From 2003, professional qualifying training for social workers
in England will be a degree in social work approved by the General
Social Care Council (GSCC). The new degree replaces the diploma in
social work (DipSW) in England, although there will be intakes to
some DipSW programmes until January 2004. A new degree will be
introduced in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales from 2004.
The diploma and all other predecessor social work qualifications
will continue to be recognised as valid social work
What are the entry requirements?
For the new degree, in addition to the university’s own entrance
requirements, you will need good English and Maths – at least a
grade C at GCSE or equivalent – and be able to demonstrate that you
possess the personal and intellectual qualities needed to be a
social worker. Other recognised qualifications are Access courses
for mature students, offered by further education colleges. Checks
will be made on literacy, numeracy, criminal convictions and
health. The exact entry requirements will vary depending on the
university you are applying to, so it is best to check with them
Universities are keen to widen participation in higher education
and in social work to all members of the community. Access and
support systems are well established in the majority of
universities to meet the study needs of students from diverse
backgrounds, including people with disabilities, mature students
and those from different racial and cultural backgrounds.
How long is the course?
The degree course will mostly be three years full-time, but some
universities will offer graduates the opportunity to complete the
degree in two years. Some may run courses on a part-time basis or
through open or distance learning. Many universities will continue
to offer employment-based routes in partnership with local
employers. Employers can also sponsor students to study the DipSW
or the degree.
What subjects should I study for the new
Social workers work with a wide variety of people in different
settings, so a broad range of qualifications can be a useful
background. Good written and verbal communications are essential.
Vocational GCSEs and A’levels may offer an interesting route which
combine general education with work on health and social care
issues. AS or A’level, subjects such as law, sociology or
psychology may be useful.
Where can I study?
Sixty-one universities in England have been ‘licensed’ to
offer the new degree-level professional qualification in social
work from autumn 2003. The institutions have undergone rigorous
checks by the GSCC to make sure they are suitable to offer the new
Having won their ‘licence’ from the GSCC, the approved
universities will now decide whether to start taking students on
degree courses from September 2003. In some instances, a teaching
institution is listed next to the university. This is the higher
education college which will be teaching the course. It is linked
with the university which will confer the degree.
A full list of accredited universities is available here.
What is the difference between the diploma and the
The new degree was developed by the Department of Health and
partners as part of the ongoing modernisation of social care. The
new degree is aimed at building on the best of social work
education and improving the status, image and position of social
workers. The new course has a strengthened practical element, with
students undertaking at least 200 days of assessed work experience
regardless of their previous social care experience.
Why is the DipSW being changed into a
The changes are being introduced to ensure that qualified social
workers are able to meet the changing role of social work and the
changing needs of users and carers. The changes will be aimed at
better equipping social workers to provide high quality services to
the public. They will ensure that the qualification provides a
sound basis for the registration of social workers by the GSCC,
which will be introduced in the next few years. The new course has
a strengthened practical element, a curriculum which takes account
of the need to develop knowledge, analytical, recording and
reporting skills as well as personal skills; and a requirement that
students learn about work in inter-professional settings.