Social Work MA

  • Overview
  • Course Content
  • Special Features
  • Teaching & Assessment
  • Employability
  • Fees
  • Entry Criteria

Register for our Postgraduate Drop-in Evening on Thursday 3 December 4-7pm. Meet academic staff, postgraduate students and find out more about this course.

About the Course

The Social Work MA programme aims to educate and train individuals to be reflective, research-minded practitioners who are able to work critically and professionally and in accordance with the principle of anti-oppressive practice.

Graduates who successfully complete this programme are eligible to apply for Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registration.

The professional and academic elements are closely integrated throughout the programme. There are 170 placement days, with the working week divided between time in placement and time in the University.

See Frequently Asked Questions, which include application information.


This MA Social Work degree programme aims to provide high quality post graduate social work education and training to equip students with comprehensive pre-entry skills to work in any agency employing social workers in the United Kingdom.

Although the statutory sector is the major employer, increasingly social workers are being recruited into volutary and private sectors in a variety of service provision roles including community-based, residential or day care services in the UK and abroad.

The programme seeks to encourage the personal responsibility of students to function as independent learners and to develop a critical and reflective appreciation of the role of social work in society. 

The curriculum provides teaching in both academic and practice elements, which are fully integrated at Brunel University London. It is designed to ensure that learning occurs in an incremental way, with learning outcomes that develop across levels enabling students to demonstrate progression in professional knowledge, skills and values through two years of study.

Specifically, the programme aims to:

  • prepare students for critical and reflective professional practice according to the HCPC’s approval standards of education, and The College of Social Work’s Professional Capabilities Framework;
  • equip students to practise ethical, innovative and effective social work practice that actively promotes social justice in a diverse society
  • integrate learning in academic and practice elements of the programme so that students have a holistic understanding of social work in variety of professional contexts
  • enable students to identify, understand and critically appraise evidence and research which can inform social work practice
  • enable graduates to apply for registration with the Health and Care Professions Council and apply for membership with the British Association of Social Workers (BASW).


Please make your applications through UCAS:

  • UCAS Code: L508
  • Short form of course: MA/SW

College of Health and Life Sciences
Brunel University London
Tel +44(0) 1895 266086

Related Courses

Course Content

Compulsory Modules

Year 1

The Foundations of Social Work Practice

Main topics: social work values, codes of ethics and anti-oppressive practice in social work; the use of critical reflection and reflexivity in practice; power and authority and their effects on workers, service users and others; skills in relationship building: engaging and sustaining relationships with service users; social work processes i.e. assessment, intervention, and evaluation; skills in recording interviews and report writing; skills for working within organisations; inter-professional practice, professional responsibilities, and boundaries.

Social Work Theories and Perspectives

Main topics: an overview of modern social work theory; psychodynamic perspective; cognitive perspective; behavioural perspective; systems and ecological perspectives; humanistic perspective; feminist perspective; social constructionist perspective; social change and social work; theory of groups; organisational theories.

Life-span Behaviour and Development

Main topics: key concepts and theories of human growth and development; a critical analysis of attachment theory; physical and cognitive development in infancy and childhood; needs and special needs of children and young people; identity development and change across the life-cycle; adolescence and risk; antisocial behaviour and delinquency during the adolescent years; physical and mental health in adulthood; the challenges of an ageing population; death and dying; deprivation and disadvantage across the life-cycle; the impact of culture and ethnicity in childhood and adulthood; developing observational skills, and monitoring and recording observations.

Legal Frameworks for Social Justice

Main topics: English legal system and framework for social work; Rights law including human rights, equality and mental capacity law; law relating to children and families, adult service users and carers and mental health; confidentiality and information sharing; youth justice system and court reporting skills; welfare benefits and oral presentation skills; remedies including litigation, alternative dispute resolution, advocacy, mediation, complaints systems and the role of ombudsmen; role of advocacy including independent advocacy and self advocacy; accountability and ethical dilemmas in social work practice.

Social Policy and Sociology

Main topics: key ideas, concepts and theories in social policy, social welfare and sociology; theoretical and ideological perspectives of social welfare and citizenship including contemporary debates such as welfare reforms and austerity, globalisation and neoliberal welfare models; and personalisation and social care; critical race theory and anti-oppressive practice; gender and social policy; the process of policy-making, and the framework and methods of policy analysis; translating policy agendas into an analysis of national and local needs; social welfare and services for particular groups.

Professional Skills Development I

Main topics: three-day shadowing exercise; communication and interviewing skills training; skills of empowerment; professional skills training such as emotional resilience training, prevention of harm, neglect and abuse; leadership and management skills training.

Practice Learning I

All practice settings provide a defined student workload reflecting the nature of normal practice in the agency; opportunities for direct interventions with service users and carers; opportunities for learning about organisational processes; opportunities for learning about the legal duties and powers, and their application or implementation within the context of the agency.

Approaches to Research

Research methods appropriate to both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, including surveys and longitudinal studies; questionnaire design; experimental and quasi-experimental designs; statistical analysis and using SPSS; in-depth interviews; focus groups; observation; and qualitative analysis.

Compulsory Modules

Year 2

Assessment and the Management of Risk and Complexity

Main topics: nature and role of assessment in social work; models of assessment; involvement of service users, carers and other professionals in assessment; assessment tools; theoretical perspectives on risk and complexity; and leadership and the management of risk and complexity.

Effective Practice with Domestic Violence, Mental Health and Substance Misuse

Main topics: research, legislative and practice perspectives on domestic violence, mental health and substance misuse; assessment and the management of risk; individual and family interventions; and leadership and multi-agency working.

What Works in Social Work

Main topics: developing a critical understanding of the contribution of evidence to social work practice; developing a critical understanding of the contribution of theories of change and their application to practice; evaluating the effectiveness of a range of evidence-informed interventions; decision-making, professional judgement and different organisational contexts.

Professional Skills Development II

Main topics: supporting and counselling techniques and interventions with young children, people with disabilities, loss and bereavement, and for safeguarding vulnerable persons; professional skills training such as working with conflict and resolution, working with resistance/challenging behaviour, care planning, complex assessment and working with other professionals, court reporting.

Practice Learning II (100 days)

All practice settings provide a defined student workload reflecting the nature of normal practice in the agency; opportunities for direct interventions with service users and carers; opportunities for learning about organisational processes; opportunities for learning about the legal duties and powers, and their application or implementation within the context of the agency.


This constitutes a 15,000 word document presenting research undertaken by students within a social work context. Students are allocated a dissertation supervisor whom they meet on a regular basis to discuss all stages of the research from developing the initial idea into a full proposal which achieves ethical approval, to drafting the final dissertation. Recent examples of dissertations by students undertaking this programme include:

  • 'Supporting carers with children with learning disabilities'
  • 'Social workers’ knowledge of domestic violence'
  • 'Adolescent substance misuse and family conflict'
  • 'Changes in statutory care for older people as a result of the personalisation agenda'
  • 'Reasoning mental distress: service user perspective'
  • 'Attitudes toward religion and spirituality in social work.'

Year 2 Pathways (choose one) 

Social Work with Children and Families

Main topics: working with children in need and child protection; theory, research, law, policy and practice; inter-professional workshops on the impact of parental problems including parental substance misuse and domestic violence; critical review of inter-agency and inter-disciplinary practice through serious case reviews; children looked after and leaving care and service user voices; theory and research specific to social work practice with children and families; risk analysis and risk management; the centrality of relation based practice in direct work and communication with children and young people; the family court system and skills in analysing and presenting case material.

Social Work with Adults

Main topics: the development of community-based care and support and integrated adult health and social care including ideological underpinnings and contemporary issues in policy and adult social work practice; person-centred and care management approaches to community-based adult social work practice; and adult practice specialisms.

Note: As this programme may involve regular access to children and/or vulnerable adults, students will be required to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) application, previously known as a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check. The application will cost £51.86 (this amount may be subject to change) and the University will send further instructions as part of the admissions process. For further guidance please email

Read more about the structure of postgraduate degrees at Brunel and what you will learn on the course.

Special Features

  • Students enjoy first-rate facilities in the new Mary Seacole Building.
  • We are one of the leading providers of university-based social work and social policy research in London and have attracted funding from, amongst other sources, the ESRC, the AHRC, Nuffield Foundation, the Rowntree Trust, the European Union, the Department for Education and Skills and the NHS.
  • Students benefit from close links with social care providers in local government and in the voluntary sector.
  • Service users and carers are crucial to our work, and our BEEC (Brunel Experts by Experience Committee) enables them to be involved at all stages of the MA, from interview to assessment.
  • Recent groundbreaking research into personalisation, service user involvement, Family Drug and Alcohol Courts, young onset dementia and youth and religion, amongst other areas, feed into our taught programmes, making them highly relevant and up-to-date. Our academics include the authors of best selling books on citizenship, community care and child protection.
  • Anti-oppressive practice has been at the core of our education and training philosophy for some years and this emphasis is evident in the teaching of this programme.
  • Brunel University has a long history of securing a range of quality placements across London and surrounding areas. We have substantial experience in working across the statutory and independent sector and have strong partnership links.

Teaching and Learning

A wide range of teaching methods are used in the MA Social Work programme including lectures, seminars, workshops, coupled with individual tutorials and group tutorials to ensure large group learning is translated in a more discursive way. Assessments include essays, exams and presentations and students are expected to complete a total of 180 credits of assessed academic work along with a 60 credit dissertation.


Brunel University London has strong partnership links with local authorities such as Ealing and Hillingdon and our post-graduate social work students have a track record of securing social work jobs with our partner agencies. Employers and Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) coordinators regularly attend careers workshops where students are given intensive training in interviewing skills, presenting a comprehensive portfolio of work and being competitive in the social work market. Further information on Blackboard Learn.


In February 2015, the Department of Education recorded a total of 26,810 registered social workers employed in Children and Families Social Work in England (DoE, 2015). The Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey data from 2013/14 reported that a total of 64, 285 post-graduate students in the UK, entered health and social care related employment. The register for professional social workers with the Health and Care Professional Council opened in 2012 and there are currently 89,033 registered social workers in England (HCPC, 2015). The social work course at Brunel University London provides a very high percentage of post-graduate students who go onto leave and successfully get jobs in social work positions around the country, with over 83% securing jobs in the London area (DLHE, 2015).


Brunel University London has an excellent placement team that takes care to match students to appropriate children and families and adult social work placements within the London area. Placement providers have been consistently positive about their experience supervising post-graduate students and have frequently hired students back into permanent posts after they have completed their degree.

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Fees for 2015/6 entry

Read about funding opportunities available to postgraduate students

Social Work Bursary

The Department of Health has confirmed that the postgraduate social work bursary will be maintained to ensure a continuation of highly qualified graduates. However, the Department of Health will cap the number of undergraduate and post-graduate bursary recipients to ensure a sufficient supply of high quality students is maintained.

Further information will be available shortly at

UK/EU students: £7,000 full-time

International students: £16,500 full-time


UK/EU students can opt to pay in six equal monthly instalments: the first instalment is payable on enrolment and the remaining five by Direct Debit or credit/debit card.

Overseas students can opt to pay in two instalments: 60% on enrolment, and 40% in January for students who commence their course in September (or the remaining 40% in March for selected courses that start in January).

Fees quoted are per annum and are subject to an annual increase.

Entry Requirements

We normally require a First class or 2.1 Honours degree or an equivalent internationally recognised qualification. We will consider applicants with at least a 2.2 Honours degree in a related subject (e.g Education, Sociology, Social Policy, Politics, Psychology, Law, Health and/or Social Care). 

Applicants must demonstrate how their previous experience in paid employment or structured voluntary work with a relevant organisation has prepared them for a career in social work. While there is no formal requirement for a set amount of time spent getting work experience we normally expect at least a year’s full-time (or part-time equivalent) experience. Applicants should also demonstrate what they have learnt from their own life/educational/work/voluntary experiences as appropriate to their life stage and how these have prepared them for a career in social work. Each application will be considered on an individual basis.

All applicants must hold a GCSE Grade C in English Language and Mathematics or an acceptable equivalent at application stage and must possess basic IT skills prior to the start of the programme.

An ability to communicate accurately and clearly in spoken and written English and the ability to think critically and analytically

Applicants will need to provide two references: an academic reference from first degree and a character reference from someone who can testify to their suitability for a career in Social Work;

All applicants must demonstrate:

  • appropriate personal qualities and life experiences
  • ability to reflect on and positively learn from significant events in their life
  • recent undertaking of pre-course preparatory work either by making use of training opportunities within their work or by undertaking relevant study
  • the ability to express themselves orally and in writing and the ability to think critically and analytically
  • and an understanding of the role of research in informing social work practice.

This is a highly selective course and only the strongest applicants will be invited for interview.

Entry criteria are subject to review and change each academic year.

International and EU

If your country or institution is not listed or if you are not sure whether your institution is eligible, please contact Admissions

This information is for guidance only by Brunel University London and by meeting the academic requirements does not guarantee entry for our courses as applications are assessed on case-by-case basis.

English Language Requirements

  • IELTS: 7 (min 6.5W, 6.5L, 6.5R, 6.5S) 
  • Pearson: 64 (58 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 70% (65% in all areas)

Brunel University London strongly recommends that if you will require a Tier 4 visa, you sit your IELTS test at a test centre that has been approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as being a provider of a Secure English Language Test (SELT). Not all test centres have this status. The University can accept IELTS (with the required scores) taken at any official test centre or other English Language qualifications we accept as meeting our main award entry requirements.

However, if you wish to undertake a Pre-sessional English course to further improve your English prior to the start of your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider. This is because you will only be able to apply for a Tier 4 student visa to undertake a Pre-sessional English course if you hold a SELT from a UKVI approved test centre. Find out more information about it.

Brunel also offers our own BrunELT English Test and accepts a range of other language courses. We also have Pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet these requirements, or who wish to improve their English.

Our International Pathways and Language Centre offers a number of foundation and pre-masters courses to provide you with the academic skills required for your chosen course.

Page last updated: Thursday 12 November 2015