Social Work

The Department has been commended for its excellent social work teaching, and provides a lively and active research environment with much on-going research in the field of social work and applied social science.

Staff teaching on the Social Work programmes have research interests within the areas of social work, social policy, disability studies, sociology, criminology and applied social science. Considerable emphasis is placed on linking theory, research, professional practice and service development in research and teaching activities. Find out more about our staff, their publications and research interests. 

Introduction to Postgraduate Social Work

The MA Social Work and PgD Social Work are professional qualifications. Graduates are eligible to apply to register as social workers with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

To apply to register with the HCPC on graduation you must be able to demonstrate that you have reached the Standards of Proficiency it has set for social work. The social work degree programmes at Lancaster University are designed to ensure that on their successful completion students will meet the Standards of Proficiency. In addition, the Knowledge and Skills Statements for Social Work are central to our programmes, as specified by the Department of Education and the Department of Health and students must demonstrate competence against these. 

The professional aims of the MA and PgD social work schemes are to develop students' ability to become social work practitioners, who are prepared to practise critically in order to help individuals, families and groups in need, by giving them insight into the following aspects of social work practice:

  • The need for social workers to practice in a disciplined way
  • Social work as a resource and case management
  • Social work in a team context, both within the agency and across agency boundaries
  • The use of research in changing practice and organisational policy
  • The ambiguities of welfare and the need for honesty and clarity - e.g. about social work as surveillance and control
  • The need for social workers to be aware of social divisions and inequalities, and to incorporate this awareness into their practice

The schemes involve students and staff in an active debate about the nature of social work based on research evidence and professional experience in order to illuminate its various purposes - support, maintenance, protection, control and bringing about change.

Key information about the MA and PgD Social Work, including timelines and entry requirements, can be found in our Courses listing under MA Social Work.

Funding Opportunities - MA Social Work qualifications

  • For social work students ordinarily resident in England, there are bursaries available through the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA). Information, including eligibility criteria can be found on the NHSBSA website, in their regular Bursary Newsletters, and in their 'Ask Us' section.
  • For Postgraduate applicants, we allocate on a first come first served basis, meaning that candidates who accept Lancaster University as their firm choice on UCAS are prioritised and ranked accordingly (in the order of the date the University offer was accepted).

The social work bursary scheme is currently being reviewed and you should regularly check the NHSBA website to keep up to date with any changes that will be in place for your entry year.

Travel costs may be incurred in getting to Social Work placements. The amount will vary depending on the location of the placement but students may be able to claim a placement travel allowance from the NHS or a contribution from the agency offering the placement towards the cost of travel. All Social Work students will need to pay for an enhanced Criminal Record Bureau check. Students also need to consider further costs which may include books, stationery, printing, photocopying, binding and general subsistence on trips and visits. Following graduation it may be necessary to take out subscriptions to professional bodies and to buy business attire for job interviews

Social Work Curriculum

Students undertake a mix of taught courses within the University and two practice placements of at least 170 days within local social work agencies. Courses enable you to monitor your learning and development from entry level to the end of your training through the Professional Capabilities Framework. By the end of the programme you will be expected to have demonstrated the knowledge, skills and values to work with a range of user groups, the ability to undertake a range of tasks at a foundation level and the capacity to work with more complex situations. In addition, you should be able to work more autonomously, whilst recognising that the final decision will still rest with a supervisor and you will know how to seek appropriate support and supervision for your continuing professional development as you embark on your Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE).

Find out more about what placements are like.

The structure of the two years is as follows:

Year 1

  • Michaelmas and Lent terms - full-time study in the University
  • Easter to July/August - 75 days Practice Learning
  • August to September - dissertation study

Year 2

  • Michaelmas term - taught courses and dissertation study
  • January to August - 95 days Practice Learning
  • September year 2 - Exam board

(PgD students do not undertake the dissertation and so will start their second placement in October and their work will be considered by the June Exam Board).


The MA and PgD social work are assessed by coursework, exam and practice. The assessment of practice will be undertaken by accredited practice assessors who will make recommendations to the Examinations Board. Students taking the MA must also complete a dissertation (15,000 words) on social work practice.


The University has a number of stakeholders who advise on the content of the course and who also provide practice placements. Partnership between the University and social work agencies in the north west is nothing new. The degree partnership is founded on a history of co-operation going back to 1975, which has covered student selection, assessment and placements, shared teaching, in-service training, post-qualifying courses, higher degrees and collaborative research. We are confident that the BA programme has strengthened, and will continue to strengthen existing ties and allow the established tradition of high quality social work education at Lancaster to be maintained and developed. All stakeholders in the degree have equal opportunities policies and share a commitment to develop and to implement anti-racist and anti-discriminatory policy and practice. The course team will ensure that such policy and practice are central features of the degree. All students will be expected to demonstrate both their understanding of racism and discrimination and their capacity to apply this understanding to their social work practice.

Further Information

If you have any questions about our social work schemes, please contact us:

Tel: 01524 594098