Advanced Child Protection Studies (distance learning) MSc/PGDip/PGCert

This masters programme in Advanced Child Protection Studies is designed to develop students’ specialist knowledge within the field of child protection and safeguarding. It will interest those who are currently employed, involved, or interested in the field, whether in a leadership, practice, or support role.

It is taught by experienced practitioners and experts in the field and provides students with the opportunity to focus on specific areas of interest. There are four 30-credit modules over two years (two each year) and a dissertation in year three to achieve the MSc.

This child protection masters course is an online and distance learning programme, which combines innovative learning and teaching techniques with interaction with the tutor and fellow students. Students are provided with the same level of teaching as received by those on campus with the additional benefit of having the flexibility to study anywhere at any time.

No specialist knowledge in technology is required, students just need to have access to the internet and know how to use it. Learning activities are structured to provide simplicity and students are supported throughout the programme. 

This programme aims to equip students with advanced knowledge that will enable them to work effectively in the field of child protection, whether this is in the area of practice, management, research, or service development. The programme aims to facilitate the development of higher-level critical analysis skills, and to develop students’ capacity for knowledge-informed practice and more original thinking in relation to the complex issues that arise in the contested field of child protection.

The programme is designed to appeal to the more experienced professional already engaged in this area of activity – for example in social work, policing, law, education, nursing and health. However, those with an academic interest in the area (for example social policy, law or criminology graduates) are also encouraged to apply, subject to being able to satisfy the requirements of the various modules. If you would like further information about these requirements please contact Mark Chesterman or Matthew Gibson.

More specifically, the programme aims to help students develop:

  • a theoretical and practical understanding of the complexities of child protection practice, including interagency working
  • a critical awareness of the familial, social, cultural and political contexts in which child protection practice is located - both nationally and internationally
  • a critical perspective in the assessment and evaluation of research, law, policy and practice relevant to child protection work
  • skills in promoting more effective responses to child protection concerns at both front line practice and strategic levels

The programme emphasises the relevance of systems thinking and emotional processes, and includes attention to international perspectives and extra-familial as well as intra-familial child protection issues. Additionally, the programme gives the opportunity to look at some of the critical debates in this area of work (for example, the tensions between medical and social models of child protection, the relationship between non-consensual adoption and child protection, and family preservation orientations in the context of child protection).

Why study this course

Online and distance learning

Above all else, we aim to provide a fulfilling, stimulating, and supportive learning experience. Online and distance learning programmes are well suited to those with busy personal and work lives, and we believe that online technologies have now reached the point where it’s possible to deliver an online child protection programme that surpasses on-campus courses.

The technology we use is simple to use and provides students with convenient access to all programme materials and connects them with the tutors and other students. And as importantly, this can all be accessed from wherever the student is, on whatever device they want to use.

A tailored programme

Our programme allows you to focus on those areas of child protection that are of interest, enabling students to specialise. The learning tasks as designed to be relevant to real-life child protection work and some learning tasks are integrated into real-time practice, providing a streamlined learning approach to developing specialist knowledge.

The taught modules enable you to develop skills in three key areas:

  • Reviewing and using the research evidence
  • Understanding the dynamics that occur within child protection work
  • Developing evidence informed ideas on how to improve practice and services

The workload is broken down into units carefully designed with the busy professional in mind and we ensure you are supported throughout. Similarly, the assessments are structured to avoid having to submit lengthy essays.

The programme includes contributions from leading researchers and commentators in the field.


To obtain the MSc students will complete four 30 credit modules and a 60 credit dissertation.

  • Part time students take 2 modules in years 1 and 2 and the dissertation module in year 3. 
  • Full time students take 4 modules in year one and complete the dissertation component in year 2

Law, Policy and Inter-agency Working (30 credits)

Year one, semester one part time and full time students

Child protection work necessarily takes place within a defined but often contested – and indeed ever changing - legal and policy context. Understanding this context is essential if we are to a) understand how child protection services are organised and delivered, and b) ensure that the delivery of these services is ethical, humane and, ultimately, lawful. This module thus aims to equip you with the necessary up-to-date legal and policy knowledge in order to effectively critique service delivery at all levels within the ‘child protection system’.

Risk, Analysis and Decision Making (30 credits)

Year one semester 2 part time and full time students

Everyone involved with safeguarding or child protection work, be they practitioners, managers, and policy makers will be concerned with the analysis of risk and the decision making that stems from this. This module therefore develops your ability to critically analyse the current processes, methods, and frameworks utilised in contemporary child protection practice, while critically reflecting on your own practice and the practice within the systems that you work in.

Help, Support and Direct Work (30 credits)

Year two semester 1, part time students. Year one semester 1, full time students

Good child protection practice results in children being safe and well cared for. How to achieve this, however, is far from straightforward; and everyone involved in child protection work need to be able to identify, support, and promote practice that keeps children safe, while adhering to ethical standards of practice. This module therefore explores the evidence and practice base of, and for, direct practice so that you can develop greater knowledge about how to engage, motivate, and assist (when necessary) people to change, to ensure that children and young people are kept safe.

Organizations, Systems and Leadership (30 credits)

Year two semester 2, part time students. Year one semester 2, full time students.

Child protection practice operates within and across a range of complex organisations and systems. However, we continue to see very similar failures in quality and safety within a range of professional cultures. This module takes a systems view of the child protection field to critically consider the assumptions that underlie many of these policy responses that provide the foundation for contemporary child protection practice. It will critically interrogate how these systems have been designed and look at how we might design safer systems around a more sophisticated understanding of the relational dynamics within and between different professional groups.

Dissertation (60 credits)

Year three semester 1, part time students. Year two semester 1, full time students

The dissertation module is a key component of the programme which aims to facilitate the development of higher-level critical analysis, and to develop your capacities for knowledge-informed practice and more original thinking in relation to the complex issues that arise in the field of child protection.

All the modules are compulsory

Fees and funding

Postgraduate Loans for Masters students

A postgraduate loans system for Masters degrees in the UK will provide up to £10,280 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

Entry requirements

Ordinarily an upper second-class degree (or higher) or a postgraduate diploma degree (or higher) from a UK university or equivalent. In exceptional circumstances a 2(ii) degree would be considered subject to the candidate having significant child protection experience.

As some of the learning tasks are integrated into actual practice, all applicants will need to be employed in, or have negotiated access to, an organisation that undertakes or contributes to child protection work. Candidates not already employed in a child protection organisation will need to supply a written agreement from the relevant organisation prior to registration.

Applicants will need to supply the names of two references on headed notepaper and include a short personal statement with their application.

International students:

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

Graduate Diploma students must have IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band.

How to apply

If you are interested in this programme you are welcome to contact the programme director Mark Chesterman  or the admissions tutor Matthew Gibson for an informal conversation. 

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

Please note, applicants will need to supply two references on headed notepaper with their application.

If you wish to apply to undertake a single module, you will need to contact Jess AgnewMark Chesterman or Matthew Gibson for a paper application form.

Our modules are structured to provide easily accessible learning resources, tasks, and assessments that engage you in flexible and streamlined learning. Support is provided throughout the programme directly by the tutor in group and individual sessions. Furthermore, some activities are organised to encourage peer support and develop peer learning within the cohort to enhance the learning experience. A variety of learning and teaching methods are used throughout, including:

  • Online learning: our online learning environment is powerful, reliable and refreshingly easy to use, enabling you to access all information and materials at any time on any device
  • Video lectures: experts in the field provide short videos on specific topics to develop analytical and critical thinking
  • Interactive learning tasks: learning is organised and integrated into the teaching topic, actively engaging students in the learning exercises
  • Work-centred learning: learning is integrated into real-time child protection practice to compliment and tailor your workplace and personal interests in specialist areas
  • Social interaction: online and face to face interaction is provided through discussion forums, learning sets and one-to-one tutorials, ensuring you feel connected and supported

Assessment methods

Module 1: Law, Policy and Inter-Agency Working

  • A 2 hr timed assessment
  • A process observation*
  • A proposal to improve some aspect of inter-agency working / policy

*A process observation requires the observer to observe and reflect on the general atmosphere and the social environment of the situation being observed, and to attend to the nature of the emotional relationships between the different participants or groups involved.

Module 2: Risk, Analysis and Decision Making

  • A short literature review
  • A process observation*
  • A proposal to improve some aspect of service delivery related to the investigation or assessment of some aspect of child protection

Module 3: Help, Advice and Direct Work

  • A short literature review
  • A process observation*
  • A proposal to improve some aspect of service delivery related to help, assistance or direct work

Module 4: Organizations, Systems and Leadership 

  • A short literature review
  • A process observation*
  • A proposal to improve some aspect of service delivery related to service design or service delivery

Module 5: Dissertation

A 10,000 word dissertation

The course particularly offers successful candidates the potential to:

  • enhance their careers through developing an expert or specialist child protection role in the work place
  • develop a research or development role within child protection or safeguarding organisations
  • further develop their academic studies in the field of child protection, safeguarding and child welfare

Please note that the programme does not lead to a professional qualification.