Controversial plans to end social work courses on hold after outcry

Final decision on the future of Durham university's Masters degrees will not be made until the end of the year at the earliest

Durham town and cathedral
Durham town and cathedral (Picture: csbphoto/fotolia)

A university has deferred making a final decision on contentious proposals to scrap two of its social work courses.

Durham university had been expected to make an announcement in June regarding the future of its Masters degrees in social work, and in international social work and community development.

A review led by Professor Tim Clark, the university’s pro-vice-chancellor for social sciences and health, had proposed closing the courses in 2019, citing questions over their long-term viability.

But the university told Community Care that no decision would be taken until at least the end of the year, when evidence from a consultation on the review findings will have been evaluated.

“A considered approach is being taken to a number of points that have emerged from the consultation,” a spokesperson said. “These will be presented to the School of Applied Social Sciences at the end of this term.”

The spokesperson added that applications for both courses are being taken for autumn 2018.


The delay comes in the wake of anger at the plans both from within the university and externally.

A letter from staff involved in delivering the courses expressed “dismay” over the potential closures; Community Care understands that there was also a robust discussion of the issue at the School of Applied Social Sciences’ board of studies in June.

Jon Bryan, regional support official for the University and College Union (UCU), which has also opposed the proposals, said he welcomed the university’s further consideration of the issue.

“External stakeholders and various pressure groups across the region clearly voiced their concerns and this has been listened to,” he said. “We said at the time that the courses are well-known and highly thought of in the sector, and those who graduate value what they achieve, and our view on that has not changed.”

Bryan added that, should Durham decide to proceed with the course closures, the UCU would be looking for guarantees of no compulsory redundancies.

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