for the first placement the practice supervisors may come from a variety of professional backgrounds related to social care, such as nursing, teaching, youth work etc. For the final placement you will have a practice educator who will be a qualified, experienced and registered social worker. The practice educator will provide you with support and guidance and will have overall responsibility for both the ongoing and final assessment of your ability throughout the placement. Hear what some of our social work students say about their placement at Core Assets and the SWEET Project:
Blended learning approach to teaching and assessment
You will learn about social work practice and online professionalism through a blend of learning methods. These focus on promoting independent learning and include a mixture of engaging life-like case studies, formal lectures, small group work, research and skills development through role-play and joint working with service user and carer colleagues. Social media, interactive web-based study and other self-directed activities also add a real-world perspective to the learning you will undertake.
You can see an online study skills module at www.skills4uni.bham.ac.uk .
Assessment methods include written assignments, group presentations, video assessments, examinations, portfolios and research projects.
Combining Facebook and enquiry-based blended learning to teach social media skills
The following short film outlines how Facebook and an enquiry-based blended learning design were used to help students develop professional social media skills, knowledge and approaches. The film also include student feedback about their experiences of engaging with this learning design. As educators, we are aware that students who connect using Facebook during their studies can maintain these social networks once they leave University. They can also potentially use these social networks to discuss future work related issues. To enable students to learn about the potential and pitfalls of sharing, communicating and collaborating using social networks once in employment, this learning design was developed to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge required to use these tools professionally. This film provides an illustration of the commitment social work staff at the University of Birmingham have in continually striving to ensure their students are equipped with the relevant skills and knowledge necessary for their future roles.
Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching. You will be expected to think, discuss and engage critically with the subject and find things out for yourself. We will enable you to make this transition to a new style of learning, and the way that you are assessed during your studies will help you develop the essential skills you need to make a success of your time at Birmingham.
Assessment is through assignments, presentations and portfolios with some exams and live practice scenarios.
During your first year you will undergo a formal ‘transition’ review to see how you are getting on and if there are particular areas where you need support. This is in addition to the personal tutor who is based in your school or department and can help with any academic issues you encounter.
At the beginning of each module, you’ll be given information on how and when you’ll be assessed for that particular programme of study. You’ll receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done. You’ll be given feedback on any exams that you take; if you should fail an exam we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is made available to enable you to learn for the future.
There is a clear progression from the social work programme to professional practice. A significant number of our graduate students find work in the agency or authority where they have been placed and many others are successful in gaining employment within the region - many in a statutory setting, others in voluntary organisations or the private sector. Where our graduate social work students have sought employment outside of the region or overseas they have been in the advantageous position of having a qualification from a university which is well recognised, both in the UK and abroad. At the University of Birmingham there are opportunities for continuing professional and academic development through other programmes in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work.
Whilst many of my friends who attended other universities are struggling to secure employment, I feel that I have greatly benefited from studying at Birmingham and that employers look upon University of Birmingham graduates more favourably as a result. Although the degree at Birmingham was tough, I certainly think it has increased my employment prospects considerably!"
For students who have their own allocated Social Worker in Birmingham it is unlikely that the University would be able to place them within the same local authority. Should this situation arise the University would look to find an appropriate practice placement within an alternative local authority or within the voluntary sector.
This programme offers professional training, which on successful completion, will give you eligibility to apply to register with the HCPC as a professional Social Worker.
The HCPC will require you to complete an application for professional registration form upon graduating (go to www.hpc-uk.org/aboutregistration/theregister for more information) and it is this professional body who will determine your professional status. As such, the offer of a place on the programme is not a guarantee that you will be able to register with the HCPC.
Developing social work skills for employment
Effective communication skills are vitally important and employers expect Universities to teach these to social work students in preparation for their future professional roles. The following film demonstrates how, using an enquiry-based learning design, students at Birmingham are provided with a broad range of learning and teaching approaches to develop their knowledge around their discipline as well as learning team working, problem solving and critical thinking skills in a safe environment. What this distinctive approach also demonstrates is the commitment Birmingham has to ensure that social work students are as well prepared as possible for the reality of a 21st Century work environment.
So what makes a social worker in terms of knowledge, skills and attributes?
Here are three short video clips illustrating how Gary Hickman, our Director of Social Work Education and the Social Work staff group work very hard to ensure our programme enables students to develop the attributes of a Social Worker, alongside some very valuable transferrable skills for practical application in the workplace.
Gary also delivers sessions to all final year students, aimed at developing specific knowledge and skills around applying for social work posts. This specific input, together with the academic teaching and high quality practice learning, means that we develop social work graduates, whom we know employers find very attractive even when competing against social workers with several years post-qualifying experience.
What makes a social worker?
How we develop social workers
Preparation for employment
Find out more in our Careers section
This programme offers professional training, which on successful completion will give you eligibility to apply to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as a professional Social Worker.