Social work is about changing lives for the better. Designed as a route into professional practice for graduates, the Kent MA is taught by qualified social workers.
You have access to placements across a range of settings, allowing you to develop your practice and research skills and apply knowledge to practice. Our graduates become confident, competent practitioners. Home/EU students may be eligible to apply for a Department of Health bursary for both years of study.
Social Work at Kent is part of the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, operating across Canterbury and Medway campuses.
The School supports a large and thriving postgraduate community. We have close links with employers such as Kent County Council, Medway Council and Avante Care, who not only provide student practice learning opportunities but are also engaged in joint research projects with us.
Our learning community also includes service users and carers who work with us to ensure that this programme and our research work represents a wide range of perspectives, including those of people who receive services.
The Social Work MA is based at the University's Medway campus and benefits from the excellent new facilities on site. Students also benefit from the insights and experience of a wide range of practitioners from different settings, through their teaching and evaluation of practice learning portfolios.
The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) is responsible for the administration of social work bursaries. Please refer to the NHSBSA website for the latest available information including the eligibility criteria.
We do not receive confirmation of the number of MA bursaries we will receive until the summer prior to the programme starting. There are generally fewer bursaries than students registered. We are obliged to provide the NHS Business Services Authority with a ranked list of students. Students are ranked according to their scores during the selection process for the written test and the interview. We inform students where they are ranked as soon as we know the number of bursaries we will receive. Social Work MA students who receive a bursary in stage 1 of their programme, will also receive it in stage 2.
Students who do not receive a bursary, but meet the eligibility criteria, are currently able to apply to the NHSBSA for a Travel Allowance to help with placement-related travel costs.
Students who do not receive a bursary may also apply for the Postgraduate Loan from Student Finance England.
In addition, Kent offers generous financial support schemes to support eligible postgraduate students during their studies. Find out more on our fees and funding page.
You are more than your grades
For 2022, in response to the challenges caused by Covid-19 we will consider applicants either holding or projected a 2:2. This response is part of our flexible approach to admissions whereby we consider each student and their personal circumstances. If you have any questions, please get in touch.
A first or second class honours degree in a relevant subject as well as English (at GCSE Grade C or above or at level 4 with the new grading system) are essential for all candidates. GCSE equivalence within an Access to Higher Education course is acceptable as a substitute for GCSE or Functional Skills level 2. Although Maths GCSE at 4 or above is preferred, applicants will still be considered if this requirement isn't met.
It is also expected that you will have at least six months full-time relevant experience in social care/social work (or its equivalent part-time). This need not be paid work but could be voluntary work or unpaid work caring for a relative with a disability.
Applicants with a 2.2 honours degree may be considered in circumstances where they have a sustained period of relevant experience and/or have work experience at a senior (management) level. Candidates already holding a Master's qualification may also be considered.
If you meet these criteria you can apply through UCAS.
The selection process for an MA degree in Social Work at the University of Kent consists of two stages.
Stage 1: all applicants who are considered to meet the entry criteria for the programme are invited to attend the University to sit a written test. Those applicants who pass the written test are invited to return for the second stage of the process: an interview day.
Stage 2: the interview day is made up of two parts, an individual interview with a lecturer and a practitioner and an observed group discussion.
At interview, each candidate is asked a number of (the same) questions covering issues such as motivation to undertake social work training and postgraduate study, expectations of the degree, background experience and awareness of the social work role, etc.
Some previous experience of understanding people and possession of good communication skills help in interview. Candidates also take part in an observed group discussion with a number of other candidates. The group is asked to discuss a question relating to social work for around 30 minutes. The discussion is observed by a lecturer and two service users or carers.
This selection process is in line with other social work courses and is also consistent with guidance from social work's professional and regulatory bodies.
Students will be required to travel to placements by car due to the geography and transport infrastructure of the locality. As part of the admissions process, applicants will need to declare that they have a driving licence for the duration of the programme, use of a car and appropriate insurance. This does not apply to students who are not able to drive because of a health condition or impairment.
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
Duration: 2 years full-time
The programme incorporates critical analysis and practice-based skills. This includes a two-day observational practice learning opportunity and a 70-day practice learning opportunity in Stage 1, with a further 100-day placement in Stage 2.
The majority of the Readiness for Direct Practice module (22 days) is taught in the autumn term of Stage 1. The remaining portion (eight days) is taught as part of practice placement preparation and as ‘recall days’ during both placements. These practice-based opportunities, along with your academic work, provide the basis for your professional development.
There is considerable emphasis on participative seminars and class sizes are generally smaller to facilitate this approach. The student body is a cosmopolitan mix of mature and younger graduates creating a rich and diverse learning environment. You are allocated an academic adviser to support and mentor you throughout the programme.
Detailed module descriptions are provided below.
The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.
In this module, students will be introduced to concepts of professionalism and 'relationship' in social work and the role of self-monitoring and reflection. They will learn about, critically discuss and practise a range of communication and interpersonal skills. These will include: the commencement of effective contacts with service users and colleagues; active listening and attending skills; the role of non-verbal communication; empathy; effective use of questions; paraphrasing and summarising; challenging constructively and managing conflict; the use of electronic and telephone communication; and working with people with special communication needs. Students will also explore the use of feedback in the classroom and in professional practice and supervision.
In addition the module will introduce students to the theoretical underpinnings of models of personal and professional communication. They will also be encouraged to critically explore and reflect on the application of social work values and will analyse the impact of inequality, power and diversity in relation to engaging with the experiences of others. Understanding and working with reluctance and resistance will also be addressed along with models and skills in ending relationships and evaluating practice.
The module will cover the nature, history and development of social work values, their links with codes of practice and the regulation of professional conduct. It will also address sociological perspectives around social difference, diversity and inequality and the conceptual and philosophical context of human rights, responsibility, justice, care, authority and power in social work. Challenges inherent in balancing these dimensions, including potential conflicts between personal, organisational and professional values of the social work role in practice – incorporating statutory duties - will also be addressed. The role of legislation and policy in supporting ethical decision making in social work will be explored as will utilising models promoting ethical decision making and the impact of social work practice on, and in, the lives of service users and carers. The importance of recognising key dimensions of social difference and sources of inequality – class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, age, disability and sexuality – in delivering ethical social work will be an underpinning theme.
The module will serve to provide students with an overview of the scope and expectations of a social work dissertation at MA-level. We discuss the ethical challenges of doing empirical and other research on topics relevant to social work, and prepare students for carrying out an independent piece of research within a given timeframe. If the dissertation requires ethical research approval, an application will need to be submitted to the School research ethics committee.
The curriculum will address the need for social workers to have in depth knowledge and understanding of the law and its applications to social work practice. The history, context, and nature of English law and law making will be covered including natural law and positivist law and their intersection with ethics and philosophy. The 'legal framework' of English social work including legislation, quasi-legislation and social policy will be outlined as will the process - and political context - of policy-making and implementation. Primary, and secondary legislation, policy and guidance and the cases that together constitute ‘the law & policy’ relating to key service user groups will be outlined alongside understanding of the application of legislation and policy as it relates to social work activities, duties and decisions. Judicial interpretation relevant to social work, the role and nature of Courts and the legal profession, legal procedure and the nature of evidence will also be covered. Human Rights and equality law with a particular focus on justice and the promotion of equality in the areas of "race", gender and sexual orientation, disability and age will be addressed as will legal systems and frameworks relating to safeguarding, mental capacity & confidentiality.
Students will participate in up to 30 days undertaking a 'Developing Skills for Practice' programme consisting of university based experiential learning, self-directed study, shadowing experienced social workers and other observational visits. The majority of these days will take place during term 1 (Autumn term) of the first year to prepare students for their first placement through practising key generic skills and increasing their understanding of the social work role, without the immediate pressure of assessment.
Students will attend placement for a period in line with regulator standards and carry out direct work with service-users in a social work or social care organisation. They will develop skills, knowledge and values through experiential learning supervised by a qualified practice educator. Involvement in practice activities will enable students to demonstrate effective use of knowledge, skills and commitment to core values in social work in a given setting in predominantly less complex situations, with supervision and support. They will be expected to show capacity to work with people in situations where there may not be simple clear-cut solutions
This module will explore and critically reflect on the role of theory in social work and its intersection with the development of interventions and social work skills. Threaded throughout the module will be a focus on the importance of developing a critical understanding of social work processes, including models and methods of assessment, the application of theory in complex social work cases and recognition of social work intervention as a theoretically informed activity. Specific approaches and perspectives will be explored e.g. systemic and therapeutic approaches, and critically reviewed in assessment and intervention with individuals, families, groups and communities. The role and nature of social work models and interventions will be explored, e.g. social constructionist approaches, task centred practice, and students will be encouraged to develop a critical understanding of the importance of groups - including families - in social work practice. The module will facilitate the students' capacity to critically evaluate theories and methods including an appreciation of practice paradigms and practice related theories within wider social sciences perspectives.
Taking an ecological approach to social work, the module will highlight the need for a systematic analysis of influences on individuals, families, groups and communities at micro, meso and macro levels. This will include the role of social processes on individuals and families and theoretical approaches to human growth and development. The module will explore bio-psycho-social influences on behaviour, individual identity and the life course, and contrasting approaches, such as 'critical material', discursive and intra-psychic, to understanding the individual in society. Broader social influences on individuals and families will also be examined, such as diversity and difference throughout the life span, acknowledging cross-cultural differences in attachment, development and separation.
Applying the module content to social work practice, students will be encouraged to understand the significance of life stages and the need to adopt a life course perspective in social work with specific service user groups. The module will highlight the significance for social workers of the intersection between psychological models and understanding the concept of 'need'. At the macro level of understanding, the module will explore the interaction between disadvantage in society, marginalisation, isolation and social exclusion with psychological and social factors that bring service users to the attention of social workers.
This module will enable students to develop and demonstrate their readiness for direct practice with service users, through undertaking a range of guided practical activities both within and outside the university. This module incorporates a number of skills development days, and the 'readiness for direct practice' assessment, which are both requirements of the Social Work Reform Board. Students are required to pass this module before progressing to their first practice placement.
Class-based activities will encourage the development of skills used in communication, observation and reflection, and relating theory and practice, enabling students to practise and further develop the skills and knowledge they are learning in other modules, in particular SOCI8960 Communication and Interpersonal Skills and SOCI9230 Social Work Theories, Interventions and Skills.
Learning activities will also address the importance of professional behaviour and boundaries, awareness of values and diversity in social work, an initial awareness of risk and safeguarding, the role of professional supervision, and the importance of emotional resilience in social work.
Students will also develop their awareness of the perspectives of service users and carers, and will gain understanding of the context of social work and how social work is organised and practised in a range of settings. Students will have contact with practitioners and service users and carers within class sessions and through visiting social care settings. Each student will also undertake a two-day shadowing placement with a final year student and practice educator in a social work setting. During this they will observe and discuss examples of social work practice and meet service users and/or carers.
Students will develop their self-awareness and skills of reflection on their learning and experiences through individual activities and class discussions. They will be guided to identify their individual learning needs and monitor and reflect on their own progress.
This module is an integral part of practice learning and is designed to sit alongside the Practice Placement 1 module [SOCI9210 (SO921)]. It offers an opportunity for students to demonstrate their learning in academic form. The two assignments incorporated in the module are based on work the student undertakes during their practice placement and enable students to demonstrate their competence in practice over the course of the placement. Student will have the opportunity to apply relevant theoretical learning to their own practice and demonstrate reflection and critical thinking.
The overall aim of this module is to equip students with the advanced knowledge and understanding required for them to function effectively as social workers in mental health and adult social care settings. This might include working in a multidisciplinary mental health team, with older people, people with a physical or learning disability, or with people from all of these groups. The module considers models of understanding mental health/distress, disability and old age, in particular the contrasting perspectives of the individual/medical model and social models. The module will ensure that all students are able to recognise and understand key definitions and diagnostic categories applied in contemporary service settings, at the same time as critically questioning the nature and validity of such definitions.
The module will enable students to acquire critical understanding of the impact of injustice, social inequalities and oppressive social relations on the lives of adult service users and carers, including: a) the role of these factors in contributing to the development of mental health and other problems and, b) their impact on the lives of people who already have mental health needs and/or disabilities and their families. The module will enable them to critically analyse and evaluate key concepts such as 'care', 'need' and 'risk' in adult services, and demonstrate the knowledge necessary for them to assess and make decisions in conjunction with service users, including when conflict and disagreements arise. It will highlight the evidence relating to the abuse of adult service users and the safeguarding strategies used to prevent it.
The module will provide specialist input on the legal and professional frameworks that shape or prescribe social work practice in mental health services and in adult social care, including the use of online learning materials during private study time where appropriate.
The module enables students to critically analyse the ideas that underpin personalisation and person-centred practice and how these relate in a practical sense to processes of self-directed support and individual budgets as ways of delivering services.
Through group work and seminar discussions, students will demonstrate their capacity for effective and appropriate communication with others. They will have the opportunity to critically reflect on their personal attitudes towards disability, difference, and old age.
The assessed work for this module will encourage students to gather and evaluate library and web-based resources appropriate for intermediate level degree study, and integrate a range of theoretical perspectives and evidence from research in order to construct a coherent argument in writing.
The outcomes of the dissertation are threefold:
Firstly, to allow students to express themselves as practitioners, and 'critical consumers' of research, having previously been provided with the knowledge and understanding necessary to evaluate research appropriately. Secondly, an opportunity to independently carry out an in-depth inquiry to investigate a research question(s) of their choice, and produce a coherent review of the relevant literature, a logical discussion, and clearly communicated set of conclusions. Thirdly, students apply themselves as 'research-minded' practitioners with an ongoing capacity to undertake research in practice settings and/or take a lead role in supervising others in such work.
The module will offer a specialist focus on social work with children and families. It will address the core principles underpinning the assessment of children in need (including children with disabilities) and their families and offer specialist knowledge and understanding about the legal framework within which social work in children's services is undertaken. The importance and nature of engaging and working in partnership with parents will be explored as will the nature and role of research and theory in informing interventions and outcomes sought. How social workers work with Looked After Children, including fostering and adoption issues and aftercare will also be addressed. Key messages from Inquiry reports, serious case reviews and government commissioned reports will be woven into the teaching as appropriate and the role of other professionals in child protection outlined. Effective models of multi-disciplinary and multi-agency working will be identified as will the relationships between child protection and family support; and outcomes, best practice and early intervention. The identification of child abuse and assessment of significant harm, including the assessment of risk, thresholds, child protection investigations, changing practice and policy trends, and the different ways in which children might be subject to neglect and abuse will be critically explored. Procedural intervention in child protection and safeguarding work will be outlined and the importance of developing critical analysis skills and effective professional judgement will be addressed in depth.
The curriculum will address the nature, dimensions and aims of critical, reflective and ethical practice in social work. It will incorporate the organisational, political, demographic and ideological context of contemporary social work practice and the impact of critical perspectives on the nature and delivery of social work in a diverse society. Service user perspectives and roles, models of partnership and participation, and the significance of power, language, knowledge, social justice, and relationship based practice will be explored. The role of effective inter-professional working and team working, and perspectives on risk and risk management will also be explored as will professional judgement and decision making in social work, including the role of emotion and sources of 'error' in decision-making and evaluating multiple hypotheses. The management of dilemmas and challenges involved in balancing competing needs, rights, risks and accountabilities will be addressed alongside dealing with working with anxiety and uncertainty in complex, unpredictable and emotionally demanding situations. The possibilities for creative and transformative practice in social work will be explored and the importance of leadership, professional authority, and continuing personal and professional development will also be discussed.
Students will attend placement for a period in line with regulator standards and carry out direct work with service-users in a social work or social care organisation. They will develop skills, knowledge and values through experiential learning supervised by a qualified practice educator.
Involvement in practice activities will enable students by the end of last placement to have demonstrated the knowledge, skills and values to work with a range of user groups, and the ability to undertake a range of tasks at a foundation level, the capacity to work with more complex situations; they should be able to work more autonomously, whilst recognising that the final decision will still rest with their supervisor; they will seek appropriate support and supervision.
This module is an integral part of the practice learning and is designed to sit alongside the Practice Placement 2 module [SOCI9220 (SO922)]. It offers an opportunity for students to demonstrate their learning in academic form. The assignment incorporated in the module enables students to critically reflect on their practice and their own development over the course of their learning. Students will have the opportunity to apply relevant theoretical learning to their own practice and demonstrate reflection and critical thinking.
In addition to assessed work, linked to both taught modules and practice learning, you also complete a dissertation in a specific area of research in your second year.
This programme aims to:
Provide high-quality social work education, including admissions procedures and an assessment strategy and design, that meet:
Deliver research-led social work education to a diverse student population which will equip students with the knowledge and skills, confidence and critical understanding necessary to practise social work in complex and demanding environments.
Provide social work education which emphasises the importance of social work as a moral activity involving “the study, application of, and critical reflection upon, ethical principles and dilemmas” SB4.6; ensure that students understand the implications of the Professional Standards SWE PS 4.1, 4.8.
Enable students to “learn to become to become accountable, reflective, critical and evaluative” SB4.7, and support and develop autonomous and reflective thinking SWE SET 4.5, 4.13
Enable students to “acquire, critically evaluate, apply, and integrate knowledge and understanding” in the specified core areas of study SB5.1 and to integrate theory and practice effectively at an advanced level SWE SET 4.5
Promote the development of skills that “may be of value in many situations, for example, analytical thinking, building relationships, working as a member of an organisation, intervention, evaluation and reflection” SB5.7.
Deliver social work education that is relevant and up-to-date and which encourages creativity, evidence-based and research-informed practice SWE SET 4.13
Deliver an effective ‘process curriculum’ in terms of how content is taught, paying close attention to the involvement of service users and carers, practitioners, modelling anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory practice and confident professional identity SWE SET 4.2
Maintain and enhance partnerships with regional employers and other stakeholders in order to: secure the supply of appropriate practice placements and suitably qualified practitioners; exchange ideas concerning the content of the qualifying programme; lead at strategic level SWE (Practice Placement Guidance) SET 3
Ensure that students acquire skills, knowledge and abilities commensurate with Masters degree requirements, including independent research skills
Produce and prepare postgraduates of value to the region and nationally, in possession of key knowledge and skills with the capacity to develop further professionally.
You will gain knowledge and understanding of:
You develop intellectual skills in:
You gain subject-specific skills in:
You will gain the following transferable skills:
The 2022/23 annual tuition fees for this course are:
For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.
For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.
Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.
Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both:
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research was ranked 2nd for research power in the UK. The School was also placed 3rd for research intensity, 5th for research impact and 5th for research quality.
An impressive 94% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 99% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research, gaining the highest possible score of 100%.
The Times Good University Guide 2016 ranked Social Work at Kent 1st for research quality.
SSPSSR has a long and distinguished history, and is one of the largest and most successful social science research communities in Europe.
The School received top ratings in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014. It was ranked 2nd for research power in the UK; 99% of the research submitted was judged to be of international quality, with 88% world-leading or internationally excellent.
When not on campus or teaching, our staff actively engage in research activities such as writing books, speaking at conferences, and contributing to academic journals such as the British Journal of Social Work.
Our research work also involves supervising PhD students who also teach on the programme, some of whom are graduates of the School. Students with an interest in further study are actively encouraged and valued as part of a department that offers the best in teaching and research.
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Of Social Work students who graduated in 2016, over 94% of those who responded to a national survey were in work or further study within six months (DLHE).
Social work jobs exist in local authority and health settings (eg social services departments, hospital settings), voluntary organisations (Barnardo's, NSPCC) and private agencies such as private fostering agencies and care homes.
Some graduates choose to undertake agency work.
Successful graduates are eligible for professional registration with Social Work England (SWE), the regulatory body for social work.
Please note that driving - and having access to a car - are requirements for undertaking a placement in a statutory setting with our local authority partners.
The Partnership Initiative (PI) works to embed service user and carer perspectives, experience and expertise into social work programmes at the University of Kent, including student selection, teaching and assessment and research activities. The PI was set up when the BA Social Work was founded at Kent in 2003 and also works closely with the MA Social Work programme that began in 2013.
The PI’s mission statement is that, ‘PI exists in order that people who use services and carers work collaboratively with staff and students. This is to ensure that the skills and experiences of all are integral to the social work programmes at the University of Kent.’
Membership of the Partnership Initiative is open to people in Kent and Medway with direct experience of social services and social workers, whether as service users or as carers. The PI meets and collaborates regularly with academics and representatives of the student body. PI members are paid for involvement in teaching, student selection and any other programme related activities through contracts with the University. Further details of the Partnership Initiative’s work are available in the PI newsletter, Bridging the Gap.
As a postgraduate student at Kent, you are a member of the Graduate School and of a community of students from a range of backgrounds, identities and experiences.
We encourage students to help each other, reflecting social work values in their everyday interactions and forming professional relationships with peers and staff that reflect those held in the workplace after you qualify.
Through student-elected representatives, you have the opportunity to raise issues with staff at our termly Board of Studies meetings. You also have an Academic Adviser from the Social Work team, who along with the Social Work Support Officer acts as a contact for any queries you may have.
Postgraduate students have access to a dedicated study room with computer facilities as well as a common room in the Rochester building. You can also enrol on the postgraduate Global Skills Award scheme, which can add value to your CV. Details of this scheme, and support and services offered to our students can be found on the Graduate and Researcher College website.
You are provided with a Programme Handbook that sets out the essential information you need to get started at the University. In addition, a Placement Handbook is provided by the Practice Learning Co-ordinator.
All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.
We are no longer accepting applications for the Social Work MA for 2022 entry. Applications for entry in 2023 can be made via UCAS.
Please see the full list of postgraduate courses in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research.