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Degree type


Course length

21 months full-time


Durham City

Programme code


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Course details

The Durham MSW Social Work is an intensive course with foundations in research and real-world experience. Throughout the course you will engage with the knowledge, skills and values that underpin social work practice in relation to individuals, groups and communities.

The 21-month course is structured around seven modules. It combines academic training and a work-based research project with two practice placements, totalling 170 days, working with different service user groups. Practice experience of statutory interventions with children and families or ‘vulnerable adults’ is complemented by opportunities for innovative practice in the voluntary and independent sectors in areas such as family justice, homelessness, substance use, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, community interventions and self-advocacy.

The involvement of service users, carers and practice partners is integral to the course. This involvement, coupled with practical experience in multiple social work settings, ensures the MSW provides strong foundations to progress to any field of social work.

Our approach to social work is world leading. You will receive a high-quality education with foundations in research and real-world experience. You will be supported by social work academics, researchers and practitioners who are experts in their field, and who are aligned with our five research themes of 'Communities and Social Justice', 'Health and Social Theory', 'Higher Education and Social Inequalities', 'Criminal Justice, Social Harms and Inequalities' and 'Violence and Abuse'. There will also be plenty of opportunities to further explore the subject through debates with fellow students who join us from a range of career backgrounds and experiences.

As an MSW graduate you will be highly employable, joining our alumni community who shape social work policy and practices locally and globally.

Course structure

Year 1

Core modules:

Social Work in Practice introduces the areas of knowledge, values and skills that form the foundations of social work in practice, giving you an understanding from the perspectives of service users and carers. This module is delivered in parallel with Social Work in Context and is complemented by the Professional and Personal Development module.

Social Work in Context is preparation for your first practice placement. It provides an integrated understanding of theory and research in a number of areas that inform social work interventions: the historical and organisational contexts of social work; physical, psychological, socio-cultural and economic aspects of human growth and development, disability and mental health; social work theory and methods; and partnership working. This module is delivered in parallel with Social Work in Practice and is complemented by the Professional and Personal Development module. 

Professional and Personal Development develops your critical understanding of professional development, reflection and reflexivity, and your skills in both reflective writing and reflective practice. The module also gives you an opportunity to identify your professional and personal development needs; explore the nature of the professional relationship; and to practice a range of professional skills within a classroom environment through practical exercises and case studies.

Social Work Practice 1 provides a 70-day practice-based learning opportunity to demonstrate your social work values, theory, methods and communication skills in practice with one or more service user groups (children, young people and families, people with learning difficulties or mental health problems, disabled people, older people and carers). You will also demonstrate your developing ability (QAA threshold level) to meet the Professional Capabilities framework for Social Work.

Year 2

Core modules:

Research in Social Work is an independent dissertation in a relevant area of social work which develops your critical understanding of, and skills in, the main approaches and methods of social research with particular reference to the use of research in social welfare practice settings. You will collect, analyse and present your findings in a 10,000-word report.

Advanced Social Work enables you to extend your knowledge, understanding and application of social work theory and methods and to achieve the relevant qualifying standards as set out within the Professional Capabilities Framework and Social Work England Professional Standards.

Social Work Practice 2 provides you with a 100-day practice-based learning opportunity to demonstrate: the application of social work values, theory, methods and communications skills in practice. This must be carried out in a different setting and with a different user group from Social Work Practice 1. You will further develop your ability (QAA exemplary level) to demonstrate proficiency across all domains of the Professional Capabilities framework for Social Work.


The MSW Social Work is a full-time course that starts in early October and continues over 21 months. The course does not follow normal university term dates. There are approximately 12 weeks of vacation, including public holidays, during the whole course.

The MSW is structured around seven modules. including two placements. The placements, which normally take place in social work settings in the North East, provide the opportunity to develop a range of skills set out in the Professional Capabilities Framework

In Year 1 the first four months are spent developing the knowledge and skills to prepare you for your first 70-day practice placement. 

In Year 2 you will extend your skills in linking theory, policy and practice. You will also undertake the second practice placement which lasts 100 days. This placement is carried out with a different service user group in a contrasting setting where you will also gain experience of statutory interventions in social work. 

The course culminates in a research dissertation which brings together elements from across the course into a substantial piece of independent research.


Assessment is via a wide range of methods to reflect the breadth and depth of the course. These range from essays, project reports and case studies to observation studies, group and individual presentations. Your knowledge and understanding of social work law and policy is assessed in a take away exercise. 

Prior to the first placement, you will undertake a practical assessment of your communication skills to ensure you are fully prepared for a direct practice environment. The two practice placements are assessed by critically reflective accounts of work with individuals, groups or communities and by your practice educator who provides regular supervision and observes your practice. You are also expected to request, and reflect on, feedback from service users and professional colleagues. 

The MSW Social Work also includes a 10,000-word research in social work dissertation which is carried out under the guidance of a supervisor.

Entry requirements

  • Normally a minimum second class honours degree (2:1)
  • GCSE Mathematics and GCSE English grade 4 (or C) or above, or equivalent, at the time of application
  • Applicants must have sufficient recent experience (in employment, as a volunteer, as a service user or carer) in social care, health care or related voluntary setting to be able to demonstrate an understanding of the capabilities of a social worker as indicated at the entry level of the Professional Capabilities Framework. As a guideline, this period of experience is unlikely to be less than six months
  • Applicants for who English is not your first language will be required to demonstrate evidence of English Language Competence equivalent to IELTS 7 with no element less than 6.5.

You will also be required to:

  • Attend an interview*
  • Demonstrate fitness to undergo social work training.

a. At the interview stage, you are asked to declare any health conditions or disabilities that may affect your ability to undertake a practice placement safely and effectively b. Upon acceptance of a firm offer on the course, you are asked to complete an occupational health screening in line with national guidelines agreed with relevant professional bodiesc. Provide evidence that you do not have a criminal record that might restrict your opportunities to work with children or vulnerable adults. Candidates will be required as a condition of admission to undertake, or provide evidence of, a current DBS check.

*Candidates who are based overseas and cannot attend an interview in person may be interviewed remotely and should contact the admissions office ( if necessary to seek advice.

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £8,500 per year
EU students £22,300 per year
Island students £8,500 per year
International students £22,300 per year

We have a limited number of NHSBSA Social Work Bursaries available to eligible students confirming a place onMaster of Social Work (MSW). Find out how much you may be eligible for as a Social Work student and how to apply:NHSBSA Bursary

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of full time study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities


Teaching and research in sociology develops the skills and knowledge required to carry out further research at a high level.

It also provides an excellent foundation for careers in a wide range of sectors by enhancing skills that are appropriate for the workplace and are highly sought after by employers. These range from interpreting and evaluating information to analysing situations and constructing a persuasive argument.

Previous postgraduates have progressed to stimulating and rewarding roles in health and welfare, local and central government, the Civil Service, the police, the voluntary sector, banking and the media as well as business, with high-profile employers such as M&S, Mencap, Accenture and Unilever.

Department information


The Department of Sociology carries out significant research and teaching that considers the world from a social perspective. We use the knowledge gained from our research into human behaviour to contribute to vital policy and practice that addresses contemporary social challenges.

These ever-present challenges range from social inequality and its implications for social mobility, education and health as well as violence, abuse, and the role of responses from bodies such as governments and agencies.

We offer postgraduate taught masters courses in Sociology, Social Work and Social Research Methods. We also offer masters by research and doctorates by research in the areas of Communities and Social Justice, Higher Education and Inequality, Violence and Abuse, and Health.

Our academic staff have a vast pool of expertise in innovative and socially conscious research in areas ranging from Criminology and Sociology through Social Policy to Social Work and Community and Youth Work.

We are also home to prestigious research centres that are respected for the contribution they make to the field of sociology including the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action and the Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse.

For more information see our department pages.


  • World Top 15 in the QS World University Subject Rankings for Sociology 2023
  • 1st for Criminology in The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2024
  • 3rd for Sociology in The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2024 
  • 8th for Sociology in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • 3rd for Criminology in The Guardian University Guide 2024


For a current list of staff, please see the Department of Sociology pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • We are 4th in the UK for research impact (REF 2021)


The Department is located in the centre of Durham. Our main building is 32 Old Elvet and is within walking distance of the Students’ Union, University Colleges and the city’s castle and cathedral.

The buildings include a student common space, networked computer access and our main teaching and learning offices.

Our University library is one of the best in northern Britain and offers a wide range of books, ebooks and journals that support all of our areas of study. We also make extensive use of Learn Ultra, the University’s virtual learning environment.


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

Visit Us

The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!

Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
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Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
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