Social Work

BA (Hons)


1st in the UK for Social Work

The Complete University Guide 2017


Do you want a career that is stimulating, rewarding and makes a positive contribution to society? If so a degree in social work could be for you.

At the University of Stirling social work education is committed to progressive social change through teaching, research and an active involvement with practice.  We believe in a social work profession defined not only by its function but also by its values and integrity.

We promote an understanding of social work which is informed by social justice and human rights, a profession that acknowledges the links between “public issues” and “private troubles” and seeks to address both. We value social work practice that has prevention at its heart and recognises the importance of collective approaches, actively engaging with and learning from user movements.

This degree course incorporates the professional qualification you need to practise social work alongside a strong grounding in relevant social science subjects. We will help you qualify as a social worker who is knowledgeable, skilled, analytical and ethical in your approach to working with individuals, families, groups and communities.

On the social work degree programme at the University of Stirling you will be taught by a team of qualified social workers including world leaders in their research field and academics who maintain close connections with practice. You will enjoy the benefits of smaller class sizes (23-55) with creative approaches to teaching and assessment as well as detailed feedback on your progress. You will experience contributions to teaching by people who have used social work services and carers and on your practice placements, and will be supported and assessed by accredited Practice Teachers and Educators.

Key information

EU Applicants
The Scottish Government has confirmed that EU students enrolling in the 2017 academic year will be entitled to free tuition fees in Scotland. EU Students will be admitted as Scottish/EU fee status students and will retain that status for the duration of their four year degree. EU students will also be eligible for tuition fee support from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).

  • UCAS: L500
  • Qualification: BA (Hons)
  • Study methods: Full-time, Campus based
  • Duration: Four years full time study
  • Start date: September
  • Course Director: Kathryn Mackay
  • Faculty: Faculty of Social Sciences

Download undergraduate prospectus

Faculty of Social Sciences
Colin Bell Building
University of Stirling

View fees and finance


Successful completion of this course will mean students are then eligible to be registered, by the Scottish Social Services Council, as a qualified social worker. Each UK country has its own registration body and this degree is accepted by all of them. 

Course objectives

This course provides you with an integrated academic and professional course which develops the knowledge, skills and values necessary for professional practice as a social worker. 

What makes us different?

Staff are all qualified social workers with a strong commitment to the profession in terms of teaching and research. This is demonstrated by membership of a range of international and national social work organisations within the staff group. Additionally we have partnerships with local agencies in terms of exchange of knowledge between academia and practice. As a result we have strong representation of practitioners and other agency staff on our assessment boards and in teaching. Not all social work degrees require empirical research within the Honours dissertation but this course believes it is vital that social work students have experience of undertaking research in order to fully appreciate its relevance to practice.  

World-class library and teaching facilities

Studying for a degree means learning in different ways; managing your own time; conducting research; mastering new computer skills. We have the facilities and advice on hand to help you do all this - and do it well.

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Entry requirements

Academic requirements

Four-year Honours degree

SQA Higher:
ABBB - one sitting.
AABB - two sittings.

GCE A-level:

IB Diploma:
32 points.

BTEC (Level 3):

Other qualifications

Year one entry
Scottish HNC/D - Bs in graded units, preference given to As
English, Welsh and NI HNC/D - Merits and Distinctions.

Access courses:
Access courses and other UK/EU and international qualifications are also welcomed.

Additional information

General entrance requirements apply.
Mathematics Standard Grade (2), National 5 (B), Intermediate 2 (C), GCSE (C) or equivalent required.
Mathematics Standard Grade (3) considered on an individual basis.
Personal, voluntary or paid experience of Social Work or related activity is essential.

If examinations are taken over two sittings, or there are repeats or upgrades, the entrance requirements may be higher.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your English language skills:

  • IELTS: 6.0 with 5.5 minimum in each skill
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): Grade C
  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE): Grade C
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic): 54 with 51 in each component
  • IBT TOEFL: 80 with no subtest less than 17


More information on our English language requirements

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this course, our partner INTO University of Stirling offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for entry to this degree.

If English is not your first language you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your English language skills:

  • IELTS: 6.0 with 5.5 minimum in each skill
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): Grade C
  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE): Grade C
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic): 54 with 51 in each component
  • IBT TOEFL: 80 with no subtest less than 17

More information on our English language requirements

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this course, our partner INTO University of Stirling offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for entry to this degree.

Alternative routes

The Access course is aimed at mature students who have been out of education for some time and have few or no relevant qualifications for entry to a degree. The course provides you with both the academic requirements to get into university and the study skills you will need to become a successful university student. 

Application procedure

There is a two-stage, paper-based selection process. The first stage is the UCAS application form, which is screened for social work related knowledge and experience, as well as qualifications, so the personal statement is particularly important. At the second stage, applicants whose original application form covers the required areas, in terms of qualifications, experience and understanding of social work, are invited to submit an additional piece of written work. They are given two social work scenarios and asked general questions about the challenges and attractions of being a social worker. 

As part of the registration process with the Scottish Social Services Council, all applicants are subject to a Criminal Records check. This check will show some spent and all unspent criminal convictions.

Previous criminal convictions may not exclude you, but all relevant convictions must also be declared during the University application process and some occurrences may result in an unsuccessful application. Please see the Disclosure Scotland Website for guidance on which spent convictions must be declared.


Fees and costs

Fees 2017/8

Overseas students (non-EU) £11,845.00
Scottish and EU students £1,820.00
Students from the rest of the UK £6,750.00 per year for a maximum of 4 years

Fees 2018/9

Overseas students (non-EU) £12,140.00
Scottish and EU students £1,820.00
Students from the rest of the UK £9,250.00

From 2016/7 onwards, the fees for overseas undergraduates will be held at the level upon entry.

Please note: Scottish and EU students can apply to the Students Award Agency for Scotland (SAAS) to have tuition fees paid by the Scottish government. Students from the rest of the UK can apply for financial assistance, including a loan to cover the full cost of the tuition fees, from the Student Loan Company.

You should expect to pay fees for every year you are in attendance and be aware fees are subject to revision and may increase annually. Students on programmes of study of more than one year should take this into account when applying.

Please note there is an additional charge for the conferral of your degree. This will be charged at the rate applicable when you complete your studies. View more information

Cost of Living

Find out about the cost of living for students at Stirling

Payment options

Find information on paying fees by instalments

Structure and teaching

Structure and content

Semesters 1 - 3

You will follow an introductory course in Sociology and Social Policy. In addition, you will take four modules that introduce you to social work knowledge skills, law and policy, one of which incorporates community based practice. Two other modules of your choice will also be taken.

Semesters 4 - 8

Undergraduate students benefit from sharing aspects of their professional education in semesters 4-8 with postgraduate students who are studying social work at MSc level. Through an integrated academic and professional curriculum, you will undertake:

  • Seven university-based modules that focus on the application of knowledge, theory and research to practice and the development of specific skills required for social work. These include teaching on: the theory and practice of Social Work with children, families, people with disabilities and people who offend; human development; ethical practice; assessment and intervention models, working with risk and Social Inquiry for Social Work.
  • Two professional practice learning opportunities in Semester 5 (75 days) and in the summer period between Semesters 6 and 7 (95 days). These take place in a variety of settings where students will undertake direct work with people who use services. During practice learning placements students receive supervision from qualified social workers and other professionals and have their practice assessed by a qualified Practice Teacher. Placements usually take place within a 60-mile radius of the University.

Delivery and assessment

The first three semesters provide the foundation for the full-time professional course from Semester 4 onwards. The Sociology and Social Policy modules establish a social science knowledge base for later practice. The four required modules that introduce students to Social Work offer the opportunity to develop skills that will be of particular value when on practice learning. Service users, carers, social work practitioners and managers contribute to students’ learning. Students have a personal tutor from within the social work staff group.

Teaching from Semester 4 onwards involves a high level of student participation; students are encouraged to engage with theory and research through the use of case studies and role plays, discussions and project group work. Students continue to have a personal tutor who offers advice during University-based semesters and visits you on placement, strengthening the links between theory and practice.

Your learning is greatly assisted by the contribution (to teaching and practice learning) of staff from local voluntary and statutory agencies. You will also benefit from contributions by service users and carers and from the range of research and teaching interests within the Faculty of Social Sciences, in which Social Work is located. Particular strengths include community care, criminal justice, children and families, skills teaching, values and social justice.

A wide range of assessment methods is used: essays, analytical accounts of practice, filmed assessment of practice skills, class presentations, an oral examination on social work practice and assessment of the two practice learning opportunities.

Involvement of people who have used Social Work services and Carers

University of Stirling Social Work Service Users and Carers’ Group; “UNITY”,  was established in 2005 in recognition of the important contribution that people who use services have to make to social work education. UNITY members are involved in many aspects of the Social Work programme including direct teaching and selection processes They have produced a DVD for teaching purposes, have contributed to University wide awareness raising events for World Mental Health Day and made a significant contribution to a successful Inter-University conference on Service User and Carer involvement in professional education which was hosted by the University of Stirling in June 2013. You can read the summary conference report here The group is also a founder member of the Scottish Inter-University Social Work Service Users and Carers’ Network. Further information about Unity can be found on their web page:


The involvement of people who have used services and carers in direct teaching is consistently well received by students. Here is some of their feedback:

“I enjoyed getting the service users’ perspective of service providers and hearing some personal accounts. I also enjoyed the teamwork today and getting a sense of the values and opinions of the group as a whole”.

“Really enjoyed meeting some of the service users and listening to their stories and experiences. Felt really privileged that they shared their experiences with me – some that must have been quite difficult to do so. Admire their resilience!”

“I learned some of the things people want in a social worker and what values they want to see. Definitely made me think more about my practice.”

“A fantastic insight into the views of service users on social workers”

“I learned that service users put a lot of emphasis on practical things such as good time management that perhaps we take for granted and sometimes may not consider the impact it may have”

“Some people have had bad experiences with social workers, but have regained faith when allocated a new social worker. I will make sure that first impressions will count on a positive note.”

Comments from service users regarding their involvement in teaching and wider group activities include:

“I have had positive experiences of working with social workers and I want to give something back so that students can learn from my experiences”

“It brought me out of a very dark period of my life. Through my various activities I developed some skills but most importantly I regained my self-confidence, which allowed me to enrol in a Masters Degree course... I would like to thank everyone for their support and for being so welcoming and friendly. I hope that you can continue to help people as much as you have helped me.”

“It is really good to have people finally listening to my side of the story and it was good to get the chance to speak on the DVD.”

“One of the things I enjoy is coming to Stirling University and speaking to social work students. Hopefully they can get a better understanding of mental illness and it builds up my self-esteem”.



Year 1

  • Introduction to Social Work 1 (SWKU911)
  • Social Differentiation (SPCU911)
  • Social Problems (SPCU912)
  • Active Learning in the Community (PDMU9AW)
  • Plus 2 modules of own choice

Year 2

  • Understanding Social Policy (SPCU913)
  • Introduction to Social Work 2 (SWKU9SW)
  • Social Work Law & Policy (SWKU9PL)
  • Human Development and Family Contexts (SWKU9DE)
  • Theory and Practice of Social Work (SWKU9PT)
  • Evidence and Social Inquiry for Social Work (SWKU9EI)

 Year 3

  • Practice Learning 1 (SWKU9P1)
  • Theory and Practice: Children, Families and Society (SWKU9CF)
  • Theory and Practice: Crime, Welfare and Justice (SWKU9CJ)
  • Theory and Practice: Health, Illness & Disability (SWKU9HD)

Year 4

  • Practice Learning 2 (SWKU9P2)- begins late May and runs over summer
  • Dissertation (SWKU9DD)

Related degrees

Criminology; Sociology and Social Policy.

Recommended reading

Banks, S (2006) Ethics and Values in Social Work, third edition, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan

Crawford. K. and Walker, J. (2010) Social Work and Human Development, third edition, Exeter: Learning Matters

Guthrie, T. (2011) Social Work Law in Scotland, third edition. Haywards Heath: Bloomsbury Professional. 

McLaughlin, H (2012) Understanding Social Work Research, second edition, London: Sage

Trevithick, P. (2012) Social Work Skills: A Practice Handbook, third edition, Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Wilson, K., Ruch, G., Lymbery, M. and Cooper, A. (2011) Social Work: An introduction to contemporary practice, second edition, Harlow: Pearson Education.

Modes of study

Full-time (three modules per semester).

Find out more

Example timetable

The timetable below is a typical example, but your own timetable may be different.

From Semester 4, this course concentrates teaching into three to four full days each week. This allows for more interactive workshops alongside traditional lectures and seminars. The otherone to two days are for private study and there will often be guided reading or tasks to complete on your own or as part of a group.

Why Stirling?


In REF2014 Stirling was placed 6th in Scotland and 45th in the UK with almost three quarters of research activity rated either world-leading or internationally excellent.


1st in the UK for Social Work (The Complete University Guide 2017)

11th in the UK for Social Work (Times Good University Guide 2016)

International Students

The University of Stirling welcomes applications from all countries.

Study abroad opportunities

It is not possible to study abroad during this course.


Through our annual programme committees, selection partnerships and other involvement with the course, employers from local authorities and voluntary organisations tell us that Stirling students coming to them on practice placements and as newly qualified social workers are well prepared for the demands of the agencies. For example:

Practice teachers (who supervise students on placements) comment favourably on the preparedness of the students and also on the quality of the work they undertake. The support the University gives is also valued. The member of staff who attended the presentations of research (conducted by student for their MSc/BA (Hons)) was really impressed by the work the students had undertaken and found the range of subjects interesting. We hope this is going to be a regular feature of the academic year at Stirling.

Shelagh Low, Workforce Development Officer for Fife Council.

People welcome opportunities offered by the University, such as occasional seminars, the recent Food for Thought launch event and access to resources such as the Iris Murdoch Centre. Non-practice learning staff have also enjoyed contributing to the course through taking part in the oral exam, and admission panels. With regard to the students themselves, there continues to be positive feedback about the calibre of the students, and their commitment to the placements – often entailing considerable travel to and from their home base. There have been some very good examples of creative approaches, contributing to developments within the team(s) and service(s). An interest and awareness of policy and political dimensions has also been noted. Several students have been seen as people we would want to apply should vacancies arise, and we do have recent graduates now in post with Perth and Kinross.

Stuart Eno, Senior Learning & Development Officer for Perth and Kinross Council.

It has been my experience and that of my practice teaching colleagues that social work students coming from Stirling are of exceptional calibre and bring with them a high level of knowledge and skills which they appear to easily transfer to practice. This of course has been enabled by the quality of teaching that they receive from both tutors and practitioners who are involved in various aspects of the course prior to students undertaking a practice learning opportunity.

Vivian Fitzsimmons, Practice Teacher/Coordinator, Falkirk Council.


Academic strength

All lecturers on this course engage in research and writing relevant to social work and wider social issues. The importance of research to the future development of the profession is underlined by the requirement that students undertake a piece of empirical research as part of their MSc dissertation. There are partnerships with local agencies in terms of exchange of knowledge between academia and practice. As a result we have strong representation of practitioners and other agency staff on our assessment boards and in teaching.

Our staff

Dr Joanne Westwood - Head of Subject Group

Research interests: Child welfare, children’s rights and participation as well as the use of social media in social work education, practice and for research

Dr Ruth Emond - Senior Lecturer

Research Interests: Vulnerable children and their everyday experiences. UK and International research with children in care and their use of food and peer groups. Involved in research on social inclusion and young people in rural communities.

Dr Sandra Engstrom -Lecturer                                                                                                                                              

Research Interestes: Relationships and communication sills, international social work, the linked experience of being a Social Worker and linking social work practice to outdoor experiential education

Ms Sara Hitchin - Teaching Fellow

Research Interests: Issues relating to practice learning and continuous professional development. Involvement of people who have used services in both social work education and practice.

Dr Siân Lucas - Lecturer

Research interests: Social work in a globalized world, and social work with minority groups, the sociology of childhood, particularly child language brokering.

Ms Kathryn Mackay - Lecturer

Research interests: Scottish legal framework for adults at risk of harm and practice ensuing from this. Adult support protection and mental health law. 

Ms Jane McLenachan – Senior Teaching Fellow

Research interests: Social work education: national and international approaches, practice education, service user and carer participation.

Mr David Morran - Lecturer

Research interests: Exploring the life histories of men who have formerly been violent and abusive and in the development of services offering support/counselling in the area of young men and adult men's emotional well-being.

Dr Paul Rigby - Lecturer

Research interests: Adolescent child protection; neglect; child trafficking; social work with migrant children; child sexual exploitation; child protection - youth justice interface and working with young people at the youth/criminal justice transition.

Dr Fiona Sherwood-Johnson - Lecturer

Research Interests: Adult support and protection policy and practice. Research that involves service users and carers.


Additionally, a range of staff associates act as personal tutors to students during the course.

Careers and employability

Career opportunities

This degree equips you for social work jobs throughout the UK, in a variety of settings including: local authorities, prisons, hospitals and voluntary organisations. The nature of the work is extremely varied and there is the capacity to move between different work settings throughout your career. Currently, over 80 percent of students find social work jobs within six months of graduating.

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