MA in Social Work

Drawing on current research across the social sciences, government guidance, and legislative frameworks, this degree focuses on the issues that are key in facilitating your professional and academic development as a social worker. 

Find out more about applying.

You apply through UCAS

Our institution code is G56 and our institution name is GOLD. The course code is L508.

2 years full-time.
If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline. Find out more about funding opportunities for home/EU applicants, or funding for international applicants.

NHS Business Services Authority (go to their Social Work Bursaries page)

We recommend that you investigate funding prior to applying to ensure that you do not miss any deadlines for funding applications.

See our tuition fees.
Contact the department
Contact Admissions Tutor
Visit us
Find out about how you can visit Goldsmiths at one of our open days or come on a campus tour.

Why study MA Social Work at Goldsmiths?

  • This masters programme is ideal if you are a graduate, with relevant experience interested in pursuing a professional career in social work
  • It prepares you according to the Health and Care Professions Council Standards of Proficiency – Social Workers in England and the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF), the Quality Assurance Agency subject benchmark for social work, and the Department of Health's requirements for social work training
  • Social work education at Goldsmiths has a long and distinguished record – we house one of the most respected social work units in the UK, and you will be taught by established social work academics and associate lecturers who have considerable research and/or practice experience in their fields
  • You will cover areas of human growth and development; community; needs and services; law and organisational contexts of social work; and research methods. Specific learning will include mental health and disability, and social work processes of assessment, planning, intervention and review
  • The Masters includes practice placements in two settings and with different service user groups, so you'll be able to gain invaluable real world experience
  • We'll encourage you to think deeply about human rights and social justice, and to embed these values in your practice
  • You will develop your skills for reflective and evidence-based practice and will be able to further your research mindedness
  • Our graduates have gone on to work in local authority children's services departments, adult services departments, and independent sector and voluntary sector agencies such as the NSPCC, Family Action and Mind, and a recent graduate was named Newly Qualified Social Worker of the Year 2013

Find out about Service User and Carer Involvement in social work education at Goldsmiths

What you study

Successful applicants on the MA in Social Work commit to studying on a full-time taught course over two years. On successful completion you will receive a MA in Social Work which is the professional entry qualification to be a social worker and it enables you to apply for registration as a social worker with the Health and Care Professions Council.

The curriculum aims to provide you with the value, knowledge and skill base for practice and is organised around study units, workshops, lectures/seminar modules, projects and private study. The teaching and learning opportunities centre on the key areas of the social sciences and their application to Social Work practice, as well developing your intellectual capacity, and the skills necessary to get you ready for practice. There is an expectation that you attend at least 85% of all aspects of the programme. 

The structured learning includes specific learning in:

  • human growth and development, mental health and disability
  • social work theories and methods; assessment, planning, intervention and review
  • communication skills with children, adults and those with particular communication needs
  • law, and partnership working across professional disciplines and agencies
  • social science research methods, including ethical issues

Practice is central to the programme, and there will be practice placements in two settings and with different service user groups (eg child care and mental health). The learning on the programme builds over the two years and prepares you to apply your knowledge to practice situations. We work closely with a range of practice organisations in the Greater London Area. The placements are allocated by our placement tutor and matched with individual profiles. In some instances you may have to travel long distances to your placement organisation. You will need to cover the cost of travel to your placement. You will be expected to work the core hours.

At Goldsmiths we recognise:

  • the unique contribution that all students bring as individuals to the programme in terms of their personal qualities and life experiences
  • that professional training builds on the uniqueness of each individual by facilitating the student’s exploration of the values, knowledge base and skills of Social Work practice
  • that it is the student’s responsibility not only to develop a technical acquaintance with the framework of Social Work practice but also to demonstrate competence through its application in practice
  • that Social Workers are at the interface of society’s attempts to promote welfare

Social workers have a dual responsibility to act within the state’s welfare framework and also to recognise the pervasive influence of oppression and discrimination at an individual and a structural level in most of the situations in which they work. We will prepare you for this professional responsibility.


Video: Click to play

Watch the video above for an overview of studying Social Work at Goldsmiths

Applying and entrance requirements

You apply through UCAS. Our institution code is G56 and our institution name is GOLD. The course code is L508.

Selection process

This is a very popular programme. Selection is on the basis of:  

  • a written application form (via UCAS)
  • a written test
  • an individual interview
  • a group interview

Service users and social work practitioners participate in the selection of social work students alongside academic staff.

Please read the following important information before applying:

Making your application

On your application form you need to tell us about your academic qualifications and your work experience.

It is vitally important that you enter full details of your social work-related work experience (both paid and voluntary) in the 'Employment' section of the UCAS form. Please include the name of the organisation you worked for, the exact length of your experience, and how many hours per week you worked (eg 'March 2013 to Oct 2014, 3 hours each week'). 

You should then expand on this experience in the personal statement section of the form. Please explain the role you held, and who the service user group was (eg 'Volunteer Advocate, Advocacy Service for people with a disability'). If you don't provide this information your application won't be considered. It's also important that you explain what you've learned from your work experience, and how this has contributed to your understanding of social work roles and tasks. You should also reflect on what you've learned about yourself and the service user group(s) that you have worked with. Please make sure your personal statement is well written and demonstrates your academic ability. 

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have: 

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments
  • Electronic copies of your educational transcripts (including official translations where original documents are not in English) – you need to provide these within 14 days of being requested
  • The email address and details of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference
  • A personal statement


Find out about the Goldsmiths scholarships and bursaries that are available to prospective postgraduate students. 

There are a limited number of NHS social work bursaries for the second and third year of the course available to ‘home’ students (students ordinarily resident in England). Students must be nominated by Goldsmiths. We nominate students based on your performance in the admission process, as well as other eligibility criteria. The bursary includes a basic grant and tuition fees if you are not subject to variable fees. Financial awards are dependent on individual circumstances. All students are eligible for a fixed contribution towards expenses related to the practice learning opportunities.

We strongly recommend that you investigate funding prior to applying to ensure that you can finance your first year and that you do not miss any deadlines for funding applications. For further information please go to NHS Business Services Authority's Social Work Bursaries page.

Entrance requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least upper second class standard in a relevant/related subject from a UK Higher Education Institution.

Find out more about our general entrance requirements and the specific entrance requirements for our postgraduate social work programmes   

You should also have:

  • Grade C or above in GCSE English and Mathematics or certified equivalent (eg Level 2 Key or Functional Skills Literacy or Numeracy)
  • A minimum of 12 months' full-time (or part-time equivalent) relevant voluntary or paid work experience (normally within the last two years), of which a minimum of 6 months' full-time experience must have been gained by the time of application and a further 6 months' full-time experience by the start of the degree (see MA Social Work Work Experience Requirements)
  • If your first language isn't English, you need to be able to demonstrate that you have achieved an IELTS of 7.0; please check our English language requirements for more information

If you hold a degree from an overseas institution, you must be able to demonstrate the equivalency of that degree to British standards.

Fitness to Train

Applicants to social work programmes are asked to disclose any criminal record, disciplinary record, significant periods of time off work and significant health problems in writing after interview. If we wish to make an applicant an offer of a place on the course, an anonymised version of the applicant’s written disclosure will be reviewed by a panel which considers the applicant’s suitability for social work training. This process is additional to normal ‘fitness to train’ processes.

Find out more about applying 

Contact us 

Get in touch via our online form


+44 (0)20 7919 7766

International (non-EU)

+44 (0)20 7919 7702

Staff in the Department of Social Work

Dr Claudia Bernard
Gender-based violence and how narratives of racism and gender oppression affect the way trauma ensuing from familial maltreatment is experienced, understood and named. Dr Bernard also leads a research group that is exploring diversity and progression of social work students in England.

Professor Jim Campbell
Mental health social work, mental health social work and law, social work and political conflict.

Anna Fairtlough
Diversity and progression in social work training; evaluation of training for work with parents initiatives; lesbian and gay parenting; parenting and domestic violence and practice education.

Joan Fletcher
Relationship-based social work and therapeutic epiphanies; diversity and progression in social work training and multi-generational, multi-family group work with teenage mothers.

Dr Perlita Harris
User views and experiences, particularly black perspectives; looked-after children; adoption, adoption support, transracial and transnational adoption. Dr Harris has also been working on a DfES-funded study, ‘Pathways to Permanence for Children of Black, Asian and Mixed Parentage: Dilemmas, Decision-Making and Outcomes.

Modules and structure

In line with the Social Work Reform Board recommendations and the College of Social Work's curriculum guides, the MA in Social Work is being reconfigured. This may result in some changes to the content and assessments given below.


The programme is assessed by a range of methods including essays, assessed role plays, take home papers, project work, a practice based case study, a final year dissertation, and the production of a practice portfolio for each placement.

Assessment of practice is by reports by your Practice Educator. This includes direct observation of your work with service users as well as your practice portfolio, and a narrative giving an evaluation of your work. 

Professional standards

Social work is a regulated profession. From 1 August 2012, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) took on the regulation of social workers and the regulation of the performance of social work courses. This means that social work students will need to adhere to the standards set out in the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) Guidance on conduct and ethics for students (HCPC 2009), and work towards meeting the HCPC Standards of Proficiency - Social workers in England (HCPC 2012). These are the standards social work students are expected to demonstrate at the end of their last placement/ qualifying level. In addition, you will be expected to adhere to the standards of practice for social workers set out in the Professional Capabilities Framework by the College of Social Work (2012). The Professional Capabilities Framework describes the capabilities required of social workers at all stages of their career. 

Year 1 

In year 1 you are introduced to social work as a professional activity and an academic discipline. You consider key concepts such as the nature of need, community, social work services, and the significance of the service user perspective.

You are also provided with an introduction to: life-span development, assessment in social work and  a range of social work intervention approaches. Your assessed practice consists of 70 days spent as a social worker; this gives you the chance to develop your communication and social work practice skills with service users, and to work in partnership across professional disciplines and agencies.

Year 1 Human Growth and Development tbc

This module-unit addresses issues of life-span development focusing on child development, adolescence and work with older people. It includes the study of key theories and approaches to human growth and development as well as considering
discrimination and oppression.

You observe a child under the age of five in a home or group care setting for one hour a week for ten weeks. The observations are accompanied by a weekly seminar in which you and your fellow students take it in turns to present a detailed written narrative of an observation and discuss the issues generated.

Assessment: portfolio, including two 1,250-1,500-word records from a minimum of six of your Infant Child Observations.

Year 1 Community Needs and Services tbc

This module-unit considers a range of key concepts such as the nature of need, community, Social Work services and the significance of the service user perspective. You are expected to develop a basic understanding of the contested nature of the concepts and the difficulties associated with their application in policy and practice through a combination of formal teaching and a small-scale research project. This module-unit also introduces key methods and debates in research within the social sciences in general and Social Work in particular.

Assessment: 3,00-4,000-word assignment.

Year 1 Social Work Methods and Skills 1 tbc

The Social Work Methods and Skills  module-unit addresses the skills and methods of intervention that Social Workers use in practice, and incorporates a general introduction to Social Work Skills and Methods with a focus on assessment. It comprises of a series of workshops on particular theoretical approaches to practice and study units focusing on assessment.

Assessment: 4,000-word Case Study

Year 1 Social Work Practice Learning Year 1 tbc

This module-unit aims to enable you to practice as a Social Worker at an intermediate level within a multi-professional context and to meet the professional requirements for Social Work training. It consists of 8 days practice under the guidance of a practice assessor. All practice learning opportunities offer the possibility for you to develop your communication and Social Work practice
skills with service users and to work in partnership across professional disciplines and agencies. The placement offers opportunities to apply learning, including reading, from all the module-units in this year.

Assessment: portfolio of evidence to show you have met the practice standards at the required level.

Year 2

Year 2 provides you with an overview of the legal and organisational context of social work, and extends your knowledge and skills in one of the two main specialist areas of social work practice: working with children and families, or working with adults in need. You will work in small groups to explore methods of intervention, research and theories which are relevant to a particular area of social work, while another assessed practice element enables you to meet the professional requirements for social work training via 100 days of practice under the guidance of a practice assessor. 

You are expected to demonstrate competence across a range of standards and this is formally assessed. The learning on the MA Social Work programme builds over the two years and prepares you to apply that knowledge to practice situations.

Year 2 Law and the Organisational Context of Social Work tbc

This module-unit aims to provide you with a critical understanding of the welfare and legal context of Social Work and its nature and scope within your own chosen area of practice, whilst exploring the impact of the law and policy frameworks in Social Work on service users. You explore the tensions between statute policy and practice in Social Work and investigate the complex relationship
between organisational, legal and professional perspectives. The module-unit also provides you with an understanding of the law in relation to discrimination, and the application of the law within the context of anti-discriminatory practice.

Assessment: seen paper, for which you write a 4,000-word answer over a period of three weeks. The paper is not written under normal supervised examination conditions.

Year 2 Social Work Methods and Skills 2 tbc

The Social Work Methods and Skills module-unit looks at skills and methods as applied to a particular area of practice, working with adults or children and families. The module-unit focuses on the following areas: inter-disciplinary and inter-agency working; planning, intervention and review; the nature of risk within social care.

Assessment: 5,500-word Practice Placement Case Study.

Year 2 Research Methods tbc

The Research Methods module-unit builds on the introduction to research in the Community Needs and Services module-unit. You consider in greater depth a range of research methods within the social sciences, including ethical and theoretical issues. You then apply these methods through your own research within one area of relevance to Social Work. This is supported through workshops and individual dissertation supervision. You are expected to demonstrate knowledge at the cutting edge of current Social Work developments in their chosen area.

Assessment: 12,000-word Dissertation.

Year 2 Social Work Practice Learning Year 2 tbc

This module-unit aims to enable you to practice as a Social Worker at newly qualified Social Worker level within a multi-professional context, and to meet the professional requirements for Social Work training. It consists of 115 days practice under the guidance of a practice assessor. All practice learning opportunities offer the possibility for you to develop your communication and Social Work practice skills with service users and to work in partnership across professional disciplines and agencies. The Year 2 practice learning offers opportunities for you to work in a different setting and with a different service user group to the practice learning undertaken in Year 1. You undertake statutory Social Work tasks involving legal interventions. The placement offers opportunities to apply learning, including reading, from all the module-units in Year 1 and Year 2.

Assessment: portfolio of evidence to show you have met the practice standards at the required level

Practice placements 

You are required to spend 170 days in practice settings.

In Year 1 there is a practice placement lasting 70 days and in Year 2 the practice placement lasts 100 days. These placements are arranged through the allocation system devised by the College. The practice placements will be supported by 30 days for the development of practice skills.

You have an identified Practice Educator for each of the two practice placements. Most of our placements are located in South East London, so if you live elsewhere you will need to travel.

We have partnership agreements with the following organisations for placements in social work:

  • London Borough of Brent – Childrens Services
  • London Borough of Brent – Adults Services
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – Adults Services
  • London Borough of Lambeth – Childrens Services
  • London Borough of Southwark – Childrens Services
  • London Borough of Southwark – Adults Services
  • London Borough of Lewisham – Childrens Services
  • London Borough of Lewisham – Adults Services
  • London Borough of Croydon – Adults Services
  • Royal Borough of Greenwich – Childrens Services
  • Royal Borough of Greenwich – Adults Services
  • London Borough of Bromley – Childrens Services
  • London Borough of Bromley – Adults Services
  • NSPCC (London Region)

We also work with about 20-30 voluntary/private social care agencies each year. Here are some that we've worked with recently:


Use the following link for further information on our placements

Programme specification

To find out more about this degree, including details about the ways you'll be assessed and information about our marking criteria, you can download the programme specification.

Graduate Profile

Jennifer, voted Newly Qualified Social Worker of the Year at the Social Worker of the Year Awards 2013

MA in Social Work, graduated 2012

Jennifer works for Southwark Council, as a member of the looked-after children team. She was described by the judges of the Social Worker of the Year Awards as "inspiring" for making a meaningful impact on the lives of the children and families she works with.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in social work?
I’m the eldest of three, and I suppose I always bossed my brother and sister around! I thought I might go into teaching, but after my first degree (in Psychology and Criminology) I started to think more about how we can structurally support vulnerable people. 

Aged 21, I started working in a children’s home for 15-16 year olds, and that was the turning point. Kids would turn up in handcuffs, no one came to see them, some didn't even know where they were born, or what their middle names were. We’d send out travel warrants to their families, and they’d just sell them.

After a while, I felt I was in it too late in the process – I wanted to stop people ending up in the same position as the children I was working with. I moved to London to work at the Children And Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS), specialising in family group conferencing. It was a really interesting role – going back to family mediations, and trying to get an organisation to work in a different way.

Why did you decide to come to Goldsmiths?
To leave full-time employment and be a student again was a big decision. It was hard to leave CAFCASS behind, but I’d become so specialised that I felt like I needed to get a more universal qualification.

Goldsmiths has a great reputation. The qualified social workers I worked with at CAFCASS had a very strong opinion about which universities and which local authorities to then go on and work with. And that certainly swayed it. And of course when I got offered a place, I really wanted to come here. I lived one minute away from one of the universities I'd applied to, but I travelled across London to be here – that’s dedication for you! 

What did the MA in Social Work add to your skillset?
When you work with children and families, you think you know a certain amount, but you need that experience. I enjoy the academic side of things, and the opportunity to do a dissertation on something really useful was great. Some people think you don’t use theory very much in practice, but it goes through everything we do. In my statements now I always use evidence, and looking through other people’s, they don’t – and as we move to an evidence base we should be doing that as matter of course. The programme definitely gave me that theoretical foundation that still influences my work today

The group work was incredibly useful too. Today at work I had four meetings, and the smallest of those was with seven people. That is the reality of this line of work. There is one-to-one work, but a lot happens within a network, and working with people in this way is crucial.

You mentioned your dissertation was a particular highlight – what topic did you choose?
Well, I was fortunate in that I was able to use a data set from Southwark relating to adoption and special guardianship orders. A data set that now forms part of a grid of information we can use in statements – which now includes findings from my dissertation! It was great to do something that mattered. 

What's your job like?
As a qualified social worker in Southwark, in the looked-after children team, I'm involved in care proceedings, adoption, children in long-term foster care, and protection plans in community. I'd done my Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) in Southwark. I had quite a full caseload by the end of the year, so it felt quite real. And after I’d finished my dissertation and had a summer break, I went back into the same team, with the same manager, but this time it was my job and not a just a placement. So, day one after qualifying I was working with four of the children I’d been with for the past six months – which worked really well for both me, and the children.


"I’ve never regretted my decision to choose Goldsmiths."

I had heard from qualified social workers that Goldsmiths had a good reputation in delivering social work training and this persuaded me that I should apply. I attended the open day and this gave me a real insight into what it would be like studying at Goldsmiths and also how competitive the application process was! Fortunately, I made it and I’ve never regretted my decision to choose Goldsmiths above other institutions.


"Along with the academic knowledge, the course provided me with opportunities to see social work in practice in very different settings"

Prior to applying to the course, I had worked in an adults day centre for adults with learning disabilities and I also volunteered as a mentor for young people. I was interested in social work and I applied for the MA in Social Work course at Goldsmiths. The two year course offered at Goldsmiths provided me with background knowledge in a wide range of subjects including law, psychology, linking practice to current research findings and ethical considerations.

Along with the academic knowledge, the two practice placements provided me with opportunities to see social work in practice in very different settings, one in the voluntary sector and the other in a local authority statutory team. This direct experience has improved my confidence in working with other professionals and service users, to undertake assessments, to apply and manage principles of risk and to acquire guidance from social work practitioners.

Completing my own research was challenging but also taught me determination and persistence. My dissertation tutor supported me through the process tremendously, encouraging me to 'find my own voice'. This piece of advice continues to help me daily now in practice.

I am currently employed full time as a social worker in a local authority statutory setting. The role is challenging but also rewarding. The course permitted me to understand the values and ethics of working as a social worker in a world of limited resources, and to uphold these values when working with vulnerable people in need.


MA in Social Work, graduated 2013

"My MA has given me the chance to join an amazing profession as well as meet, laugh and learn with a great bunch of people – who could ask for more?!"

I had been working in various volunteering and paid roles in Adult Social Care – including mental health, homelessness and community engagement – for nearly a decade. Increasingly, however, I found that (unless I wanted to become a manager) any chance of career development and progression was limited. I had worked alongside a lot of social workers and increasingly thought “yeah, I could do that”, so decided to give it a go. 

Through talking to social workers, as well as doing a bit of my own research, I found out that Goldsmiths was really well respected within the profession.  Once I'd applied, I was impressed with the friendly staff, small intake group and rigorous (but daunting!) process I had to go through to obtain my place.  The whole application process gave me an opportunity to reflect on why I wanted to work in the profession so, by the time I began the MA, I felt very personally committed not just to the course but to the wider values which social work strives to uphold and promote. 

I can honestly say completing my MA has been one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences of my life. I felt I hadn't got as much out of my first degree as I could have, and having been out of education for a while I was nervous about how I would cope with the academic side of the course.  As it turns out, I loved it! Being taught by passionate and knowledgeable lecturers helped me to recognise skills and interests that I never knew I had.  

The course is designed to give you the most opportunity to discuss, debate and learn theory and practice – not just from lecturers and practitioners but, perhaps most importantly, from your course mates. Having the chance to meet such a wide range of people, from such a range of backgrounds was, hands down, one of the best things about the course. Being able to laugh and have fun along the way was awesome and certainly the support of course friends was invaluable throughout the two practice placements. It's great to have the chance to work in different social work settings, but it can feel very alien at first: being able to check I wasn't the only one trying to find my feet was really reassuring. The placements are an essential part of developing, not just as a social worker, but as a person within really demanding and challenging environments. Social work isn't an easy option but it's certainly an interesting one.

My final placement was within palliative care, and I was lucky enough to be offered a unique chance to complete my first year of practice in the same team. This wouldn't have happened without the commitment of the placement coordinator securing such a great placement as well as their continued support, along with that of my personal tutor, in offering advice about what the requirements of the ASYE (assessed and supported year in employment) would be, and how this could be put in place. My MA has given me the chance to join an amazing profession as well as meet, laugh and learn with a great bunch of people – who could ask for more?!


"The deservedly strong reputation that Goldsmiths has amongst social work employers definitely helped me secure two job offers post qualification."

Prior to studying at Goldsmiths I had worked as a journalist before working in secondary education for three years. I didn’t want to go anywhere other than Goldsmiths to pursue my MA in Social Work. The Social Work department at Goldsmiths has an excellent reputation amongst social work professionals and reflects the innovative approach of the college as a whole.

Whilst at Goldsmiths I formed valuable and long-lasting friendships with fellow course-mates and as a year group we supported each other throughout the course. This was made easier by the fact that the year groups at Goldsmiths are relatively small which provides the opportunity to get to know everyone on the course. The high quality of practice placements at Goldsmiths is also something I look back on with gratitude and helped prepare me for social work post-qualification. The academic side of the course was highly stimulating and varied and tutors supported us to make links between theory and practice.

The deservedly strong reputation that Goldsmiths has amongst social work employers definitely helped me secure two job offers post qualification. Whilst at Goldsmiths I learned to develop skills around reflective practice which has definitely aided my social work development along with a critical understanding of anti-discriminatory practice. I'm now working as a Social Worker in a statutory mental health team in Southwark.

Skills and Careers


You'll develop the ability to practise social work in a wide variety of settings with different service user groups.


The programme will enable you to register and practise as a qualified social worker.

Content last modified: 02 Sep 2014

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