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BA (Honours) Social Work (England)

Social workers support and protect some of society's most deprived and vulnerable people. It's immensely challenging and rewarding work, requiring a high level of motivation and commitment. You also need a qualifying degree.

The Open University's BA (Hons) Social Work (England) is approved by the regulatory body and leads to registration as a qualified social worker. To take this degree course, you need to be working in a social care agency and be sponsored by your employer, who will work in partnership with us to support your learning. You'll continue with your employment while you study, earning while you learn.

Studying through work-based and distance learning, you'll develop the knowledge and practical skills that underpin effective practice, and the ability to deal with difficult and sensitive issues while working within a complex professional system. Towards the end of your studies, specialist options will enable you to focus on particular client groups and practice areas.

Study Mode

Online Education, Distance Learning & External study modes available

Key facts

Code: Q32 Made up of: 360 credits

Although some modules in this degree are available to all students, the full degree programme is at present restricted to students who are being sponsored and supported in their practice by their employing agency. Entry has to be made through the employing agency; you cannot apply direct to the OU. Agencies and individuals who are interested in taking part in the degree course are invited initially to contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

All candidates for the degree must:

  • have a minimum qualification at the level of Key Skills 2 (Key Stage 4) in English and Maths (this is normally equivalent to grade C at GCSE)
  • show that they can communicate clearly in spoken and written English
  • demonstrate that they have the appropriate personal and intellectual qualities to be social workers
  • obtain an Enhanced Disclosure from the Criminal Records Bureau
  • take part in an interview.
Fees: Our fees depend on where you are ordinarily resident. We have a range of funding options to help you with payment. When you apply to study we will tell you the fee and funding options that are available to you. Before you apply you can read What you can expect to pay.

Career relevance and employability

An honours degree in social work is now the professional qualification required for all social workers in the UK. Once you've successfully completed the degree course, you'll be entitled to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as a social worker.

The degree will prepare you for practice as you begin your career as a qualified social worker. You'll have gained the skills needed to work with individuals, families, carers, groups, communities and other professionals, and be able to demonstrate to employers your professional competence in social work practice. Employers sponsoring staff on this degree have commented that:

  • OU graduates are enthusiastic social workers who are well equipped to provide high quality interventions with service users
  • a very high percentage of their OU qualified staff remain within their organisation and progress to more senior roles.

There's more information about how OU study can improve your employability in the OU's Employability Statement from our Careers Advisory Service. You can also read or download our publication OU study and your career and look at our subject pages to find out about career opportunities.

Educational aims

The degree aims to equip students as competent beginner social workers. In order to do this your studies will:

  • prepare you for work with individuals families, carers, groups, communities and other professionals
  • instruct you how to plan, carry out, review and evaluate social work practice
  • provide you with the necessary skills needed to support individuals to represent their needs, views and circumstances
  • instruct you on how to manage risk to individuals, families, etc.
  • show you how to manage and be accountable, with supervision and support, for your own social work practice within your organisation
  • enable you to demonstrate professional competence in social work practice.

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes are described in four areas. Within these four areas we emphasise achievable outcomes for students who have chosen a degree in social work and who are learning at a distance and in the workplace.

Knowledge and understanding

When you have completed this degree, you will have knowledge and understanding of:

  • issues and trends in modern public and social policy, and their relationship to contemporary practice and service delivery
  • social processes such as racism, poverty, poor health and other sources of disadvantage, and how these are associated with processes of marginalisation, risks of crime and exclusion
  • competing explanations for the characteristics and circumstances of people who use services and for the range of perceived needs, including psychological and physiological
  • theoretical ideas and evidence from research on effective human services, including critical and competing explanations from social work theory and other relevant disciplines
  • the legal basis of human services and the role of professions, such as social work in relation to such social processes
  • the roles and significant inter-relationships between a range of services, including social services, education, housing, health and criminal justice
  • the complex relationships and ethical/practical dilemmas surrounding justice, care and control in social welfare and community justice
  • the significance of interpersonal and sociocultural factors in the delivery of human services in a diverse society
  • the nature of professional judgement and processes of risk assessment, including an understanding of nature of risk and harm
  • approaches and methods of intervention in a range of family, community-based or group care settings
  • up-to-date legislation defining the rights of people, equal opportunities legislation, measures to tackle discrimination, and the roles of statutory agents, such as social workers, with a duty to uphold the law and protect the public
  • codes of practice, the regulation of professional conduct, practice guidelines and the values underpinning them.

Cognitive skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to:

  • gather information from a wide range of sources, taking account of different views and being able to analyse and evaluate critically
  • consider and evaluate specific factors relevant to practice, such as risk, rights, identity and vulnerability
  • synthesise knowledge from contributing disciplines in order to apply it to an understanding and analysis of the situation and circumstances
  • critically evaluate evidence from research and be able to apply it and to think logically, even under pressure
  • review and evaluate policies, judgements, decisions and interventions designed to be effective in mitigating personal and social disadvantage and risk.

Practical and/or professional skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate the ability to fulfil the National Occupational Standards key roles for social work, at a qualifying level
  • demonstrate an understanding of the ethical basis of social work and the underpinning values of social work practice
  • have knowledge of the theoretical basis of social work and apply this to practice
  • demonstrate an awareness of current research in both theory and practice; to have the ability to critically evaluate research evidence
  • work within the legal framework for practice
  • work in partnership with users and other professionals
  • practice critical self-reflection and engage in professional development.

Key skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to demonstrate the following skills:


You will be able to:

  • communicate effectively with individuals, groups and organisations, in a range of formal and informal situations
  • present information and arguments verbally, in writing and using electronic communications, in a structured form that is logical, coherent and appropriate to the audience
  • gather, select and manage information from a wide range of sources and in a variety of ways, for a range of purposes. These methods should include electronic searches using the internet, use of electronic databases, reviews of written materials and face to face, written and telephone contact with individuals and groups.

Application of number

You will be able to:

  • calculate, analyse figures and interpret data in both statistical and financial contexts.

Infomation technology

You will be able to:

  • use information and communication technology at a level equivalent to the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL)
  • use information and communication technology methods and techniques for a variety of purposes including professional communication, data storage and retrieval, information searching and resource management.

Learning how to learn

You will be able to:

  • critically evaluate information, arguments and assumptions, being aware of different viewpoints, the authority of source, the limitations of techniques and the limit of their knowledge
  • manage your own learning through the identification of learning needs, objective setting, monitoring progress by critical reflection, identifying strengths, weaknesses and areas to improve, and responding to feedback.

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