School of Health Professions

BA (Hons) Social Work

Want to make a rewarding and positive contribution to society? Social workers support children and families through child protection procedures, fostering and adoption and youth justice to name but a few. They also support adults with issues including disability, drug and alcohol dependency, mental health, homelessness and safeguarding. You'll spend over 170 days on real-life placements with adults and children so you graduate ready to start your professional career.

You will get a head start – be eligible to apply to become a registered social worker as soon as you successfully complete the course. You will stand out from the crowd with a degree recognised by Social Work England. You'll gather insights and develop a real understanding of social work through our highly commended approach to integrated learning. you will equip yourself with the skills to be a reflective and ethical practitioner, committed to lifelong learning.

Careers with this subject

Social workers support people experiencing difficult times of change and circumstances, by offering guidance and acting as an advocate for people who are vulnerable. Specialising in supporting children, adults, or adults with a range of issues, they use social care legislation to improve outcomes in people’s lives and safeguard their rights. 
Social workers offer support to a wide range of people. 
  • Safe environment 
    Social workers offer support to provide a safe environment for families to thrive.
  • Adoption 
    Social workers support the adoption process again to create safe and happy environments.
  • Voices are heard 
    Social workers ensure children’s voices are heard and listened to especially if they have disabilities or are vulnerable. 
  • Societal and personal issues 
    Social workers support adults who may be dealing with issues related to homelessness, addiction, and maintaining good mental health. They also help clients to live independently and safely.
  • People’s rights
    Social workers champion people’s rights to ensure they are being respected and valued.
Social workers work with people of all ages, from the very start of life to the end. As a result, some difficulties may be more prevalent in certain age or service user groups than others. Some of the clients you might see include:
  • older people
  • children and families
  • young people who may have been involved in criminal activity, for example county lines
  • people with substance misuse such as drugs and/or alcohol
  • people who are homeless
  • people experiencing poor mental health
  • children and adults with disabilities
  • asylum seekers and refugees
  • people who are offenders and are in the criminal justice system.
Within the social work profession there are a multitude of job opportunities. Social workers work in statutory and non-statutory roles. In a statutory position, you would adhere to laws that exist to protect vulnerable clients. In non-statutory roles, social workers still work with similar client groups but are not specifically responsible for enforcing the law, such as within the charity or specialist sector. For example:
  • Social service departments
  • GP surgeries
  • Hospitals and hospices
  • Children’s homes
  • Prisons
  • Residential and nursing homes
  • Charities and independent agencies
  • Education and academia
  • Research.

Advice from graduate Lucinda Beattie:  

"You have to be committed to studying and your placement, not only as part of the degree, but also as part of the profession. Research ways you can enhance your UCAS application. Employers look for experience, so volunteer, or work in areas such as support or enabling. Use the supportive framework within the University. Your tutors, the practice learning team, and lecturers are all there to support you, but they won’t ‘spoon-feed’ you. You need to be able to embrace ‘self-directed learning’ and a sense of autonomy, but don’t be afraid to ask for help when you really need it."

Key features

  • Get a head start – on successful completion of the course you can apply to become a registered social worker.
  • Stand out from the crowd with a degree recognised by Social Work England.
  • Benefit from the expertise of our network of partner agencies across the social work spectrum, learning from professionals to develop your skills.
  • Enhance your career options – six months after finishing the course, 95% of our graduates are in work or further study (source: 2019 DLHE survey*). 
  • Gather insights and develop a real understanding of social work through our highly commended approach to integrated learning.
  • Build your hands-on knowledge and experience on an excellent variety of placements, working in real-life adult and childcare settings in all three years.
  • Engage with real service users and carers at every stage of your learning, so you graduate primed to put effective strategies to use in the workplace.
  • Learn about the increasing influence of global issues on social work and be inspired by staff who are leading the way in international social work.
  • Develop as a professional – equip yourself with the skills to be a reflective and ethical practitioner, committed to lifelong learning.
  • From 2023, students in Plymouth can train and practice their professional skills in an inspiring purpose-built environment, InterCity Place
  • To complement your formal learning we offer regular PALS sessions that provide the opportunity for you to learn with and from your peers. Share knowledge, discuss ideas, and ask questions in a relaxed and friendly environment. Find out more about the Peer Assisted Learning Scheme (PALS).

Course details

  • Year 1

  • In your first year, your work will cover the foundations of social work. You’ll start developing your professional identity in the complex environment of social work, learning about everything from the values that underpin theory and practice to the importance of self and identity, and the perspectives of users and carers to the connections between local and global issues. You’ll learn through doing, spending a minimum of 30 days in preparation for practice.

    Core modules

    • What is Social Work? (SW401)

      This module introduces students to the complexities of social work and professional practice. Students explore how social work has evolved into its current professional status. Students are introduced to key social work themes, identifying the multi-dimensional and changing contexts in which social work occurs, and the impacts on service user and carer experiences. 

    • Human Development and Wellbeing I (SW402)

      This module provides a multi-dimensional perspective of human growth and wellbeing by considering various theoretical frameworks. It engages with concepts such as grief, trauma and loss, vulnerability, stress, resilience and coping. It explores the human life cycle as well as the impact of variables such as socio-cultural change and intergenerational issues. 

    • Values and Ethics in Practice (SW403)

      Students are introduced to the importance, relevance and impact of values, attitudes and beliefs in social work. They explore key concepts and perspectives underpinning the development of belief systems. The relationship with professional practise, service users, professional regulation and law is considered. Students develop skills in critical self-reflection from a personal and professional viewpoint. 

    • Contexts for Social Work: Organisations, Policy and Law (SW404)

      This module introduces students to key contemporary legislation and policy underpinning social work practice. Students explore the application of law and policy to anti-oppressive practice and the organisation and delivery of social care.

    • Understanding the Social World (SW405)

      This module introduces students to foundational social theory in order to assist them to engage in critical analysis of the person in context. 

    • Developing Professional Skills (SW406)

      This module provides the opportunity to explore and develop skills relating to the social work role. Skills rehearsal in student groups develops communication skills central to social work. Students engage in teaching and learning activities related to social work assessment. They also undertake 30 days’ ‘readiness for direct practice’ to prepare them for practice learning in stages 2 and 3 of the programme. 

  • Year 2

  • In your second year you’ll further your professional development, learning how to apply ethical and theoretical perspectives to human development, understanding social sciences in a social work setting and getting to grips with applying legal and social policy in the context of welfare. You’ll explore issues of diversity and difference, reflect on real-life issues that impact users and carers, and develop your skills in collaborative working. You’ll spend a minimum of 70 days on placement.

    Core modules

    • What is Social Work? II (SW501)

      Students develop their understanding of contemporary social work by exploring critical themes and debates which serve to define notions of professional identity. Building on SCW451 content, students engage with knowledge and perspectives congruent with promoting the transition to a professional identity, incorporating global and national perspectives of social work practices. 

    • Enhancing Professional Skills (SW502)

      This module explores how knowledge is applied in direct work with children and families, adults and groups. Building on Stage One, specialist communication skills and assessment strategies are considered to understand how they can inform decision-making. Anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive principles, methods and models underpinning social work are explored to promote value-based assessment. 

    • Contexts for Social Work: Organisations, Policy and Law II (SW503)

      This module will explore the range of policies and laws that provide the mandate for social work intervention in relation to different service user and carer groups. The module explores organisational contexts and cultures and their relevance to the understanding and application of law and policy in practice 

    • Human Development and Wellbeing II (SW504)

      Building on learning from the Stage One module ‘Human Development and Wellbeing’, this module will enable students to develop their knowledge base to critically analyse and understand the role of social work in promoting human development and the wellbeing of individuals and their families, groups and communities. 

    • Evidence-Informed Social Work Practice with People who are Marginalised (SW505)

      This module focuses on the social processes that combine to marginalise particular social groups and the impacts of this. Students will develop their skills of critically appraising research studies in relation to a marginalised group of their choice. 

    • Integrated Practice I (SW506)

      This module will enable students to develop their professional identity through the integration of theory, methods, skills, knowledge and values within practice. Combining classroom and practice-based learning and opportunities it will provide students with a repertoire of critical knowledge, skills, evidenced based and informed responses and interventions congruent with working with people and situations across a plethora of society 

  • Optional placement year

  • In your third year you can take part in an optional placement year. 

    Core modules

    • Cross Cultural Learning and Development for Social Work (SW507)

      This module provides students with the opportunity to work in an international team to complete a group project with students from other universities across the World or an individual project of their choice agreed with their supervisor. The module will develop students cross cultural understanding, make international network connections and develop valuable skills for future employment.  

  • Final year

  • In your final year, you’ll consolidate your learning, working towards becoming a safe, competent, ethical practitioner who demonstrates sound professional judgement. Learn how to analyse complex issues, and apply your knowledge and skills to resolve them. Gain a critical perspective on complex, uncertain and changing contexts in social work, further your skills working in multi-agency settings and develop your understanding of the international arena. You’ll spend a minimum of 100 days in complex social work settings.

    Core modules

    • Evidence-Informed Interventions in Social Work Practice (SW601)

      The module will identify Evidence-Informed Social Work Practice, as the synthesis of practice wisdom; service user experience; and research evidence. The focus is on Social Workers as consumers of research accessing existing repositories of evidence such as systematic reviews and other research, reported in peer-reviewed journal articles. Students complete systematic literature searches to identify the current available evidence on a specific social work intervention. 

    • Wellbeing: Accountability, Risk and Professional Decision-Making (SW602)

      The module is designed to enable students to develop and apply their knowledge and understanding of professional social work accountability; risk assessment, risk management; and professional decision making in social work with adults, children and families. 

    • Social Work Methods and Approaches (SW603)

      This module focuses on the dynamic nature of social work practice by exploring contemporary and emerging issues. Students will explore how social work adapts to new challenges while staying consistent to the ethics, values and compassion in social work practice. Students will consider how social work theories, methods, approaches and new ways of working are adapted in complex or emerging areas both now and in the future.

    • Social Work Dissertation (SW604)

      This module enables students to build on skills established across the programme. Students will identify an area of social work practice that is pertinent to their current practice or to their professional development. They will identify the rationale for the choice of topic and develop a review of what constitutes Evidence Informed Practice in relation to that topic. They will highlight points of critical appraisal on relevant research studies

    • Integrated Practice II (SW605)

      The module enables students to consolidate their professional identity through integration of theory, methods, skills and values in practice. Teaching and practice learning provide students with a repertoire of evidenced informed responses congruent with complex practice situations. The module seeks to prepare students for the socio-legal and procedural aspects of statutory social work.  

Every undergraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the course aims, the course structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest course structure and may be subject to change:

BA (Hons) Social Work Programme Specification 22-23 7383

The modules shown for this course are those currently being studied by our students, or are proposed new modules. Please note that programme structures and individual modules are subject to amendment from time to time as part of the University’s curriculum enrichment programme and in line with changes in the University’s policies and requirements.

Entry requirements

UCAS tariff

104 - 120

5 GCSE’s grade 4/C or above to include Mathematics and English.
Consideration may be given to Functional Skills Level 2 in Mathematics 
Plus one of the following:
A levels
Typical offer of 104–120 points from a minimum of 3 A Levels or level 3 qualifications – social science preferred. General Studies not accepted.
27–28 points to include 5 at Higher Level. Social Science, Psychology or a Science profile preferred.
All Access courses
Pass Access with 45 credits at level 3, 33 at merit/distinction level to include 15 level 3 credits in science/social science (psychology/sociology/criminology).
T level
Accepted – preference pathways would be Health and Science. Typical offer would be a Merit overall.
DMM-DDM – social science preferred.
BTEC National Diploma modules
If you hold a BTEC qualification it is vital that you provide our Admissions team with details of the exact modules you have studied as part of the BTEC. Without this information we may be unable to process your application quickly and you could experience significant delays in the progress of your application to study with us. Please explicitly state the full list of modules within your qualification at the time of application.
Equivalent qualifications may be considered. Alternatively if you have any questions or concerns about meeting the entry requirements listed above we would encourage you to contact the Admissions Team on +44 1752 585858or email, where a member of the team can offer you further advice.
For a full list of all acceptable qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary

Extended entry requirements

  • In addition to the above, evidence of academic study within the last five years is required.
  • You must pass disclosure and barring service and occupational health checks satisfactorily in order to be able to start this course.
  • If English is not your first language and you do not have GCSE English grade 4/C or above you will have to achieve an IELTS or equivalent qualification at the grades stated below.
  • IELTS – 7.0 overall with a minimum of 6.5 in all elements.
  • Meeting the academic minimum is the first stage of an application being considered. Applicants must also submit a strong personal statement in order to be considered further.
  • English language requirements
  • We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.
Further information
Direct entry to year 2
If you have achieved certificated learning in addition to the entry criteria required for your programme of study, it may be possible to accredit this learning towards your chosen course. Full details on how to make an application are available on our open access Moodle site (download details on how to access the site and submit your claim and supporting evidence). Your application will then be assessed and you will receive confirmation by email on the status of your claim.
Deferred entry
Unfortunately we cannot permit deferred entry. However, if you have a query please refer to an experienced admissions administrator who will be able to explain the UCAS application process in more detail

Fees, costs and funding

Student 2023-2024 2024-2025
Home £9,250 £9,250
International £16,300 £18,100
Part time (Home) £770 £770
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. More information about fees and funding.

Undergraduate Merit Scholarship for international students

Scholarship value: £2000 off your tuition fees in year one. 
To recognise continued academic achievement, you may also receive:
  • 10% off the successive years tuition fee if an overall grade of 60% or above is maintained
  • 20% off the successive years tuition fee if an overall grade of 70% or above is maintained.
To be eligible you must:
  • achieve one grade above your academic offer.
  • meet our standard English Language requirements.
This scholarship will be offered automatically, providing you meet the eligibility criteria. A separate application will not be required.

Additional costs

All students within the School of Health Professions will spend time in placements away from university. The South West is a largely rural region, which often requires students to travel longer and further distances than may be expected when universities are in largely urban areas. In many cases, students will stay away from home for the duration of that placement. Some students on these courses are eligible for reimbursement of additional travel and accommodation costs over normal daily travel costs. This support is part of the Learning Support Fund administered through the NHS Business Services Authority. However, this should be investigated by the student to make sure this applies to their chosen course of study.
It is difficult to give a precise estimate of placement costs for each individual programme, due to the geographical spread of placements, and duration. However it is recommended you attend an Open Day to find out more about what placement costs can be anticipated or discuss placement with a member of our admissions teams.
Despite these costs, placements offer an excellent opportunity to learn from experienced practitioners and are recognised as an essential part of students' development towards becoming a registered practitioner.
Further information
More details of any additional costs associated with the faculty's courses are included in Faculty of Health additional costs

Tuition fees for optional placement years

The fee for all undergraduate students completing any part of their placement year in the UK in 2023/2024 is £1,850.
The fee for all undergraduate students completing their whole placement year outside the UK in 2023/2024 is £1,385.
Learn more about placement year tuition fees

NHS bursaries

You may apply for a bursary which offsets some of the cost of going to university. More information can be found on the NHS Business Services Authority website.

How to apply

All applications for undergraduate courses are made through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service).

UCAS will ask for the information contained in the box at the top of this course page including the UCAS course code and the institution code.

To apply for this course and for more information about submitting an application including application deadline dates, please visit the UCAS website.

The deadline for the receipt of international applications is 31 May 2023 for entry in September 2023.

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email

Making a real difference to people’s lives through social work

Sara Rodrigues Francisco, a second year BA (Hons) Social Work student, explains how her degree is preparing her for a dream career. 
"When I saw the curriculum, I saw a diverse learning opportunity that would allow me to experience a wide range of social work services. In my first year I worked both in children’s services and with adults with learning disabilities."
Sara Rodrigues Francisco, BA (Hons) Social Work 

Creating a positive impact with social work

Student Jonathan Mair talks about his first year studying BA (Hons) Social Work at Plymouth.
"A lot of people have a preconceived idea about what social work is, and I feel the course breaks this down well. The more I learn the more I feel like I am really stepping into the role."
Jonathan Mair - First year BA (Hons) Social Work student (2023)

Greta Cerniauskaite

As a child Greta moved from Lithuania to the UK. The support she was given helped her to integrate and inspired her to study social work

The second year of University provided an eye-opening journey, I would have never expected to gain such a vast range of knowledge and experiences from a degree. My practice placement was at British Red Cross Refugee Services and my degree equipped me with the knowledge to engage with the service users and provide the information or support they required.

To find out more about Greta's experiences you can read her profile

Greta Cerniauskaite – BA (Hons) Social Work student


Could our graduates inspire you?

“When you're working with people in a really vulnerable time of their lives, you feel really privileged that they've let you in and they've trusted you and that is a really rewarding part of the role.”

Enya Richards explains the moment she realised she was becoming a social worker and her most challenging moment so far.

Find out more about Enya's story

Read Enya's article 'Social work's person-centred focus will be key to a sustainable future after the pandemic'. This article first appeared in the May 2020 edition of Professional Social Work magazine published by the British Association of Social Workers.

Alison Smith

Alison graduated from BA (Hons) Social Work in 2014. She decided to pursue her interest in social policy and further education and is now studying MSc Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Southampton.

"The University was very supportive and nurturing and allowed me to leave feeling confident in my ability to perform as a social worker; this had a significant impact on my career aspirations. Further to this, the placements that I went on during my time at Plymouth gave me the experience I needed to take the next steps in my career."

Learn more about Alison's experiences

Alison Smith

Gareth Benjamin

Since graduating in 2013, Gareth has developed an interest in mental health and recently was honoured with winning the Mental Health Social Worker of the Year 2017 Gold Award. Gareth now works as a Social Worker for Livewell Southwest.

“Plymouth prepared me well for the challenges of my career. My final year placement gave me an insight into the work I would be carrying out and the course helped me develop the skills needed to succeed in an environment where you must be creative in finding solutions."

Find out more about Gareth's story

Gareth Benjamin, BA (Hons) Social Work

Professional accreditation

On successful completion of the course, you are eligible to apply for registration with Social Work England


You’ll spend over 170 days on placement during the course. You’ll have the chance to experience what it’s like to work in a variety of settings, these may include community-based projects, fostering teams, a variety of mental health teams and services, drug and alcohol teams, older adults, hospital discharge, children and family work, young adults or working with asylum seekers.

Learning support

Our social work team is committed to providing you with the best possible learning experience during your time on the course. As well as the standard teaching, you’ll have the opportunity to get involved in activities working with wider issues locally and globally – giving you a better understanding of the issues relevant to social workers around the world. Possibilities exist (subject to agreement) for undertaking placements in different countries such as Africa or accessing the Erasmus scheme for a European placement in the year following graduation. 

Personal holidays

In order to successfully complete your course and be eligible to apply for a professional registration you must complete a specified number of practice placement hours along with your theoretical study. Therefore you’ll only be able to take personal holidays during the specified leave periods for your course. This includes induction week where it is vital you attend all sessions.

Undergraduate International Merit Scholarship

This scholarship will be offered automatically, providing you meet the eligibility criteria. A separate application will not be required.

Scholarship value: £2000 off your tuition fees in year one.

To recognise continued academic achievement, you may also receive:

  • 10% off the successive years tuition fee if an overall grade of 60% or above is maintained
  • 20% off the successive years tuition fee if an overall grade of 70% or above is maintained.

To be eligible you must:

  • achieve one grade above your academic offer.
  • meet our standard English Language requirements.

Further information: please email us at:

International students

English Language Centre

We offer a range of courses to help you develop your academic English language skills.
These include pre-sessional academic English courses for undergraduates, taught postgraduates and research students along with insessional language classes, tutorials and activities to support students who have English as a second language.
Plymouth Hoe
BSc (Hons) International Relations with Spanish

International students

Thinking about coming to study in Plymouth? Find the answers to many of your questions here, as well as links to places where you can discover more.
* These are the latest results from the National Student Survey. Please note that the data published on Discover Uni (Unistats) is updated annually in September. The results of the National Student Survey (NSS) and the Graduate Outcomes survey (formally DLHE) are made available to prospective students and their advisors through the Discover Uni (Unistats) website.