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School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care

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We transform lives through health and social care education and research.

For over 30 years, we have been delivering supported and open distance learning in the field of health and social care, and developing highly-respected materials for multi-disciplinary and multi-professional use. Today, we are one of the largest and most innovative providers of educational opportunities and learning solutions in this sector. 

We offer a wide range of practice-related courses and awards, from single modules for professional development to qualifying and post-qualifying routes, and from vocational training to undergraduate and research degrees. 

The School is characterised by a vigorous intellectual life fostered through shared research interests, collaborative teaching, flexible study arrangements and a strong external focus. We currently have 100 members of academic staff, 28 academic related staff and 14 postgraduate students. Our work is organised into three professional areas: Health and Social Care, Social Work, and Nursing: 

  • We work in partnership with employers to provide learning programmes that meet their changing needs. Over 50% of our students are sponsored by employers – mainly in the NHS, Social Services and the voluntary sector.
  • As the UK’s largest provider of part-time social work training, we support a large student population of about 12,000 who study a diverse range of open modules and awards in the field of wellbeing, health and social care that are relevant to practice and work. 
  • We also offer a unique work-based pre-registration nursing programme which delivers a flexible qualifying route for staff working in healthcare practice in a caring role across the UK, together with a range of modules and awards for professional development. 

Our teaching materials are underpinned by the excellence of our research as well as by high quality scholarship in the area of teaching and learning – focusing on the delivery of an excellent student experience. We are deeply committed to the principles and practice of equality and diversity and to the pursuit of social justice.

We have a strong track record in applied health and social care research. We are in receipt of funding from Research Councils (ESRC and AHRC), the National Institute for Health Research, and a wide range of trusts, charities and commercial organisations. 


Elderly man with female care worker

Adult health and social care

Whether you work in adult services, are a carer or a service user or simply have a personal interest in the subject, adult health and social care is a fascinating area to study – personally rewarding and offering qualifications to open up career opportunities for you in a sector which is growing and will always need staff.

Elderly couple

Ageing and later life

Ageing and later life are both exciting and growing areas of study and practice. Learning about older adult's lives whether out of personal interest or as a practitioner can be very rewarding.

Children with adult

Children, young people and families

Working with children, young people and families in different settings in social care, health, childcare, education or youth justice can be very rewarding. Studying at the OU, you can gain relevant qualifications to help get into a career working in this sector, or further develop your current career.

Cherub on a gravestone

Death and dying, palliative care

The way in which people are cared for at the end of life has risen to the top of the health care agenda in the UK. The OU was one of the first if not THE first university to develop flexible, accessible learning to address the very challenging area of death and dying.

Elderly woman with carer holding hands


Caring for people with dementia presents a real challenge for people working in this area of health care, especially when they require end-of-life care.

Family studying in the garden


Health is not only a fascinating area to study, it is also potentially rewarding as a route into a career or for career development. 80% of our students are already in work – studying part-time in their own time.

Healthcare practitioner with patient

Healthcare practice

As health services across the UK change, so are the roles and responsibilities of the healthcare support workforce. To meet the challenge, we have designed a learning and development programme specifically for HCAs and APs working at Levels 2-4 on the Career Framework.

Man and woman in a meeting

Leadership and management

Leadership involves caring for and helping others in a variety of different roles. Discover a caring yet critical approach to leadership and management which can support you in your skill and confidence as a manager and leader of others.

Woman studying documents

Mental health

With up to a quarter of us likely to experience mental health problems at some time in our lives, mental health is everybody’s business – and it’s a fascinating and challenging subject to study, whether your interest is personal or professional.

Nurses in corridor


We offer exciting learning programmes at all levels in nursing – whether you’re trying to get into the profession, or you’re already qualified and looking to progress your career.

Health workers in discussion

Public health

We offer a range of courses and qualifications enabling you to discover the world of public health. You can study a single course, or work towards a diploma or degree, tailored to your professional or personal needs.

Carer talking to blind woman

Social care (Scotland)

In response to changes in the social care sector, we have launched a Diploma of Higher Education in Social Care (Scotland) with strong emphasis on working across professional boundaries.

Woman studying documents

Social work

We are one of the largest providers of social work training in the UK, with around 300 graduates every year. Our flexible study arrangements fit in with your work and home life, so you can carry on earning while you learn.

Young people at a railway station

Youth justice

Did you know that in England and Wales we have tended to lock up more children and young people than almost any other country in Europe? Perhaps it’s time you took a closer look.


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