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BA (Hons) Social Work (Northern Ireland)

Social worker smiling at a client on a sofa

The Open University has been delivering qualifications in social work since 1997. Over 6,000 social workers have qualified with us, and we currently work in partnership with over 300 employers across the UK to deliver our social work programmes.

Social workers support and protect some of society's most deprived and vulnerable people. They require a high level of motivation, commitment and a qualifying degree.

In April 2020, The Open University's social work degree programme was approved by the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC).

The BA (Hons) Social Work (Northern Ireland) qualifies social workers to practice across a range of sectors and settings including statutory health and social care, justice, the education sector and the third sector. The work-based programme is designed to help students acquire the core knowledge and skills that are transferrable across a range of settings and service user groups.

Delivered through a combination of practice based learning and supported distance learning, the programme is targeted at employees who have experience in either working or volunteering in a social work or social care agency. Students will need the support of a relevant employer throughout the programme. Successful applicants are required to register with NISCC prior to commencing the degree and comply with the Standards of Conduct for Social Work Students.


Placements and entry to the programme

The programme is divided into three stages and can be completed in approximately 3 years, but there is flexibility to take up to 7 years to complete. The programme starts in October each year and recruitment and selection takes place during April to mid July.  At present, this programme is only available to students who are being sponsored by their employing agency, which means that the agency/employer must agree to provide two practice learning placements for the candidate during the programme. At stage 2, students will undertake an 85-day placement and at stage 3 they will undertake a 100-day placement.

If smaller social care organisations are only able to provide one placement, there may be opportunities for the University to work with them to identify an external placement via the Northern Ireland Degree in Social Work Partnership (NIDSWP). The NIDSWP represents educational institutions and social work employers who are engaged in the provision of social work education and training. Please see the relevant resources on the NIDSWP website.

Entry to the degree must be through your employing agency, you cannot apply direct to the OU. Please read the Employer Handbook which explains how to implement the programme into a work setting and decide if you meet the required criteria. You can also read the student entry requirements for the programme. Module fees may be paid by the student of the sponsoring agency, or a combination of both. It may also be possible to get financial assistance for some of the modules through Student Finance in Northern Ireland.


Other options

If sponsorship isn't available to you right now or you do not meet the entry requirements for this programme, you may wish to study our Certificate of Higher Education in Social Care while you secure support from an employer. Students who successfully complete the Certificate may then apply for direct stage 2 entry to the degree, provided they have secured a sponsor. Entry to the programme at stage 2, however, is not guaranteed as students are still required to meet the entry criteria and be successful at interview. A number of students will choose this route as it prepares them for higher level study and it is also a good introduction to what the role of a social worker entails. 

Candidates who already hold a first degree may wish to consider the Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work or MA in Social Work.


Applicants who reside in the Republic of Ireland

We would suggest that any interested students in the Republic of Ireland have a conversation with CORU (the social work regulator) prior to applying to the BA, PGDip or MA in Social Work. Social workers in ROI have to register with CORU to practice as a social worker, following successful completion of their qualification.

We do know that their process of registration on to the social work register can take longer. However, some of our previous social work graduates have successfully registered with them and are currently employed and working in social work posts in the ROI. 


For further information, contact our team in Northern Ireland:

Call: 028 9024 5025