Social Work BA

The BA Social Work degree at Birmingham draws on a number of disciplines that inform social work practice. It includes the study of social work values; knowledge; law; theories; methods and skills with Service users, carers and practitioners work alongside academics to create a dynamic learning environment both within the department and during 170 days of supervised practice.

Our graduates enjoy starting salaries of around £24,000 with 90% of graduates going into professional or managerial careers and 90% of graduates going onto work or further study (KIS 2013). The Social Work course at Birmingham is also ranked 1st out of the Russell Group of UK universities. The Russell Group is committed to maintaining the very best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with business and the public sector.

Constantly evolving to meet the demands of the sector, the details provided here offer an overview of Social Work at Birmingham.  Please continue to re-visit this web page or contact the department for further details about the course. 

Download a copy of the BA Social Work course brochure (PDF)

Course fact file

UCAS code: L501

Duration: 3 years

Places Available: 129 Across the department

Applications in 2012: 661

Typical Offer: ABB (More detailed entry requirements and the international qualifications accepted can be found in the course details)

Start date: September


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 Institute of Applied Social Studies (IASS). IASS provides a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate social policy and social work programmes, including accredited post-qualifying awards in social work. The Institute has three research centres and staff within IASS have a strong national and international research profile. Information about the centres and about the research interests of staff can be found on the IASS website:

IASS social work staff have also played an active part in the University’s HEFCE-funded Centre of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Mental Health (CEIMH).

Find out more about the Centre of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Mental Health (CEIMH)

Course structure

The following is a brief outline of the course content for the three years of study on the BA Social Work, as well as 170 days of professional practice learning (70 in Year 2 and 100 in Year 3). Additional teaching offers the students the opportunity to focus on a particular area of interest, such as the International Exchange Project and the award-winning Survivor Arts Project, allow students to move beyond the core curriculum and explore different ways of seeing the world and more 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.

Social work electives

Rotterdam International Exchange Project

Survivor Arts Project

Year 1

social work studentsYou 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 service 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) and the College of Social Work 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 for 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.

Year 2

Students will undertake 70 days of professional practice learning

If you are interested in studying social work, take a look at the entry requirements (below).

We work in partnership with Birmingham City Council, who provide the majority of our 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 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
  • Fostering
  • Child protection
  • Disabilities
  • Substance misuse

Students should be aware that placements in particular areas of interest are not guaranteed. However, all placements are quality assured, meet required HCPC and College of Social Work standards and provide a wide range of learning which is transferable 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 skills and social identity and citizenship.

Year 3

IASS social work groupYou will  participate in a module that aims to equip you with an understanding of key practice issues, such as think-family approaches, collaborative working and risk and protection. You will also have the chance to explore more specialist areas of social work practice.

You will undertake a further 100 days of practice learning in a different agency setting and with a different service user group, and you will have the opportunity to undertake statutory duties in this placement if this was not available in your first placement.

Your final period of study will involve preparing for and writing a dissertation on a social work topic of your own choice and interest. 

Why study this course

Aston Webb building domesThe 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.

In the National Student Survey (NSS), 85% of students were satisfied with the overall quality of the course. 92% of students rated the social work course as 'intellectually stimulating' and rated staff good at explaining things. 92% of students also felt that their own communication skills had improved as a result of completing the social work course. Our graduates enjoy starting salaries of around £24,000 with 90% going onto professional or managerial careers (KIS 2013).

The Institute has developed a reputation for delivering high quality teaching and learning which enables students to become critically reflective, research informed practitioners.

More about studying Social Work at Birmingham 


Year 1

  • Social Welfare and Social Inequalities
  • Psychology and Human Development
  • Social Work Contexts
  • Social Work Skills, Values and Approaches
  • Research for Evidence-based Learning

Year 2

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 skills
  • Social identity and citizenship

Year 3

You will participate in a module that aims to equip you with an understanding of key practice issues, such as think-family approaches, collaborative working and risk and protection.

Fees and funding

Standard fees apply 

NHS Bursaries:
NHSBSA have now confirmed that limited bursaries will be available to eligible 'home' students starting on the social work programme in the 2013 academic year for the BA Social Work programme (during second and third years). For the latest information regarding the NHSBSA bursary, please go to .

You can download a copy of the ‘Reforming social work bursary information pack’and a copy of the ‘Reforming the Social Work Bursary consultation outcome’ from the Department of Health website.

Learn more about fees and funding

Learn more about our scholarships and awards 

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required: 3

Typical offer: ABB

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: 34 points
  • 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
  • An equivalent further education qualification, eg A BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in a related subject (social science-based) with distinction – i.e. DDM
  • A combination of the above – ie, a 60-credit BTEC Level 3 Subsidiary Diploma plus two A-levels or 120 credit BTEC Level 3 Diploma plus one A-level (including one related subject).
  • CACHE Diploma with a grade A overall (from the practical and theoretical components)
  • 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 National Vocational Qualifications and professional qualifications, we are not able to consider them in place of academic qualifications.


  • GCSE Mathematics and English at grade C or above (or an agreed equivalent)



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,, +44(0)121 415 8900 or +44(0)121 414 5488.

Please note these entry requirements are correct for 2014 entry and may be subject to change for 2015 entry.

Additional information:

  1. Applicants must show, in the appropriate section of the application form, that they meet or intend to meet all of the academic criteria.
  2. Their ability to meet the academic criteria should be confirmed in their academic reference.
  3. 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.
  4. Their personal statement should also provide evidence of their ability to write in a clear, coherent and accessible style.
  5. Shortlisted applicants may be required to read a short academic text and complete a written exam on their understanding general issues related to social work.
  6. Applicants completing this test may then be invited back for an interview. In some instances some applicants will attend the interview before the written exam.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. A satisfactory social care practice reference will also be required.
  10. All students will be required to sign the Fitness to Practise Code of Conduct (PDF) on entry. 
  11. 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.
  12. Transfer applicants: we do not consider applicants who have studied, or are studying, social work elsewhere. We do however consider, on a case-by-case basis, if there is a valid reason for doing so, applications for entry into the first year of our programme from applicants wishing to withdraw from their current programme of study. For applicants wishing to do this, we would require a reference from a tutor on the programme where they are currently or have previously studied social work.

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.

International students:

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 32–34 points

Standard English language requirements apply 
Learn more about international entry requirements

Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in the Birmingham Foundation Academy, a specially structured programme for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on the foundation academy web pages.

How to apply

You may like to contact our admissions team at the beginning of August to find out if the social work programmes plan to go through clearing.

Apply through UCAS at  
Learn more about applying

Or contact: 

Katie Craddock
Social Work Administrator
Tel: +44(0)121 415 8486


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.

Learning and teaching

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.

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).

To begin with you may find this way of working challenging, but rest assured that we’ll enable you to make this transition. You will have access to a comprehensive support system that will assist and encourage you, including personal tutors and welfare tutors who can help with both academic and welfare issues, and a formal transition review during your first year to check on your progress and offer you help for any 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 with support with mathematics and statistics based problems provided by experienced mathematicians, to workshops on a range of topics including note taking, reading, writing and presentation skills.

Service user and carer involvement

Group of studentsService 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).

Practice placements

Students will undertake 170 days of professional practice learning (70 in Year 2 and 100 in Year 3). 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. 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

Students learn about professional social work practice and develop their knowledge and skills through a teaching programme that promotes a variety of learning methods. We use a wide variety of participative learning methods and blended learning techniques, including the latest e-learning packages. These methods include: lectures; group work; case studies; skills development through role play and video; joint work with service user and carer colleagues; reading and research; and other self-directed development and learning.

You can see an online study skills module at .

Assessment is through assignments, presentations and portfolios with some exams and live practice scenarios.

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.


The following video, Child Protection Blended Learning, demonstrates one of the innovative approaches used at the University of Birmingham to teach social work students. It explores an enquiry-based learning approach to teaching child protection processes. Using a mixture of face-to-face teaching, technology-supported, online enquiry-based activities and role play, students explain how they were able to develop the planning, recording, assessing and communication skills required to respond to a child protection referral. The video demonstrates the commitment of social work academics at Birmingham to remain at the cutting edge of innovation in learning and teaching in social work education.

Assessment methods

social work discussionStudying 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.



Feedback shows that, on average, 90% of the students on this course find work and/or further study after graduating, and those in work are, typically, earning £24,000 a year six months after graduation. Of those working, 90% are doing professional/managerial jobs (KIS 2013).

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 Institute of Applied Social Studies.

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 a professional training which will prepare you 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 the HCPC website for more information). 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.

On successful completion of the BA in Social Work, students are equipped to work in a wide range of areas. We make sure students have experience of working with two different service user groups in two different social care settings whilst on placement. In the final year of the course, students have the chance to undertake a specialist academic pathway focusing on children and families or adults, including mental health, as well as completing a dissertation in a specialist area of interest.

The experience gained in these particular fields allows students to build specialist as well as core generic knowledge and skills. This means that transferable knowledge and skills are gained which allows students to apply for a wide variety of jobs in the voluntary, private and statutory sectors.

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?

Find out more in our Careers section 

Professional accreditation

This programme leads to the Professional Qualification in Social Work approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).