Enrolments in social work degrees fall again

Skills for Care report reveals drop in the number of social work students and graduates

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The number of people enrolling for social work degrees has fallen for the fourth year in a row.

A Skills for Care report found that the number of students joining postgraduate and undergraduate social work courses in England slipped from 4,590 in 2013/14 to 4,410 in 2014/15 – a 4% decline.

Enrolments have been declining from a peak of 5,750 students in 2010/11, the year that Parliament backed increasing the cap on tuition fees to £9,000 a year. However, the figures do not include enrolments on graduate programmes such as Frontline or Step Up to Social Work.

Postgraduate courses have seen the steepest decline with enrolments falling from 1,540 in 2013/14 to 1,400 in 2014/15. Undergraduate enrolments fell from 3,050 for 3,010 in the same period.

The report also found that the number of graduates leaving university with a social work qualification is now at its lowest since 2009/10. In 2009/10 a total of 5,220 students completed a social work degree, in 2014/15 there were 4,700.

Women continued to account for an increasing majority of students – 86.4% in 2014/15 compared to 83% in 2011/12.

Supply and demand mismatch

The percentage of graduates entering employment as social workers continued to rise, up from 64.3% in 2013/14 to 66.7% in 2014/15 but the actual numbers becoming social workers fell from 3,020 to 2,890 in the same period.

The report said the figures have “implications for workforce planning because the number of graduates is likely to continue to fall” given the declining number of enrolments.

Skills for Care’s report also noted that social work graduates are less likely to find employment if they graduated from areas with more students. The North West, for example, was the region with the highest number of students qualifying in social work but it also had the lowest proportion of students finding a social work job within six months.

“This may be due to a supply and demand mismatch at regional and local level,” said the report. “In such cases, those graduates who are unable to find employment as social workers would have to either relocate or take employment in an alternative role.”

Postgraduates favoured

The report also found that people with postgraduate social work qualifications are more likely to find social works than undergraduates. An estimated 72% of postgraduates found social work jobs within six months compared to 64% of undergraduates.

“This may be due to these graduates having greater work and life experience,” said the report.

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7 Responses to Enrolments in social work degrees fall again

  1. James November 22, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

    I think there should be a separate course for statutory social work (especially with adults as that is all i have experience with) and voluntary sector social work. People who want to make a tangible difference and use their skills and knowledge they gain in a degree can can choose one and people who want to do administration and pass work over to people who are not well qualified (no offence) and work for private companies in the other. People who want more contact and who proactively help vs. people who want to spend hours typing and looking at a screen in an office! People who want slightly more money vs people who get slightly less but may have more job satisfaction (depending how they judge job satisfaction) I know my career path 😉

    • Statutory swkr November 23, 2016 at 10:28 pm #

      Yeah I think your digging statutory out. Your clearly misinformed and not qualified in statutory work.

  2. Hels November 22, 2016 at 9:53 pm #

    I’m not shocked by this, the quality of lecturers is very poor, and often not hcpc registered !!!! Yes not even qualified Social workers!!!!!! Would not happen in any other profession !!

    • BB November 24, 2016 at 9:34 am #

      Perhaps people should come to Ruskin College then! We are qualified and also I work part time in the local authority in a statutory role. My colleagues continue to have extremely close links to practice in a variety of ways. Don’t tar all courses with the same brush! I’m assuming you have experience of one course?

  3. Andrea November 23, 2016 at 10:11 am #

    I think you have a point James, and I don’t think anyone on a social work course should be allowed to have a placement in an IFA – what does that have to do with any social work practice??

  4. Riva November 23, 2016 at 10:59 am #

    I think the comment about IFA’s is totally wrong. I have been a practice educator in an IFA for the last 8 years. I have had around 7-8 students from different universities in this time and the support and guidance provided and invested in students has been second to none. If I could refer you to the students that I have had then they would tell you how different it was to being in the authority and how much more they were able to learn! This is not a reflection on practice educators in the council, but more about time and work pressures which often impacts on commitment to practice education. Within a well established and supportive IFA, students and AYSE’s are given robust inductions and programmes of study, including regular reflection and workshops. The students work with sometimes very challenging carers, supervising them and assessing their competence for annual reviews. They build relationships with carers, professionals, children and sometimes parents. They write Form F’s, fostering assessments for people who want to become foster carers, a massive piece of work that requires time management, assessment and analysis skills and rigorous checks. So, in an IFA placement students learn about relationships, challenging effectively, advocacy, writing evidence based assessments, child focused placements, manage risk (to do with carers and parents) and safeguarding processes, challenge bad fostering practice, work with other professionals, chair meetings, make decisions/recommendations, relate theory to practice, participate in training regarding legislation, adhere to legislative framework, guidance and regulations around fostering, adoption and care planning and engage in reflective practice and the use of research. Did somebody ask what this has to do with social work practice? Really????

    • Andrea November 23, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

      none of the students that I have met on placements in child CP following a placement in an IFA have had a clue – clearly your experience is different from mine – relieved to hear it.