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Academic requirements

Can I study at degree level – how can I decide my “academic potential’’?

You may well be coming to think about signing up to qualify as a social worker because you have lots of commitment, understanding and energy for the role, but it is the academic side of studying at degree level that is unfamiliar to you, or you are unsure about. It is important you think about this. You will have to develop the skills of critical analysis in your thinking and written work at a graduate standard over the course of your studies.

The Social Work Reform Board recommended that candidates signing up for the degree should have 240 UCAS points (96 points on the new tariff). This is the equivalent of three A levels at grade C. For people who haven’t got these A levels then this may well feel quite daunting, especially if you feel confident in your ability to work with people and become a social worker.

You, and the people who will be recruiting you, will be considering your “academic potential”. This does not necessarily mean what you can do now academically, but that you feel you have – and can show selectors – the potential to develop the necessary academic and thinking skills to complement your practice.

The Open University is committed to support people in developing in this way so there are lots of ways in which you can think about this. Below we have given some links to some tools for you to use. These will help you to assess for yourself your strengths and weaknesses in this area. They will mean you are prepared to discuss your academic potential at your interview, and begin to develop your ideas about whether you are ready to study at degree level, and what support, if any, you think you might want to make your journey to become a qualified social worker a successful one.

English for academic study

The English for OU study website provides examples of people talking about studying with the OU. None of them were confident about their English and study skills. There are spaces for you to make notes on your thoughts about your own skills and concerns. This would be a good starting point to give you material to think about and discuss at interview.

Skills for OU study

The Skills for OU study website provides more detailed advice on different aspects of academic study. You may wish to explore some of the resources here to help you think about what academic skills you need to develop. But don’t get put off, remember you are thinking about your “academic potential”, not if you feel fully confident in all these aspects of study.

Other things to do to prepare

There are other things you can do to prepare yourself and build your confidence. Read articles in:

  • Community Care
  • Social Issues pages of a broadsheet newspaper.
  • Look on SCIE website and either read some of the reports, or look at Social Care TV online and make notes about your ideas and impressions of the points made.

K102 Introducing health and social care

K102 Introducing health and social care is a first year module and provides and overall perspective on the issues in health and social care. It recognises as a first year module that you need to be introduced to academic skills. There is also access to specific additional resources, if you and your tutor think you need them, in order to ensure you are able to progress academically as well as in practice.

Studying again came as a bit of a shock to me, since I'd never achieved more than an O Level at school. However, it has been a gradual process begining with the OU's Certificate in Health and Social Care. I have found the whole learning experience life changing. I know I have grown and changed as a person and I believe I am more self assured and confident in my work as a result.

Julie Ann Howard
Sponsored by Hertfordshire County Council and now a qualified social worker