University of Sydney Handbooks - 2021 Archive

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Social Work


The course is designed to allow social work practitioners to reflect on and formulate their practice; read about and appraise alternative practices and theories; and assess their work in new ways.

The aim is to evaluate existing practice and provision critically, with a view to promoting change and improvement in services offered and outcomes effected in the lives and situations of clients. It offers opportunities for the analysis and investigation of theories and initiatives in social policy and their impact.

By combining social work and social policy units of study, the Master of Social Work program gives intellectual rigour to its study of equity, social justice and social empowerment issues.

The program has a broad range of available areas of study, including:

  • specific social work fields of practice, including mental health, community work, working with Indigenous Australians, domestic and family violence, and environmental issues.
  • theories of social work practice
  • comparative and global studies of welfare policy and practice in a range of sociocultural settings
  • the history and theory of social policy frameworks

The capstone unit of study provides an opportunity to integrate ideas and understandings drawn from units of study taken in the course. The capstone is a compulsory requirement and is undertaken by completing an Authorised Independent Study and Report or a dissertation with an upper limit of 12,000 words.

Students who intend on undertaking a higher degree by research (MPhil or PhD) in future should enrol in the Dissertation option (please note that entry requirements apply for this unit of study – consult your course coordinator for further details).

Awards and requirements

Please refer to the course rules in this handbook for information on the specific admission requirements for different coursework award courses.

Master of Social Work
To qualify for the award of Master of Social Work, candidates must complete 48 credit points, including:

  • 12 credit points of core units of study
  • a maximum of 12 credit points of capstone units of study; plus
  • a minimum of 24 credit points of elective units of study

Graduate Diploma in Social Work
To qualify for the award of Graduate Diploma in Social Work, candidates must complete 36 credit points, including

  • 12 credit points of core units of study
  • 24 credit points of elective units of study
Learning outcomes

The coursework program has a strong focus on critical reflection on practice, research skills and theory development. At the conclusion of this designated degree students should be able to:

  • demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the full range of social work theories and practices.
  • examine and develop their own social work practice skills and capacities, including work with individuals, families, groups and communities.
  • critically evaluate existing social work practice and systems of social provision.
  • demonstrate detailed knowledge of social policies and their impact on individuals, families, communities and nations and develop policy and advocacy skills in order to address issues.
  • apply new knowledge and create new knowledge for social work practice and social provision.
  • work with and for diverse individuals and groups in diverse and interdisciplinary settings.
  • demonstrate commitment to social work ethics and contribute to the development of ethical and culturally inclusive practices.
  • analyse and undertake social work practice research in order to contribute to the field.
  • contribute to the development of social services, workplaces and social policies in Australia and internationally.
Contacts and further information

Associate Professor Ruth Phillips
Phone: 02 9351 6899
Location: Room 741, Education Building, A35

Website: Sydney School of Education and Social Work