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BA (Honours) Social Work Studies

If you're already a registered social worker with a Diploma in Social Work (DipSW) or similar qualification, the OU's degree in social work studies enables you to top-up to an honours degree in just two years part-time study.

This degree course will build on your existing skills and knowledge to prepare you for further challenges in your social work practice. It will help you to develop your reflective and evidence-based practice, and the skills needed to critically challenge social work and social care services - taking into account the dynamic social, cultural, spiritual, legal, political and economic factors affecting care delivery.

This qualification is designed for qualified social workers who do not hold a degree - it is not a qualifying award leading to registration as a social worker in the UK. Sponsorship by your employer is not required.

Study Mode

Online Education, Distance Learning & External study modes available

Key facts

Code: Q59 Made up of: 360 credits

You must:

  • have successfully completed a professional qualification in social work at a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI) that has led to registration as a social worker
  • provide evidence of your qualification in social work and your current registration with the General Social Care Council, Northern Ireland Social Care Council, Scottish Social Services Council or Care Council for Wales.
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

You may already be employed in a social work or social care setting as a qualified social worker (with, for example, a Diploma in Social Work) but without a degree. Or you may have recently taken a career break, and provided you've retained your registration, this degree could help you re-establish your credentials and show your willingness to engage with studies relevant to modern social work practice.

Completing an honours degree course in a relevant discipline can enhance your employability skills and future career prospects by clearly demonstrating your commitment to the post-qualifying learning requirements for ongoing registration. This degree is designed to help you develop a sound and critical understanding of policy, theory and practice in health and social care. It will provide you with an opportunity to engage with the challenges facing professionals, service users and policy makers in the UK today.

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 educational aims of this qualification are to increase widening participation in higher education for qualified social workers who have an existing diploma in higher education or equivalent but wish to 'top-up' to honours degree level. By completing 120 credits of higher education at Level 3 these workers and students will develop and demonstrate their critical reflection and analytical abilities through academic writing and potential application in their work and practice environments.

This degree is designed to enable you to develop a sound and critical understanding of policy, theory and practice in health and social care. It will provide you with an opportunity to engage with the challenges facing professionals, service users and policy makers in the UK today. Studying for this degree will enable you to develop:

  • your knowledge and understanding of the historical and contemporary contexts in which health and social care takes place
  • a sound and critical understanding of key theoretical concepts and debates that underpin health and social care provision, including the legal, ethical and value base of care
  • your awareness of the diversity of needs and practices of different client groups
  • the knowledge, skills and understanding to enable you to work across boundaries, promoting professional and service-user relationships and inter-professional collaboration
  • the skills required for assessing current practice, for influencing and empowering others and bringing about change
  • the skills to use ICT routinely to support your learning and achieve the aims of the degree and engage in evidence-based practice.

Learning outcomes

This degree provides opportunities for you to develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding, qualities, skills and other attributes in the following areas:

Knowledge and understanding


  • the development of health and social care in the UK from the twentieth century and the contemporary context in which care takes place
  • the theories and concepts that underpin and challenge practice and professionalism in health and social care
  • the legal and ethical framework within which care takes place
  • research methods in health and social care and their application to practice
  • the diversity of values in the context of health and social care including the experience of care from a service user's perspective
  • the social processes associated with the promotion of health and well-being and the creation of inequalities.

Cognitive skills

Be able to:

  • analyse situations from a range of perspectives and evaluate the appropriateness of different interventions or approaches
  • apply concepts and theories to inform and critique practice situations
  • critically evaluate evidence from research and its application to practice
  • make use of a range of sources of information and use them to sustain an argument or develop new insights into practice.

Practical and/or professional skills

Be able to:

  • observe, describe and record accurately and assess evidence and make informed decisions
  • demonstrate a critical understanding of the ethical, cultural, political and social dilemmas of practice
  • critically evaluate approaches to service provision and use strategies for improving practice, contributing to the development of quality services
  • practice critical self-reflection and examine and reflect on effective practice, both direct and indirect, with a range of service users and in a variety of settings
  • analyse the factors and processes that facilitate effective interdisciplinary, inter-professional and inter-agency collaboration and partnership
  • demonstrate sensitivity to the diversity of values and interests of others.

Key skills

Be able to:

  • communicate effectively for the intended audience and purpose in an appropriate style and level using different media
  • read, select and manipulate information from a range of resources including electronic sources
  • identify, understand and compare different lines of reasoning, recognising authority of source, possible bias, opinion and perspective
  • write assignments, structuring the material to present a logical and coherent argument
  • use numbers within a health and social care context and interpret statistical data
  • manage own learning through the identification of learning needs; objective setting; monitoring progress by critical reflection; identifying strengths and weaknesses and areas to improve; and responding to feedback.

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