This qualification has four stages, each comprising 120 credits.
- You’ll begin Stage 1 with two introductory modules – one with a focus on health and social care and one with a focus on the social sciences.
- Next, in Stage 2, you’ll study a module on childcare and protection followed by a practice-based module.
- Stage 3 consists of a module on the law and social work followed by a practice-based module where you’ll undertake a 100-day placement.
- Finally, in Stage 4, you’ll study either a module with a focus on investigating health and social care or mental health, and complete your degree with another 100 day social work practice placement.
Stage 1 develops essential underpinning knowledge and study skills – including digital and information literacy – and offers perspectives on contemporary society and how we organise social care. It’s the ideal start to your journey towards registration as a professional social worker, and as you progress you’ll draw on your learning time and again.
If you already have the knowledge and skills equivalent to Stage 1, you may be able to enter the programme at Stage 2.
At Stage 2, you’ll continue on a learning journey through the foundations of good social work practice – picking up crucial skills and knowledge along the way. Key concepts around communication will open up your thinking about how theory informs and underpins professional ‘practice’, and you’ll develop your understanding of child care and protection.
Stage 3 study will help you understand the key roles that social workers undertake and the relevant knowledge, values and skills of the social work process. You’ll also cover a range of legal issues related to social care and social work practice including children and family services, youth justice, community care and mental health.
At Stage 4, you'll become an increasingly confident, critical, analytical and reflective practitioner, and an independent learner. You'll start by either focusing on adulthood and our ageing society or mental health, and will complete your degree with a practice-based module. After successfully completing your studies, you can apply to register with the professional body in Scotland and begin your career as a qualified social worker.
We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available modules – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which the University might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 14 March 2023.
We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. The BA (Honours) Social Work (Scotland) uses a variety of study materials and has the following elements:
- studying a mixture of printed and online material – online learning resources may include websites, audio/video media clips, and interactive activities such as online quizzes
- face-to-face and/or online workshops
- working in a group with other students
- using and producing diagrams and screenshots
- undertaking practical work
- finding external/third party material online
- continuous and end-of-module assessment in the form of essays and short answer questions
- using feedback: continuous assessment involves receiving detailed feedback on your work from your tutor and using this feedback to improve your performance
- engagement with learning and assessment within a pre-determined schedule or timetable – time management will be needed during your studies and the University will help you to develop these skills throughout your degree.
In addition to the above, the regulatory body for the BA (Honours) in Social Work Scotland, the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC), has guidance
on health and disability relating to fitness for professional practice.
For more detailed information, see the Accessibility Statements on individual module descriptions. If you feel you may need additional support, visit Disability support to find more about what we offer.
Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment
This qualification develops your learning in four main areas:
- Knowledge and understanding
- Cognitive skills
- Practical and professional skills
- Key skills
The level and depth of your learning gradually increases as you work through the qualification. You’ll be supported throughout by the OU’s unique style of teaching and assessment – which includes a personal tutor to guide and comment on your work; top quality course texts; elearning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.
Read the detailed learning outcomes here
If you have already studied at university level, you may be able to count it towards your Open University qualification – which could save you time and money by reducing the number of modules you need to study. At the OU we call this credit transfer.
It’s not just university study that can be considered, you can also transfer study from a wide range of professional or vocational qualifications such as HNCs and HNDs.
You should apply for credit transfer before you register, at least 4 weeks before the registration closing date. We will need to know what you studied, where and when and you will need to provide evidence of your previous study.
For more details of when you will need to apply by and to download an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.
Classification of your degree
On successfully completing this course, we’ll award you our BA (Honours) Social Work (Scotland).
The class of honours (first, upper-second, lower-second or third) will depend on the grades you achieve in 240 credits from graded OU modules above SCQF Level 7, of which at least 120 credits must be from modules at SCQF Level 10.
You'll have the opportunity to attend a degree ceremony and to apply to the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) for formal registration as a social worker.
If you intend to use your Open University qualifications to seek work or undertake further study outside the UK, we recommend checking whether your intended qualification will meet local requirements for your chosen career. Find out more about international recognition of Open University qualifications.
As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the qualification-specific regulations below and the academic regulations that are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.
This degree course is restricted to students working in social care in Scotland.
For sponsored students, entry has to be made through your employing agency – you can't apply direct to the OU. There are a limited number of places are available to independent students.
Employing agencies and individuals who are interested in this degree should contact the Social Work Co-ordinator at The Open University in Scotland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All candidates for the degree must:
- have SCQF level 5 grade C in Maths and English, or equivalent1
- show that they can communicate clearly in spoken and written English
- demonstrate that they have the appropriate personal and intellectual qualities to be social workers
- take part in an interview
- register with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) as a student social worker – this includes a Disclosure Scotland check.
Many students receive credit transfer for study completed elsewhere, enabling them to start this programme at Stage 2. However, some may need to complete additional modules at Stage 1.
1If you do not have SCQF level 5 grade C in English, you can meet this requirement by successfully completing K102 or DD102 before you register for the degree. If you do not have SCQF level 5 grade C in Maths or equivalent, you can take an OU numeracy test which your employer will administer.
To be considered for admission to the Independent route you must have successfully completed the modules in Stage 1, and at least be registered on the appropriate module at Stage 2. You could meet this requirement by either studying both modules or a combination of study and credit transfer.
You’ll also need to meet the eligibility criteria and undergo a selection process where you must able to demonstrate an understanding of social care in practice and at least 12 months experience of working directly with service users and carers that can be verified through a reference from your employer. Successful candidates must also meet the SSSC registration conditions.
Preparing for study with an Access module
Students who start their study with an Access module are more likely to be successful when they advance to Stage 1 of their qualification. They’re specially designed to give you a gentle introduction to OU study, boost confidence in your study skills, and help you gain a broad overview of your chosen subject area.
You’ll also benefit from:
- feedback from your tutor through regular one-to-one phone tutorials
- support from a dedicated team throughout your study
- detailed written feedback on your work.
The Access module we’d recommend studying in preparation for this qualification is our:
Psychology, social science and wellbeing Access module
Skills for career development
This degree will develop the skills needed to work with individuals, families, carers, groups, communities and other professionals, and you’ll be able to demonstrate to employers your professional competence in social work practice. Employers sponsoring staff on this degree have commented that:
- OU graduates are enthusiastic social workers who are well equipped to provide high quality interventions with service users
- a very high percentage of their OU qualified staff remain within their organisation and progress to more senior roles.
An honours degree in social work is now the professional qualification required for all social workers in the UK. Once you’ve successfully completed the degree course, you’ll be entitled to apply for registration with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) as a social worker.
Once you’ve successfully completed this degree course, you’ll be entitled to apply to register with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) as a social worker.
Many graduate-level jobs are open to graduates of any discipline, particularly in business, finance, management consultancy and the public sector. Some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree.
Exploring your options
Once you register with us (and for up to three years after you finish your studies), you’ll have full access to our careers service for a wide range of information and advice. This includes online forums, website, interview simulation, vacancy service as well as the option to email or speak to a careers adviser. Some areas of the careers service website are available for you to see now, including help with looking for and applying for jobs. You can also read more general information about how OU study enhances your career.
In the meantime if you want to do some research around this qualification and where it might take you, we’ve put together a list of relevant job titles as a starting point. Some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree):
- Social worker
- Care home manager
- Probation officer
- Prison officer
- Adult guidance worker
- Advice worker
- Careers adviser
- Charity officer
- Community development worker
- Equality and diversity officer
- Health promotion specialist
- Volunteer coordinator
- Youth worker.