Undergraduate study - 2018 entry

Subject area: Social Work

Why choose Social Work at the University of Edinburgh?

  • Upon completion of our social work programme, you will be eligible for full registration as a social worker with the Scottish Social Services Council.

  • The quality and breadth of our Social Work research was ranked third in the UK in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014. We were ranked first in the UK in the Times Higher Education research power index.

  • We pride ourselves on our connections with practice and this is reflected in the many contributions made to teaching and learning on this programme by practitioners and service users.


I am passionate about working alongside individuals and groups, enabling them to make positive changes to their lives. I enjoyed being able to go on placement in two different sectors.

Rachael Carson BSc (Hons) Social Work graduate
Rachael Carson BSc (Hons) Social Work graduate

The study of social work allows you to develop the knowledge, skills and experience needed to work with vulnerable people who are encountering difficulties in their personal or family lives or whose actions have led to the involvement of statutory services.

Social workers undertake sophisticated assessments in relation to issues of care and control in order to protect the individual and safeguard society. Social workers often work with other services including health, education, housing and the police.

They have a strong interest in human relationships and a commitment to social justice, along with well-developed social, empathic and communication skills. The work of a social worker is challenging, demanding and rewarding. A high level of personal resilience is required in order to manage the various challenges of this career.

Social workers represent society’s response to the challenges of families under stress, offending, long-term illness, mental illness and other serious problems. Good social work combines an interest in people with a rigorous intellectual attitude and the constant search for better methods of helping, supported by research and development.

It is a profession suited to creative, practical and resourceful individuals who enjoy working with people. You will combine ingenuity and optimism with honesty and realism in the face of the demanding situations which some service users experience. You should have a stable, well-integrated personality and you must be able to see beyond the immediate issues presented by service users, the general public and policy makers. You will also require well-developed social and communication skills and a high degree of empathy.

The University started providing training for social workers in 1918 and we are well-recognised as a leading institution in social work training. We have previously played a major role advising on the future shape of social work services in Scotland, and contributed to reports that led to the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, which remains a core legislative basis for Scottish social work today.

We seek to meet the demands of a changing profession and contribute to understanding of, and improvements in, public policy and professional practice.

Entry to our social work programme is conditional on continued registration with the professional body, the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC), and up-to-date membership of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups scheme.

In your first two years on our programme, you will study the history and development of social work, key milestones in its development and the policy and legal frameworks of practice. You will also begin to develop your people skills. In Years 3 and 4 you will focus on the context and complexity of social work practice and will undertake two assessed practice placements, each based in different settings.

Scottish Social Services Council

Entrance to BSc (Hons) Social Work is conditional on continued registration as a Student Social Worker with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC). Successful applicants will be advised of how to apply for registration.

Year 1

You will study the roots of social work and the milestones in the field's development. You will also study social policy and will be able to choose a range of option courses.

Year 2

You will study the policy and legal frameworks of social work and take the course Working and Relating: Developing Your People Skills, plus two option courses of your choice.

You will be required to undertake either paid or voluntary relevant work experience as part of the Working and Relating: Developing Your People Skills course. This experience also acts to inform discussions regarding your progression into honours years, which is based on academic achievement, professional registration and confirmation of your continued interest in social work.

Year 3

You will study courses: Social Work in Communities; Social Work with Individuals and Families; Working with Self and Others: Skills, Theories and Methods; Understanding Care and Control; and Professional Practice in Social Work 1 (including a 70-day placement). A 10-day observational placement takes place towards the end of semester 1.

Year 4

You will study: Working with Risk, Trust and Complexity, and Professional Practice in Social Work 2 (including a 95-day placement) and undertake an 8,000 word dissertation.

Are there additional costs?

All successful applicants must join Disclosure Scotland's Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme, which will currently cost you £18-£59.

Our facilities

The majority of teaching takes place at facilities located within the University's Central Area. You will also have access to the University's libraries and computer facilities.


Practice placements are full time and are organised by the University. Placements are generally in agencies in Edinburgh, the Lothians, the Scottish Borders and Fife.

How will I learn?

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials and group activities.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed by exams, coursework and, in your honours years, by a combination of coursework, groupwork and your performance on your practice placements.

Social work graduates are eligible to work in statutory or voluntary settings within the adult services, children and families, or criminal justice sectors.

They might work in a range of locations such as community-based agencies, prisons or hospitals. Career pathways exist from early practitioner stage through to senior management.

The strong communication and interpersonal skills that you will develop during your programme prepare you for a range of other careers involving working with people.

Some social work graduates also choose to continue with their studies or enter research.

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