distance learning online education dx logo
online education line home 
about us 
contact us 
online degree granting university by distance learning

 About the OU

 Course fees

 Course handbook

 Subject outlines

 University website

Enquire into this online degree now   Enquire Now 

BA (Honours) Social Work (Scotland)

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 (Scotland) is approved by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) and leads to registration as a qualified social worker. To take this degree course, you need to be working in a social care agency in Scotland whether or not you're sponsored by your employer. 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 service user groups and practice areas.

Study Mode

Online Education, Distance Learning & External study modes available

Key facts

Code: Q41 Made up of: 480 credits

Although some modules in this degree are available to all students, the full degree programme is at present restricted to students working in Scotland who are being supported in their practice by their employing agency. Entry has to be made through the employing agency; you cannot apply direct to the OU. Employing agencies and individuals who are interested in taking part in the Programme are invited to contact the Social Work Co-ordinator at The Open University in Scotland on telephone 0131 226 3851.

All candidates for the degree must:

  • have a qualification at the level of Standard Grade Two in English and Maths
  • 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
  • take part in an interview.

They must also register with the SSSC as a student social worker. Registration with the SSSC includes a Disclosure Scotland check.

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 Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) 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 programme aims to equip students as competent social workers by ensuring that they have the relevant knowledge, skills and values in accordance with the QAA Benchmark Statements for degrees in Social Work and National Occupational Standards, the Scottish Standards in Social Work Education (SiSWE), the Scottish Requirements for Social Work Training and the SSSC's Code of Practice for Social Service Workers. The international definition of social work (2001), which has been adopted to underpin the key purpose and occupational standards for social work, describes it as:

a profession which promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being. Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work.

From this key purpose the following six key roles are identified:

  • Key role 1: Prepare for and work with individuals, families, carers, groups and communities to assess their needs and circumstances
  • Key role 2: Plan, carry out, review and evaluate social work practice, with individuals, families, carers, groups, communities and other professionals
  • Key role 3: Assess and manage risk to individuals, families, carers, groups, communities, self and colleagues
  • Key role 4: Demonstrate professional competence in social work practice
  • Key role 5: Manage and be accountable, with supervision and support, for their own social work practice within their organisation
  • Key role 6: Support individuals to represent and manage their needs, views and circumstances.

The programme is designed to equip students to fulfil these key roles as competent, beginner social workers. To achieve this it is structured to promote the integration of theory and practice, and to embed theory and practice within an explicit framework of values and ethics.

The structure of the 480-credit honours degree is built on 240 credits at SCQF levels 7 and 8, and 120 credits at each of levels 9 and 10. At stage 1, students study two key introductory Level 1 modules, one in social sciences and one in health and social care. Stage 2 includes a Foundations for Practice Learning module and one from a choice of four optional modules addressing issues related to different adult service user groups. At stages 3 and 4, students will engage with 60 credits of theoretical, but occupationally relevant material (including a 60 credit law module) and 60 credits of practice embedded learning. The practice learning includes the time spent in practice settings as well as the study time needed to explore and develop this experience and to integrate it with the more theoretically-based learning. The assessment strategies for these two aspects of learning are different, with the practice-learning requiring evidence of personal and professional skills through portfolio development and feedback from practice assessors.

Progression through the degree will be paced. The programme will aim to move the students from a development of awareness and understanding at stages 1 - 2, through a process of application and engagement at stages 2 - 3, to a capacity for critical, reflective and evidence-based practice at stage 4.

The descriptions below account for learning outcomes under discrete headings. It should be borne in mind, however, that the integrative and holistic approach to teaching and learning social work competencies means that the boundaries between knowledge and understanding, cognitive skills, key skills and practical and professional skills are inevitably blurred.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding


  • 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, as well as social, theories of individual and social development, identity and functioning from infancy to old age and death
  • 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 in Scotland 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 and practical dilemmas surrounding justice, care and control in social welfare and community justice
  • the significance of inter-personal and socio-cultural factors in the delivery of effective human services in a diverse society
  • the nature of professional judgement and processes of risk assessment, including an understanding of the 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 (including the SSSC Code of Practice for Social Service Workers), the regulation of professional conduct, practice guidelines and the values underpinning them.

Cognitive skills

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

Key skills

Be able to:

  • communicate effectively with individuals, groups and organisations in a range of formal and informal situations, using an appropriate style and level: face-to-face; over the phone; in writing; or by email
  • use information and communication technology at a level that will enable them to get the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) or its equivalent
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • calculate, analyse figures and interpret data in both statistical and financial contexts
  • present information and arguments verbally, in writing and using electronic communications in a structured form that is logical, coherent and appropriate to the audience
  • manage own learning through identifying of learning needs, objective setting, monitoring progress by critical reflection, identifying strengths, weaknesses and areas to improve, and responding to feedback.

Copyright Open University UK

 Search for a course
 Related courses