Social Work

BA (Hons)


Top 15 in the UK for Social Work

The Times and Sunday Times Good 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.

You will experience contributions to teaching by people who have used social work services and carers. On your practice placements, you will be supported and assessed by Practice Educators or who are qualified or undertaking their Practice Educator training.

Key information

EU Applicants
The Scottish Government has confirmed that EU students enrolling in the 2018 and 2019 academic year will be entitled to free tuition fees in Scotland. EU Students will retain that status for the duration of their four year degree.

  • UCAS: L500
  • Qualification: BA (Hons)
  • Study methods: Full-time, Campus based
  • Duration: Four years full time study
  • Start date: September
  • Faculty: Faculty of Social Sciences
Download course leaflet
Download undergraduate prospectus

Kathryn Mackay, Course Director

Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Stirling

View fees and finance


Logo for the Scottish Social Services Council

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.  

Students also established a Social Work Society through the Student Union in 2017. This offers additional opportunities around exploring social work and getting involved in related activities.

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Entry requirements

Academic requirements

Four-year Honours degree

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

GCE A-level:

IB Diploma:
32 points.

BTEC (Level 3):

Other qualifications

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

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

Foundation Apprenticeships:

Considered to be equivalent to 1 Higher at Grade B

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. Applicants who do not meet this requirement may still be offered a place but will be required to undertake take and pass a data skills module in year one. 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. 

Students have to be registered with the Scottish Social Services Council by the start of the second semester in year one. 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 2018/19

Overseas students (non-EU) £12,140.00
Scottish and EU students £1,820.00
Students from the rest of the UK £9250 – with a generous package of scholarship options

From 2016/17 onwards, the fees for overseas undergraduates will be held at the level upon entry.

If you plan to commence your studies at the University of Stirling in January 2018, please note you will be subject to our 2017/18 fees. Please contact us for more information.

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 should you choose to attend a graduation ceremony. 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

In semesters 1-3 you will take four social work related modules that introduce you to social work knowledge skills, law and policy and one of which incorporates community based practice. In addition, you will undertake modules in sociology and social policy in order to enhance your understanding of the wider context for social work. Two other modules of your choice will also be taken.

Semesters 4 - 8

You will 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 you will undertake direct work with people who use services. During practice learning placements you will receive supervision from qualified social workers and other professionals and have your 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 you 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 will contribute to your learning and in addition you will have your own personal tutor from the social work staff group.

Teaching from Semester 4 onwards involves a high level of student participation; you are encouraged to engage with theory and research through the use of case studies and role plays, discussions and project group work. You will 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.

At Stirling, we recognise the role and benefits of online learning methods and these are utilised across our knowledge-based modules to enrich the quality and variety of the student learning experience. 

A wide range of assessment methods are 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 and providing students with opportunities to practice their interviewing skills. They have produced a DVD for teaching purposes, have contributed to University wide awareness raising events for World Mental Health Day and continue to make significant contributions to successful Inter-University conferences on Service User and Carer involvement in professional education. 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:



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 

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.







Introduction to Social Work 1


Social Differentiation (SPCU911)



Social Problems


Active Learning in the Community


Plus two modules of own choice


20 each





Understanding Social Policy


Introduction to Social Work 2


Social Work Law & Policy


Human Development and Family Contexts


Theory and Practice of Social Work


Evidence and Social Inquiry for Social Work






Practice Learning 1


Theory and Practice: Children, Families and Society


Theory and Practice: Crime, Welfare and Justice


Theory and Practice: Health, Illness & Disability




Practice Learning 2




Why Stirling?


Top 15 in the UK for Social Work (The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017)

International Students

The University of Stirling welcomes applications from all countries.

Study abroad opportunities

It is not currently possible to study abroad during this course. We are exploring opportunities for social work students at Stirling to study within a European country and this builds on our first ever study tour with the University of Calgary, Canada.  


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.

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.

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.


Our staff

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.

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. 

Success stories

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”.

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