Who is studying for the PQSW?

Overview of other research and resources on post-qualifying social work by the Social Care Institute for Excellence

The revised post-qualifying social work (PQSW) course’s quality, diversity and its relation to workplace practice, is a relatively new subject which is yet to build a substantial body of knowledge. However, there are many resources available about social work education that include statistical information on course quality and student diversity.

Overall the General Social Care Council (GSCC) is a key location for research and resources on social work qualifications. The GSCC’s data pack provides current numbers and a break down of the specific student demographic currently undertaking the PQSW, the social work degree and other qualifications. Skills for Care also provide key information and data. Little information surrounds the length and support during the PQSW specifically, but key websites such as DirectGov offer assitance and advice on all forms of funding.

To find out more about diversity in the social care workforce, it is useful to look at wider legislation such as the Disability Act and Special Educational Needs and Disability Acts, general educational policy and practice learning policy.

What we learned

l Over three-quarters of candidates for post-qualifying social work (PQSW) education are women.

l 56% of PQSW candidates are over 40 years of age.

l It will take roughly eight years for half the social work workforce to have a degree as their highest qualification.

l The numbers of PQSW candidates from different ethnic backgrounds do not reflect our society’s cultural mix.

l About 8% of PQSW candidates have additional learning needs; half of these are for dyslexia.

How we learned it

We looked at details of 3,471 candidates who registered for PQSW programmes with Bournemouth University between 2001 and 2007 and compared these with national figures published by the General Social Care Council. The sample is drawn from 53 councils (out of a total of 150) and 20 other major social work employers across southern England, including London. We studied the profiles of candidates by gender, age, past highest qualification, ethnicity and additional learning needs.

Why it’s important

Recent changes in PQSW education mean that information regarding the programmes and their subsequent impact is becoming increasingly important. Initial research, for example McCloskey, Doel et al concludes that the key to successful PQSW education is the partnership between course providers, employers and social workers. To maximise this partnership, it is important to ensure that course providers and workforce development managers are aware of who their actual students are so that they can provide relevant and accessible programmes that engage with the social workers and result in competent, reflective practitioners.

How it influences practice

* Because over three-quarters of PQSW candidates are women, programmes need to be flexible to cater for students with dependents.

* With more than 56% of candidates over 40 years of age when registering, these candidates may need additional support with developing learning skills, using IT and accessing resources when returning to study.

* Programmes need to support DipHE holders for some time as it will take roughly eight years for half the workforce to have a degree as their highest qualification.

* It is important for employers and course providers to improve recruitment strategies to encourage a more representational ethnic mix of candidates.

* Because about 8% of candidates have additional learning needs, of which half have dyslexia, programmes need to supply specialist additional support.

Searching for information

Researchers, educators, practitioners and students who would like to find out more about social work education and student diversity can search online databases such as Social Care Online. Useful search terms include: diversity, higher education, policy, social work education, student social workers, social work students, post qualifying education, practice learning, PQSW students and dyslexia and women in social work education.

Search for more information 


* More information on the Centre for Post-Qualifying Social Work

* The revised post-qualifying framework for social work education and training can be found under Training and Learning

* The report on Carol McCloskey’s evaluation of post-qualifying programmes (see references) can be requested from the Centre for Post-Qualifying Social Work, Bournemouth University.

Report on experiences of post-qualifying study in social work by Doel et al (2006)

Related SCIE guidance

* Evaluating outcomes in social work education; E-learning resources: Law and social work

* A framework for supporting and assessing practice learning

All available from www.scie.org.uk/education

Relevant policy

* The Higher Education Authority – Embedding widening participation and promoting student diversity

* Department of Health – Options for Excellence: Building the Social Care Workforce for the future

* Department for Education & Skills – Skills Strategy website

Useful websites

General Social Work

Department of Health – Social Care Work Force Pages

Skills for Care website

Department of Health – Social Care and Social Work Careers Information website

Department of Health – Social Work Site

Internet Social Worker Site

British Association of Social Workers Site

Social Work Education

The Higher Education Academy – Swap Guides

Social Work Student Site

The Greater London Post Qualifying Consortium Site

Kings College – Social Care Workforce Research Unit


UK Statistics Authority site

Practice Based Learning

Skills for Care & CWDC – Practice Learning Site

Making Practice Based Learning Work Site

Edge – Raising the Standards for Vocational Learning Site

Women & Equality

HM Government – Government Equalities Office Site

Equality & Human Rights Commission Site

Gender & Education Association Site


HCP Disability – Supporting students with Disability in the Workplace Page


GSCC – Funding Page

DirectGov – Education and Learning in Higher and University Education, Finance Pages

Skills for Care & Practice Learning – Funding Steams for Post Qualifying Awards in Social Work (Full text)

Advance – PQSW Candidate Handbook (Full Text)

GSCC – Assuring Quality for Post-Qualifying Education and Training Part One (Full Text)

GSCC – Quality assurance downloads page

Key resources

GSCC – Data Pack 2006-2007: Social Work Training & Education Statistics (Full Text)

Skills for Care – The State of Adult Social Care Workforce in England 2008 (Full Text)

Department of Health – Careers in Social Work


Keith Brown has professional qualifications in nursing, social work and teaching, and academic qualifications in nursing, social  work and management. He has worked in education and training for more than 20 years for universities and council social work departments, and is director of the Centre for Post-Qualifying Social Work at Bournemouth University. Tikki Immins and Dr Steve Keen also work at the Centre: Tikki as a research assistant and Steve as a senior lecturer in research.


We invite contributions to our Learning by Experience section. Please go to www.communitycare.co.uk/guidelines




More from Community Care

Comments are closed.