MSc Social Work Studies

Gain the skills necessary for professional practice as a social worker. We’re ranked Top 5 in Scotland and Top 15 in the UK for Social Work (Guardian University Guide 2022).

Social Work Studies

Key facts

  • Award Masters / MSc, Postgraduate Diploma
  • Start date January 2023
  • Duration MSc full-time: 28 months; Postgraduate diploma full-time: 24 months
  • Mode of study Full-time, Campus based


Scottish Social Services Council

The Scottish Social Services Council accreditation


This is an integrated academic and professional course which develops the intellectual and practical skills necessary for professional practice as a social worker.

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.

Our course is taught by qualified social workers including world leaders in their research field, and academics who maintain close connections with practice. You'll experience inspirational contributions to teaching by people who have used social work services, as well as from practicing social workers.

You’ll enjoy the benefits of smaller class sizes with creative approaches to teaching and assessment as well as detailed feedback on your progress. On your practice placements, you’ll be supported and assessed by Practice Educators who are qualified or undertaking their Practice Educator training.

At the end of your studies, you’ll qualify as a social worker who is knowledgeable, skilled, analytical and ethical in your approach to working with individuals, families, groups and communities. The postgraduate qualification in Social Work Studies is accredited by the Scottish Social Services Council and is recognised throughout the UK.

Top reasons to study with us

Professional accreditation

Successful completion of this course will mean you’re eligible to be registered by the Scottish Social Services Council as a qualified social worker.

The Masters is awarded on satisfactory completion of a dissertation undertaken at the end of the Diploma course. Both degrees are recognised throughout the UK.

Work placements

You’ll undertake two full-time supervised practice placements which give you the opportunity for classroom-based teaching to be applied in practice. You’ll be supported and assessed by Practice Educators who are qualified or undertaking their Practice Educator training. We’re fortunate to have strong connections with our partner agencies within a 60-mile radius of the University. They provide a range of placements across both statutory and voluntary social work services.

Research overview

In the Social Work and Social Policy unit of assessment for the 2014 Research Excellence Framework:

  • 24% of our overall research activity was assessed to be world-leading
  • 78% of our overall research activity was assessed to be internationally excellent or world-leading
  • 99% of our outputs were assessed to be internationally recognised, internationally excellent or world leading
  • 100% of research environment factors assessed as internationally excellent or world leading
  • 100% of our research impact was assessed as world leading or internationally excellent
  • The work of more than 90% of our researchers was assessed
  • We were judged to have the 2nd highest research power in Scotland and 13th highest in the UK
  • We ranked 17th overall in the UK and 3rd in Scotland for our research, with a grade point average of 3.01 (out of 4).

The Faculty of Social Sciences has attracted considerable sums of external research funding from Research Councils, Government, independent and charitable funders, and from the European Commission.

Entry requirements

Academic requirements

A minimum of a second class honours degree (2.1 preferred) or equivalent in a relevant subject. Practical experience in a social care setting is essential. Numeracy and literacy requirements evidenced at a minimum by Maths and English Standard Grade 3, National 5(c), Intermediate 2(c), GCSE (c/4) or equivalent qualification at this level.

Registration with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) is a requirement for commencing and remaining on the programme (further information on how to apply will be provided to successful applicants who accept a place on the course). Enrolled students must also be a member of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups Scheme.


Application procedure

The application process for this course has two stages. First, prospective students should submit an application form via the webpage. Applications are reviewed against the requirements for social work and processed for the second stage task. This task provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of social work and your suitability for undertaking the course.

English language requirements

Due to disruption in English Language testing caused by COVID-19, we are accepting alternative English Language tests (including online English Language Tests).

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

  • IELTS Indicator 7.0 with a minimum of 6.0 in each sub-skill
  • Cambridge C1 Advanced (CAE) 185 overall with a minimum of 169 in each sub-skill
  • Cambridge C2 Proficiency (CPE) 185 overall with a minimum of 169 in each sub-skill
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic) 67 overall with a minimum of 60 in each sub-skill
  • IBT TOEFL 94 overall with 18 in reading, 23 in writing, 19 in listening and 21 in speaking
  • IBT TOEFL Special Home Edition Test 94 overall with 18 in reading, 23 in writing, 19 in listening and 21 in speaking
  • Trinity ISE III Pass overall and in all sub-skills, ISE IV Pass overall and in all sub-skills
  • Aptis (4 skills) CEFR C1 overall and B2 in all sub-skills
  • Duolingo 115 overall with minimum of 95 in each sub-skill
  • LanguageCert International ESOL C1 Expert - Pass with minimum 33 in each sub-skill

Last updated: 1 February 2021

If you are from India, Bangladesh, Ghana or Nigeria please also check your country/region specific page for any additional, or changes to, English language requirements.

For more information on ways that you can meet our English language requirements, including options to waive the requirement, please read our information on English language requirements.

Pre-sessional English language courses

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.

Find out more about our pre-sessional English language courses.

Course details

The taught course consists of nine modules which include two periods of assessed practice. All students have a personal tutor during the course. During Semesters Two and Four you’ll undertake a placement in full-time supervised practice. The dissertation leading to the MSc involves undertaking empirical research and is submitted in April of year three.


The module information below provides an example of the types of course module you may study. The details listed are for the current academic year (September 2021). Modules and start dates are regularly reviewed and may be subject to change in future years.

Course Details


The course is delivered through lectures incorporating small group discussion, student-led project work, and micro-skills teaching workshops.

The course is run in partnership with statutory and non-statutory agencies in Stirling, Falkirk, Clackmannanshire, Fife, Perth and Kinross, Edinburgh City, Midlothian, West Lothian, East Lothian and the Scottish Borders.

Your learning is greatly assisted by the contribution to teaching and practice learning of staff from local voluntary and statutory agencies. You’ll 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 comparative approaches. 


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
  • an assessment of the two practice learning opportunities

Classroom hours

You’ll attend classes on campus for three full days per week, plus online participation.

Course director

Key staff

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 that facilitate 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.

Fees and funding

Fees and costs

2022/23 fees
 UK and Republic of Ireland studentsOverseas students
Fee per year for PGDip



Dissertation fee



*A £500 continuation fee will be charged if you want to continue from PGDip to MSc.

If you need to extend your period of study or repeat study, you will be liable for additional fees. Your fees will be held at the same level throughout your course.

This fee is charged as an annual course fee. For more information on courses invoiced on an annual fee basis, please read our tuition fees policy.

Additional costs

There are some instances where additional fees may apply. Depending on your chosen course, you may need to pay additional costs, for example for field trips. Learn more about additional fees.

Scholarships and funding

Currently, bursaries are available from the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) for Postgraduate Social Work students. Applicants who are offered and accept a place will be given information about applying for a bursary. Please note that the University of Stirling is not responsible for allocating these. Further information about this funding can be found on the SSSC website. Please note that the current bursary covers most of the fee for the course, however there is a shortfall for which you’ll be responsible.

If you have the talent, ability and drive to study with us, we want to make sure you make the most of the opportunity – regardless of your financial circumstances.

Learn more about available funding opportunities or use our scholarship finder to explore our range of scholarships.

Cost of living

If you’re domiciled in the UK, you can typically apply to your relevant funding body for help with living costs. This usually takes the form of student loans, grants or bursaries, and the amount awarded depends upon your personal circumstances and household income.

European Union and overseas students won’t normally be able to claim living support through SAAS or other UK public funding bodies. You should contact the relevant authority in your country to find out if you’re eligible to receive support.

Find out about the cost of living for students at Stirling

Payment options

We aim to be as flexible as possible, and offer a wide range of payment methods - including the option to pay fees by instalments. Learn more about how to pay

After you graduate

Successful completion of the Postgraduate Diploma or the Masters provides the ‘licence to practise’ as a qualified social worker registered with the regulatory council of the country in which you work. You can work in community-based teams, hospitals, day and residential centres and voluntary agency projects. In Scotland and Northern Ireland it is also the qualification for social work in prisons and criminal justice teams.

The nature of the work is extremely varied and there is the capacity to move between different work settings throughout your career.

There are more than 1.5 million people working in the social care sector in the UK in 38,000 different settings and the adult social care sector alone contributes an estimated £43 billion to the economy (

Currently, over 80 percent of students find social work jobs within six months of graduating.

Testimonial quotes

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

Employability skills

The MSc/PgDip Social Work Studies is a professional course which requires you to undertake two practice placements, along with your academic modules. It's on these placements that you'll gain experience in direct work with service users and learn essential transferrable skills for your future employment within the social work profession.

During the course you'll also gain experience of presentation skills, research methodology, as well as being taught specific and relevant skills to prepare you for employment in a variety of social work settings. 

Companies we work with

The course is run in partnership with statutory and non-statutory agencies in Stirling, Falkirk, Clackmannanshire, Fife, Perth and Kinross, Edinburgh City, Midlothian, West Lothian, East Lothian and the Scottish Borders.

We’re fortunate to have strong connections with our partner agencies within a 60-mile radius of the University. They contribute to the teaching on the course and provide a range of placements across both statutory and voluntary social work services. Examples of these are the local authorities in Forth Valley, Fife, and Perth and Kinross, and voluntary agencies such as Barnardos and Multi-Cultural Family Base.

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 Studies postgraduate course 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. 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.

What our students said

Baru Agbortoko
MSc Social Work Studies
Looking back from when I first started the course, I believe I have developed immensely both as an individual and a professional social worker. I am more confident in my ability to engage with people from varied social and cultural backgrounds.
Read Baru's story
Matt James
MSc Social Work Studies
I have thoroughly enjoyed the course and the link between classroom knowledge and practical skills on placements has given me the confidence and experience to apply and work as a newly qualified social worker.
Read Matt's story
Kris Millar
MSc Social Work Studies
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.
Read Kris's story

Changes at Stirling

Find out about important changes including how you'll be taught, start dates and how we're making campus safer.

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