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Social Work (MA)

This programme allows you to build upon academic and occupational experience and achieve a professional qualification in social work. You will benefit from strong tutorial support, teaching informed by research and practice, and access to a range of placement opportunities in specialist fields.

This is a two-year full-time programme leading to an MA and a professional qualification in social work.

Situated within the broader environment of social sciences, this programme provides a theoretical and critical approach to the acquisition and appreciation of knowledge about social work practice and its context. Principles of human rights are core.

Distinctive features

  • Our teaching staff have current practice and research backgrounds that keep them up to date with developments in the field.
  • A range of placement opportunities in specialist fields are provided.
  • Bursaries may be available from the Social Care Wales (or other UK equivalent councils).
  • The programme continues to meet the Social Care Wales’ requirements with no conditions according to yearly reviews.
  • There are opportunities to take part in student exchange (ERASMUS) and carry out some study abroad (currently Finland, Lithuania, Austria or Germany).
  • Users of social services are central to the management and delivery of the Programme.

Key facts

Next intakeSeptember 2020
Duration2 years
AccreditationsSocial Care Wales
Social Care Wales

Admissions criteria

The closing data for applications is 15 January 2020. Applications after the closing date may be considered on a discretionary basis.  

Applications should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) - institute code C15, course code L508. Applications made via Cardiff University’s own admissions system will not be considered.

Essential criteria for this programme includes: 

1.       Level 2 (or higher) in maths/application of number skills (e.g. GCSE grades A*-C/9-4 or equivalent) 

2.       Level 2 (or higher) in English and/or Welsh language or Communication (e.g. GCSE grades A*-C/9-4 or equivalent). Where relevant, international applicants whose first language is not English are also required to obtain a minimum overall IELTS score of 7.0 with at least 6.5 in all sub-sections. An equivalency in another English Language qualification may be accepted. Applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) requirements.

3.       An undergraduate degree at 2:2 (or higher). Please note, candidates without a degree but who have three or more years' relevant experience (preferably within the last five years) and can demonstrate their ability to study at final year undergraduate level (i.e. level 6) may be considered. In these instances, applicants will be asked to undertake a written task to validate their suitability for study at this level. 

4.       Practice experience – you must have minimum of 455 hours of practice experience in a social care setting at the time of application. This is the roughly equivalent of three to four-months full-time work. Relevant experience can come from either voluntary or paid role. In occasional and exceptional circumstances personal experience(s) might also be considered. Experience should preferably be from within the last five years. The experience should enable you to demonstrate an understanding of social work/care in the context of the United Kingdom (UK), and more specifically Wales. 

All experience and qualifications, with the exception of undergraduate degrees, must be held at the time of application. Through your statement you should also identify your self-motivation to study, analytical skills and critical reasoning. In your personal statement, you will need to demonstrate an awareness of Social Care Wales’ Code of Practice for Social Care. Two references (ideally, one academic and one practice related reference) will also be needed (details for these will be requested through the admissions process). 

Eligible applicants will be invited to interview to determine their suitability to undertake social work training. All interviews must be conducted in person (i.e. we are unable to provide interviews via telephone or video due to regulatory requirements). Those successful at interview will be offered a place on the programme.

All offers are subject to the terms of enrolment, which includes: 

  • Provision of any outstanding documentation not previously provided at Stages 1 or 2 of the admissions process (e.g. certificates, references, etc.) 
  • An Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) background check with list checks for both Adults and Children. International applicants this may also be required to secure letters of good conduct, or equivalent, in accordance with University, Social Care Wales and Home Office guidance/requirements. International applicants may also be asked to secure letters of good conduct, or equivalent, in accordance with University, Social Care Wales and Home Office guidance/requirements. The cost of any background checks must be met by the applicants/students. 
  • Confirmation of your Fitness-to-Practise (FTP) where appropriate (please see comments under general information for applicants) 
  • Confirmation of your Fitness-to-Study (FTS) from Cardiff University’s Occupational Health (OH) service 
  • Successful registration with Social Care Wales as a Social Work Student 
  • Successful completion of a European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) by the end of the programme of studies. The cost of any the ECDL must be met by the applicant/student.  
  • Any other outstanding entry requirements and/or wider conditions felt appropriate by the University

Please note, the University reserves the right to request further information regarding any aspect of your application. Incomplete applications, including a failure to provide any additional information requested, may result in your application being rejected.

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements

All University and agency-based teaching and learning is structured in accordance with the National Occupational Standards for Social Work and the Code of Professional Practice and the requirements of the Social Care Wales. Furthermore the teaching responds to UK subject benchmarks for social work.

The programme will be delivered between early September and late July of each year with one week vacation periods at Christmas and Easter.

All subjects on the MA Social Work are mandatory/core – there is no optional element. Your specialisation at the end of year two is one subject but splits into one of two themes: adults or children and families. 

Your time will be divided between formal study and undertaking practical learning placements.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2020/21 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2020.

Year one

This is a two-year full-time programme leading to an MA and a professional qualification in social work.

You will spend 100 days on placements in year one.

Year two

You will spend another 100 days on placements in year two. You will choose a specialist pathway (adults or children and families) and complete a dissertation.

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

How will I be taught?

Teaching is offered in a range of ways: lectures, seminars, group work, self-directed study, role plays and in practice settings.

You will be expected to attend all timetabled sessions and are also expected to engage in independent study. You will receive supervision to help you complete the dissertation, but you will be expected to manage your own time to undertake significant independent study during this phase.

You are expected to adhere to the Cardiff University policy on Dignity at Work and Study and to the Social Care Wales Code of Professional Practice.

How will I be supported?

Support materials will be provided via Learning Central (Cardiff University’s Virtual Learning Environment) or from study packs specially developed for selected modules.

You will be allocated a personal tutor. Additional support and advice is available where necessary from our Senior Personal Tutor for Postgraduate Taught Students.


Feedback on coursework may be provided via written comments on work submitted, by provision of ‘model’ answers and/or through discussion in contact sessions.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including essays, class tests, project work, case studies, practice portfolios and reflective accounts.

Agency-based practice learning is examined and a ‘pass recommendation’ by the designated practice assessor is required together with a pass in academic work. 

What skills will I practise and develop?

The MA in Social Work is a two year full-time programme, leading to a master’s degree and a professional qualification in social work. It will enable you to build upon your existing academic and occupational experience to achieve a professional qualification in social work, with the range of skills that entails. These all meet the National Occupational Standards in Social Work.

Your professional development will be strengthened through strong tutorial support, a research-led teaching environment and access to a range of placement opportunities in specialist fields.

On successful completion of the course you qualify as a social worker and will be able to assume the title of Registered Social Worker. This enables you to become employed in a range of social work settings. We have a high employment rate for our students.

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2020/21)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

EU students entering in 2019/20 will pay the same tuition fee as UK students for the duration of their course. Please be aware that fees may increase annually in line with inflation. No decisions regarding fees and loans for EU students starting in 2020/21 have been made yet. These will be determined as part of the UK's discussions on its membership of the EU and we will provide further details as soon as we can.

Students from outside the EU (2020/21)

This course does not currently accept students from outside the UK/EU.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?


Through your studies you will undertake a series of Practice-Based Learning opportunities (PLOs) (timeframes are indicative and may be subject to change):

  • Level 1 - 20-days (Semester 1, Year 1)
  • Level 2 - 80-days (Semester 2, Year 1)
  • Level 3 - 100-days (Semester 2, Year 2)

Practice Learning Opportunities (PLOs) (i.e. placements) are facilitated via our local authority partners, these include: Bridgend; Blaenau Gwent; Caerphilly; Cardiff; Monmouthshire, Newport; Rhondda Cynon Taff; Torfaen; and the Vale of Glamorgan. On occasion, PLOs might be provided by local authorities or social care providers outside of the partnership, this is done at the discretion of the Programme. PLOs can be in both statutory and non-statutory settings (at least one of your PLOs will be in a statutory setting). Applicants/students do not get to choose the local authority they are hosted by, nor are they able to select the PLOs they undertake. Throughout the admissions process, and the programme of studies, information is shared with local authority partners and Social Care Wales (SCW). In some instances, information may also need to be shared with other bodies/organisations in accordance with our legal obligations.