Course information


2 years full-time

Scholarship information

Funding available

Course overview

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. 

This programme is approved by the Health & Care Professions Council.

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
  • The MA Social Work qualification is accredited, enabling you to register and work as a professional social worker
  • Over 95% of MA social work graduates at Goldsmiths go on to full-time graduate-level work. Our social work programmes are highly regarded by potential employers within London and further afield, and our graduates have an excellent record of securing employment; they've 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
  • We're ranked second in London in the University Subject Tables 2017 league table for social work
  • We are involved in a unique Teaching Partnership with three local authorities. This means that you will be taught in the classroom by practising social workers. Depending on your profile, interest and experience, you are also likely to obtain two social work placements in local authority settings. In 2016/17  96% students completed both their first and second placements in a local authority team ( 65% were provided by South East London Teaching Partnership employers).
  • We'll equip you with the knowledge, values and skills you'll need to practise as a reflective and ethical social worker, equipped for the challenges of contemporary social work practice
  • You'll be encouraged to make links between anti-oppressive practice, the social work values, the legal framework, theories, methods and skills of intervention and social work practice throughout the course
  • You will meet service users and hear about their experiences while studying at Goldsmiths
  • The MA is an academic and professional qualification. It provides a gateway to more specialist therapeutic qualifications and research degree programmes

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'll be taught by established social work academics and associate lecturers who have considerable research and/or practice experience in their fields.

You'll 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'll develop your skills for reflective and evidence-based practice and will be able to further your research mindedness.

Excellence in practice and teaching

Goldsmiths has a long tradition of social work education, and our programmes are internationally regarded as excellent in both practice learning and critical studies. They also have a strong focus on anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive practice. 

We have a lively programme of research taking place in areas as diverse as:

  • the links between child abuse and domestic violence
  • multi-family group work with teenage parents
  • service user perspectives and transnational adoption
  • mental health social workers' use of mental health laws and coercion
  • equality and diversity in social work education
  • the effects of political conflict on social work practice and education
  • reflective professional social work practice
  • evaluative approaches to service provision

Our research informs and underpins our teaching and students are invited to share our interests as well as develop their own through undertaking a small scale research project and developing their research mindedness in a final year extended essay.

Find out more about service user and carer involvement in social work education at Goldsmiths

South East London Teaching Partnership

The Department of Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies at Goldsmiths has recently entered into a formal Teaching Partnership with the Royal Borough of Greenwich, the London Borough of Southwark and the London Borough of Lewisham for the delivery of social work education at Goldsmiths.

We were one of only four early adopter sites across the country to receive government funding to develop and test new and innovative approaches to social work qualifying education, early career training and continuing professional development programmes. As a result, a significant number of social work practitioners, from all levels within these three local authorities, are involved in the MA Social Work programme, delivering or co-delivering lectures, workshops and seminars. This means that there is a very close relationship with practice to ensure that by the end of the programme students are equipped to deliver authoritative, compassionate, social work practice that makes a positive difference to people’s lives.

You will be encouraged to make links between anti-oppressive practice, social work values, the legal framework, theories, methods and skills of intervention and social work practice throughout the course.


The programme  has an intake of around 20-30 students each year. Goldsmiths is committed in its policy and practice to equal treatment of applicants and students irrespective of their race, culture, religion, gender, disability, health, age or sexual orientation. We particularly welcome applications from members of minority groups.

The teaching includes lectures and workshops with the entire student group and small study groups, reflective practice discussion groups and seminars of between 10 and 14 students. A significant proportion of the course takes the form of small study groups and seminars.

The MA is a full-time course. It is not possible to study the course part-time. It is not possible for students to transfer from a social work course at another university onto the second year of the Goldsmiths MA in Social Work course.

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Tom Henri

What you'll 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.

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.

Module title Credits
  Human Growth and Development 30 credits
  Community Needs and Services 30 credits
  Social Work Methods and Skills 30 credits
  Social Work Practice Learning Year 1 30 credits

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.

Module title Credits
  Law and the Organisational Context of Social Work 30 credits
  Research Methods 30 credits
  Social Work Practice Learning 2 90 credits

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:

Find out more about our placements.


Assessment by a range of methods including assignment, essay, critical reflection, presentation, dissertation, placement portfolio, role play, seen exam, report and case study. 

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.

Download the programme specification for the 2018-19 intake. If you would like an earlier version of the programme specification, please contact the Quality Office.

Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.

Entry requirements

To be accepted onto the programme you must: 

  • Have (or expect to be awarded) a first or an upper second-class honours degree or lower second class honours plus a postgraduate degree (such as an MA or MSc) or PGCE or appropriate professional qualification equivalent to a first degree
  • Have a Grade C or above in GCSE English and Mathematics or certified equivalent (eg Level 2 Key or Functional Skills Literacy or Numeracy)
  • Have 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. Please make sure you read our work experience guide for more information about the experience that we accept.
  • Have the understanding and personal, intellectual, and professional qualities to become a social worker and can demonstrate this through relevant social work experience.
  • It is a requirement of entry onto the course that students possess an enhanced check by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). Therefore, any offer of a place will be conditional on a satisfactory DBS enhanced disclosure, which students are required to pay for

You should also be able to demonstrate that you can communicate clearly and accurately in spoken and written English. 

Where required, our Admissions Office will direct you to acceptable equivalency tests for those who do not meet the required grades or levels. 

Please note that, due to the volume of applications we receive, applicants who do not meet the entry requirements will not be considered.

International qualifications

We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.

If English isn’t your first language, you will need an IELTS score of 6.5 with a 6.5 in writing to study this programme. If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

Fees, funding & scholarships

Find out more about tuition fees.

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


NHS Social Work postgraduate bursary

The Department of Social Therapeutic and Community Studies expect to be provided with a number of postgraduate bursaries for MA Social Work students starting their studies in 2017/18.

Students will be nominated by Goldsmiths using the criteria listed below. However, it is important to understand that prospective students will have to meet NHS Business Services Authority (NHS BSA) eligibility criteria to be awarded a bursary.

Goldsmiths nomination criteria

Students will be nominated if they pass all stages of the selection process, indicating they have met entry level of the PCF (Professional Capabilities Framework) outcomes.

We will then rank applicants who have accepted Goldsmiths as their firm choice based on their overall selection score. The bursary nomination list is generally drawn up in March. Therefore, we strongly advise you to apply to the programme through UCAS before 15 January 2017.

For those applicants who apply after the 15 January 2017 UCAS deadline, they must accept an offer to study on the MA Social Work Programme at Goldsmiths by the date the NHSBSA nomination list is completed (usually in early June) in order to be considered for a bursary nomination. Those applying after June will be placed on a ‘waiting list’ for bursary nomination.

Notification of nomination for a NHSBA Social Work postgraduate bursary will be sent out to applicants shortly after universities are informed of their annual allocation. Please note that nomination does not guarantee a bursary.

Goldsmiths bursary nomination list will be sent to NHSBSA, before the course commences with payments being made to eligible students once their enrolment and attendance has been confirmed.

External bursaries

In addition, some of our stakeholder agencies advertise bursaries for students who are going into the second year of an MA and intend to work with children and their families upon qualifying. The exact terms of bursaries differ between local authorities. They usually offer funding for one year and a statutory placement in that local authority.

In return, the student must take up employment with that local authority when he or she qualifies and stay with the local authority for a specified length of time (usually one or two years). Recently bursaries have been offered by, for example, London Borough of Southwark in the South East London area.

They are open to competition and usually require a written application by the student, a reference from the student's tutor, and an interview. When these bursary opportunities become available we circulate details to our students. 

All students are eligible for a fixed contribution towards practice learning opportunity related expenses. 

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

Aziz Foundation Scholarship

This programme is eligible for an Aziz Foundation scholarship. Find out more about how to apply.

How to apply

You apply through UCAS Undergraduate Scheme. 

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

When to apply

This is a popular programme, so we encourage you to apply early, in the autumn/winter of the year before you wish to study. We do not accept deferred entry. 

You may not hear from us regarding the progress of your application for several weeks. Applications received after the UCAS deadline of 15 January may not be considered. 

Making your application

In your application you'll 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 2014 to Oct 2015, 3 hours each week').

You should then expand on this experience in the personal statement section of the form. Please explain clearly: 

  • What role you held
  • How long you held the position for
  • What time commitment was involved 
  • Who the service user group was
  • The name of the organisation you were working for 

For example: 'Volunteer Advocate, April 2012 to September 2014, 3 hours per week, X advocacy service for disabled people'.

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.

Please make sure you read our work experience guide for more information about the experience that we accept. 

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

          Please see our guidance on writing a postgraduate statement

Selection process

If you meet the entry requirements you'll be invited to a selection day where you'll complete a written test, an individual interview, and a group discussion.

There are six stages to the selection of students: 

  1. When your application is received at the Goldsmiths Admissions Office, we will check that you meet the minimum entry requirements and have provided all the required information, including a reference(s). You are also required to provide scanned copies of your qualifications (alongside official translations where original documents are not in English) within 14 days of being requested. If you have not met the entry requirements your application will be rejected at this stage. If you have not provided all the required information your application may also be rejected.
  2. The second stage is a written test at Goldsmiths. The written test is based on a text on a social work-related topic or area of practice. You will be required to reflect on a text in relation to social work. The purpose of the written test is to provide evidence of: your ability to communicate clearly in written English; your commitment to core social work values and your capacity for critical reflection. Your test paper is then assessed and on the basis of this assessment we will decide whether to invite you to progress to the next stage of the assessment process.
  3. The third stage involves a role play, an individual interview and a group discussion.
    You will be informed when you arrive at Goldsmiths for your interview as to what is required from you for the role play.  The individual interview will consist of a reflective critical discussion on your role play performance.  The individual interview is usually led by a panel which may include a member of the social work teaching team, a social work practitioner from one of our stakeholder agencies, and/or a service user from our Service User and Carer Steering Group. The interview will cover a number of areas (your understanding of the social work role, your interpersonal skills and your ability to reflect on your experience, values and motivation for a career in social work) and each of your answers will be rated or scored. The interview will last about 20 minutes.
    For the group exercise you will be given a question on a topic that is relevant to social work and will be asked to discuss this for 20 minutes in a group. The aim of this is to assess your spoken English, your ability to express your own views and to respond appropriately to the expressed views of others, as well as your awareness of your values.

    Where applicants live outside the UK and are unable to attend for selection in person, it may be possible to conduct written tests via the internet and an interview and role play via Skype.
    Following this a decision whether to offer you a place on the course will be made based on your total score from the written test, the role play, individual interview and the group discussion. You will receive a letter from the Admissions Office advising you of the outcome of the interview. If an offer is made the letter will state whether this is a conditional or unconditional offer e.g. conditional on exam results. Please note that there may be a delay before you receive this letter. We are not able to tell you our decision either at the interview or afterwards over the telephone.
    As part of the selection process you will be required to complete of a self-declaration form regarding suitability for practice which encompasses offending, health and work disciplinary history.

    After this happens there are a further three main stages:

  4. It is a requirement of entry onto the course that students possess an enhanced check by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). Therefore, any offer of a place will be conditional on a satisfactory DBS enhanced disclosure, which students are required to pay for (£56 as of September 2015).
  5. It is a requirement of entry onto the course that students possess a satisfactory medical check. Therefore, any offer of a place will be conditional on demonstrating that you are physically and mentally fit to train as a social worker. You will therefore have to complete a health declaration form.
  6. You will need to demonstrate that you have satisfied any conditions of your offer e.g. by providing Admissions with your exam certificate(s), transcript and any other written information Admissions may request. If you have not demonstrated that you have satisfied the condition(s) of your offer by 1 September, your offer of a place on the course may be withdrawn.

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Enhanced Disclosure

Certain types of criminal convictions and cautions may have implications for entry to study Social Work as well as practice placements and subsequent employment. Applicants will be invited to disclose any charges pending, any convictions and cautions and to complete a Declaration of Suitability for Social Work form. If you disclose a criminal record at interview, we will need to consult our stakeholder group on whether you are suitable to join the course. This process is likely to delay our decision on whether to offer you a place on the course by several weeks. 

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.




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.

What our students say


"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."


"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?!"


"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."

See more profiles for this programme

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