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MA Social Work

Course overview

Start date

September 2018

Subject area

Cass School of Education and Communities




On campus

Course summary

This MA Social Work degree equips you with the skills, knowledge and reflective capacity you need to practise as an effective social worker.

You will develop a sound knowledge base that encompasses theory, the ethical and legal bases for practice, social policy and an understanding of how social work fits into organisational contexts.

The course promotes relationship-based practice and is unique because of the link with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

It is extremely popular, with up to 600 applicants each year for 40 places. The standard for entry is therefore very high, although good experience of practice will be given serious consideration.

The opportunity to study both at the University of East London and the Tavistock allows you to experience university culture and a working clinic. As part of the course you will participate in a week-long Group Relations Conference as well as weekly work discussion groups.

Because the course attracts students from different cultural backgrounds and a range of disciplines - including psychology, law, sociology, criminology, business studies and even science - the knowledge our students bring enriches the course experience as much as the teaching.

Contact us

If you have any questions, talk to a member of our Applicant Enquiries team on +44 (0) 20 8223 3333 or email

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In partnership with the NHS

This is the only Social Work master’s course in the country that is run in conjunction with an NHS trust. The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust is internationally renowned in the field of systemic and psychodynamic approaches to training social workers.

Experienced and diverse staff

The staff team across both institutions is experienced and diverse. You are taught by practitioners and academics who are up-to-date in the field, research active and close to practice.



You will graduate with a master’s degree which allows you to register as a social worker with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). The course is validated by the HCPC and endorsed by the College for Social Work.

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What we're researching

Our Centre for Social Work Research (CSWR) generates knowledge in social work thinking and methods. It also helps and encourages more social workers to become involved in research to improve shared knowledge.

 Our founding goal is to shed light on underlying processes in practice and policy-making. We also work to strengthen the evidence base for ‘relationship-based social work’. This places the client-practitioner relationship at the heart of practice.

Current research themes include relational approaches to people at risk of self-harm or suicide, safeguarding and child protection, social work and education as well as the transformation of welfare in the UK.

The CSWR is led by Professor Stephen Briggs, who teaches on the Social Work MA course. His current research interests include adolescent mental health, psychoanalytic approaches to suicide and self-harm, and infant observation and its application to understanding infant mental health.

Dr Jo Finch, Course Leader of the Social Work MA, is deputy director of the CSWR and a research specialist in the field of practice education (practice learning, assessment and suitability) with a focus on struggling or failing students. Her work has been published in the British Journal of Social Work and the European Journal of Social Work in Practice.

Paul Adams, Course Leader of the Youth and Community Work MA, is involved with a number of youth work organisations, including national government working groups. He’s also a trustee of Y Care International - an international relief and development agency working in partnership with YMCAs throughout the world to help them respond better to the needs of the most disadvantaged young people.

Making a difference

UEL is one of the UK’s leading modern research universities. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF), 17 per cent of our overall research submission was classified as ‘world-leading’ for its quality and impact – almost double our previous REF score. A further 45 per cent of our work was considered ‘internationally excellent’.

Muibat Alli

MA Social Work

Social Work at UEL is unique because it draws heavily on psychoanalytic concepts that allow you to understand issues not just on the surface, but also to see beneath the surface.

Entry requirements

Minimum 2.1 Honours in any discipline
Minimum 2:2 (Hons) degree classification and a post graduate qualification or extensive relevant experience may also be considered.
We would normally expect you to have Grade C in GCSE English and maths (See below for accepted equivalences)


(Including European Union)

We accept a range of qualifications from across the world. Please see our country pages for information on specific entry requirements for your country.

  • Applicants are required to complete an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check for Regulated Activity

  • We are required by the Health and Care Professions Council, social work’s statutory regulator, to consider applicants’ potential health needs and the possible impact on fitness to practice. We therefore encourage all applicants to complete a health and wellbeing self-declaration form at the interview relating to health conditions that will affect their practice

  • All entrants must demonstrate their suitability for social work training showing they possess the appropriate personal and intellectual qualities with the capability of meeting the required professional standards by the end of their training.Some experience of working with vulnerable people in a caring role and an understanding of how this relates to social work practice is essential

  • All shortlisted applicants must confirm prior to offer that they have the ability to use basic IT facilities, including word processing, internet use and use of email, and will be asked to specify how these skills have been obtained

  • Direct transfers from other programmes will not be considered
Applicants are required to complete an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check for Regulated Activity
Overall IELTS 7.5 with a minimum of 7.5 in Writing, Speaking, Reading and Listening (or recognised equivalent).
You can speak to a member of our Applicant Enquiries team on +44 (0)20 8223 3333, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. Alternatively, you can visit our Information, Advice and Guidance centre. Please click here for details.

What you'll study

  • Fundamentals of Social Work (core)
  • Social Work Law (core)
  • Human Growth and Development (core)
  • Professional Practice Placement 1 (core)
  • Professional development (core)
  • Dissertation (core)
  • Professional Practice Placement 2 (core)

How you'll be assessed

We use a range of assessment approaches. These include case studies, a formative service user interview, essays, online tests, group presentations, practice placement portfolios and a dissertation.

Course specification

How you'll learn

We offer a wide range of teaching styles, from lectures to seminars, tutorials to workshops.

The child observation and practice placement in Year 1 is supported by a small group reflective seminar. This work discussion continues throughout Year 2 and is an approach to learning from experience that is unique to this course.

Your initial preparation for practice includes five days of shadowing a social worker.

In preparation for practice, we also offer you the exciting opportunity to work with a group of actors from a theatre company in role-play social-work scenarios.

The actors are given a brief and you will interview them or produce a case study. You are given feedback on your performance from a tutor, from someone who has used social work services and from practitioners.

What you'll learn

This full-time two-year course has a distinct theoretical and practical tradition with a focus on developing reflective practitioners.

The theoretical and practical learning are not separate but intertwined. The emphasis is on building a framework of skills and knowledge – communication skills, ethics and values, social policy – within which you can develop your practice.

The Fundamentals of Social Work Practice module is a wide-ranging introduction to theory and practice. This is studied in Year 1 and prepares you for practice.

Once you pass this module, you can move on to the first of two long practice learning placements (for 70 days in Year 1 and 100 days in Year 2). You will also develop your knowledge of social work law via a module where you will begin the process of applying law to practice situations.

You will also study the Human Growth and Development module at the Tavistock. This includes a baby or young child observation, and, to  develop your understanding of the social work role, you will study Social Work Law.

In Year 2 you will undertake your dissertation and study the Professional Development modules, which support your placement learning.

Your future career

We are the principal social work training provider in east London. Choose this course and you will have a head start when it comes to finding a job in social work in the area.

The MA Social Work has been developed in collaboration with local employers so it reflects the priorities and needs of contemporary social work practice in east London. Local employers trust the training given to our graduates and regularly employ them once qualified.

There are good employment opportunities in social work in London, often in children and family contexts but also other service groups and in a variety of settings– voluntary and statutory, for example.

After gaining a professional and academic qualification in social work at postgraduate level, you are required to continue your professional development as part of your professional registration.

This will firstly be through the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment and may also be through further post-qualifying awards in specialist areas of social work at the University of East London and the Tavistock.

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Meet us in your country

Our international team travel overseas regularly to meet prospective students and attend recruitment fairs. Our academics also give regular lectures overseas and are happy to speak to prospective students. In addition, we have a large worldwide network of advisors who can provide guidance and support with applying to study at the University of East London.

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