Durham University is considering scrapping its masters social work course due to concerns over the programme’s financial viability.
A review has recommended university bosses shut down the two-year MA social work degree once this year’s student intake graduates in 2019. The report also recommended closing the MA in International Social Work and Community Development course. A final decision is expected in June.
The review author said the proposal to close Durham’s courses took into account the university’s wider strategy and other social work training on offer in the region, including ‘fast-track’ schemes.
The university said it was consulting on the proposal and said the 30 students per year graduating from Durham made up “a very small proportion” of social work graduates in the north east of England.
However, in a letter seen by Community Care, university staff involved in delivering the courses voiced “dismay” over the proposed closure. They said the review found no doubts about the quality of the courses, and warned the recommendations had been made without consulting social work employers, service users, carers or students.
“The recommendation to close these programmes has been made on grounds of future financial viability in the broader context of university plans,” the staff said.
“As a staff group we have expressed our dismay at this news and its implications for social work employers and service users in the region.”
The staff invited views from stakeholders ahead of them issuing a formal response to the review’s recommendations. Students have also set up a petition calling for the course to be saved.
Professor Tim Clark, Durham university’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Social Sciences and Health, who is leading the strategic review, said: “The university strategy sets out a clear direction of travel: to invest in research, education and the wider student experience so they continue to be world-leading.
“The strategy has underpinned our review, which has also taken into account the provision of other social work training programmes in North East England, the launching of new ‘fast-track’ schemes and our need to prioritise investment in our internationally leading research in the social sciences.
“We are consulting widely with staff, students and key stakeholders on the findings of the review, and the university executive team will take extensive evidence into account when making our final decision.”