Social Work

Study social work and graduate with a university degree

1st in Scotland for social work in The Complete University Guide 2015.

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 continue to work in practice alongside their University role. You will enjoy the benefits of smaller class sizes (50-60) 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.


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. 

Entrance requirements

Four-year Honours degree

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

GCE A-level:

IB Diploma:
32 points.

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.
Advanced entry
Year 2 may be possible with a related HNC and significant work experience, and will be assessed on a individual basis. Please consult our Advanced Entry pages for suitable courses.

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

Additional information

General entrance requirements apply.
Mathematics Standard Grade (2), Intermediate 2, 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 skills

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.

Modes of study

Full-time (three modules per semester).

Course contact

Lorna Gentles University of Stirling
+ 44 (0) 1786 467710

Course Director

Judy Kerr

Find out more

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. Applicants’ responses are assessed by a panel of university tutors and social work practitioners.

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 all spent and unspent criminal convictions including (but not limited to) cautions, reprimands, final warnings, driving and parking offences, bind over orders, fixed penalty notices, penalty notices for disorders, ASBOS and VOOs.

Previous criminal convictions may not exclude you, but all convictions must be declared during the University application process and some occurrences may result in an unsuccessful application.

Degree course

Semesters 1 - 3

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

Semesters 4 - 8

Undergraduate students benefit from sharing 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:

  • six 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: law and policy for social work with children, families, people with disabilities and people who offend; human development; ethical practice; assessment and intervention models, and working with risk.
  • two professional practice learning opportunities in Semester 5 (70 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.

Module titles

Year 1

  • Social Differentiation (SPC911)
  • Social Problems (SPC912)
  • Active Learning in the Community (PDM9AW)
  • Plus 2 modules of own choice

Year 2

  • Understanding Social Policy (SPC913
  • Introduction to Social Work (SWK9IS)
  • Social Work Law & Policy (SWK9LP)
  • Human Development and Family Contexts (SWK9DE)
  • Theory and Practice of Social Work (SWK9PT)

 Year 3

  • Practice Learning 1 (SWK9P1)
  • Theory and Practice: Health, Illness & Disability (SWK9HD)
  • Theory and Practice: Crime, Welfare and Justice (SWK9CJ)
  • Theory and Practice: Children, Families and Society (SWK9CF)

Year 4

  • Practice Learning 2 (SWK9P2)- begins late May and runs over summer
  • Dissertation (SWK9DD)

Teaching 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 two 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.

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 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 School of Applied Social Science, in which Social Work is located. Particular strengths include community care, criminal justice, children and families, skills teaching, values and comparative approaches.

A wide range of assessment methods is used: essays, analytical accounts of practice, DVD recorded 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, contribute 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.

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”.

Reading list

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

Davis,R. and Gordon, J. (eds) (2010) Social Work and the Law in Scotland, second edition, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ferguson, I. and Woodward, R. (2009) Radical Social Work in Practice: Making a Difference.

Trevithick, P. (2005) Social Work Skills: A Practice Handbook, second edition, Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Wilson, K., Ruch, G., Lymbery, M. and Cooper, A. (2012) 2nd Edition, Social Work: An introduction to contemporary practice, second edition, Harlow: Pearson Education.

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 full days each week. This allows for more interactive workshops alongside traditional lectures and seminars. The other 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.

Combined degrees

There are no combined degrees available. However there is an alternative degree route within the wider School of Applied Social Science for those who do not attain the social work qualification or choose not to pursue it.

Related degrees

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.  

Study abroad

It is not possible to study abroad during this course.


1st in Scotland for Social Work The Complete University Guide 2015


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.

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 students

Here are some quotes from our students:

The social work course was the most challenging yet rewarding experience I have embarked on. I found the support from lecturers and classmates to be a very valuable and the placements offered a vast amount of learning and new opportunities.

Lucy Harris, final year student, 2013

The process of becoming a social work practitioner shouldn’t be underestimated.The course is hugely challenging, both intellectually and emotionally. However the staff at Stirling have helped support me through this process in a caring, compassionate and inspiring way.I feel ready to enter in to the field of work and I would highly recommend this course to anyone that is passionate about becoming a qualified practitioner

Kris Miller, final year student, 2013

Having service user involvement throughout my training and working practice has been crucial to my development as a practitioner. The service user involvement throughout my training helped shaped the kind of worker I wanted to aspire to be from a very early stage. I have found when working in a very busy environment with high work load demands, workers can get caught up in politics and the complexities of the system. As a result, we forget that our first priority should be the individuals we work with and ensuring that they have the necessary supports in place to achieve positive life outcomes. Service user input has helped ground my practice and ensured my core values and principles are kept at the heart of my practice (respecting choice, dignity and privacy and listening to other’s views).

Laura Carse, Social Worker with City of Edinburgh Council, who graduated from Stirling in 2011

Our Staff Brigid Daniel - Head of Subject Group/Deputy Head of School
Research Interests: Child development, children's resilience, adult and child protection

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.

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.

Ms Judy Kerr - Senior Teaching Fellow
Research Interests: Social work education and developing inter-professional approaches to teaching, learning and assessment. 

Ms 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. 

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; listening to children in the child protection system; 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.

94% of our students are in employment or further study within six months of graduating (Destination of Leavers from Higher Education, 2012/13).

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.

Fees 2016/7

Overseas students (non-EU) £ 11,555.00
Scottish and EU students TBC
Students from the rest of the UK £6,750 per year for a maximum of 4 years


Fees 2015/6

Overseas students (non-EU) £ 11,275.00
Scottish and EU students £ 1,820.00
Students from the rest of the UK £6,750 per year for a maximum of 4 years


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.

Please note: 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.

Social Work
  • Degree award BA (Hons)
  • UCAS Code L500
  • Type Full-time, Campus based
  • Duration Four years full time study
  • Start date September
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