Fall in graduate numbers leads to scrapping of Edinburgh degree

Edinburgh University is to scrap its social
work degree course despite the profession’s deepening recruitment

The university, which has provided some of the
most respected social work training schemes in Scotland, is to
close its BSc social work course in the autumn because of a severe
drop in applications. The department will continue to provide other
social work training but this will be moved to the faculty of law
and be offered jointly with criminology.

A spokesperson for the university said that
the decision was part of a “rationalisation of undergraduate
provision which would be in the national and professional
interest”. Edinburgh University is in discussions with the
University of Stirling with a view to the latter expanding its
undergraduate provision.

The move reflects a decline of one-third in
the numbers of students graduating with degree qualifications in
social work in Scotland since 1996. Of the 1999 total of 193 social
work graduates, 25 were from Edinburgh University.

A spokesperson for Unison said the fall in
social work graduate numbers was symptomatic of the problems facing
the profession and added: “This is the product of the denigration
of the profession. Salaries and conditions have been eroded.” The
union is calling for a radical review of pay scales and conditions
similar to that of the teaching profession.

Kingsley Thomas, executive chairperson of
social work at Edinburgh Council, blamed the lack of applicants on
terms and conditions including the top salary grade of
£22,000. Thomas said: “I don’t think moving the social work
course into the law faculty will lead to graduates of that course
wanting to enter social work. They could probably make a better
living in another field.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish executive said
that strategies were being put in place to deal with Edinburgh
University’s decision. The spokesperson said: “The problems must be
dealt with through a sustained programme and that is what we are
putting in place.”

Edinburgh University said that students
currently enrolled in the social work degree course will be
unaffected and that no staff will be made redundant as a
consequence of the decision.

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