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Social Work (Professional Doctorate) (DSW)

Professional Doctorate in Social Work


Please note that this programme has one entry point in late September of each year, and the normal deadline for applying is July 1st


Cardiff School of Social Sciences is one of the largest centres of social science research in the UK, with over half of all its research activity rated as either ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The School was ranked by the RAE at the top of UK universities for ‘Research Power’. This is a measure which combines research excellence and research capacity. This is a remarkable achievement, indicating a critical mass of active world class scholars across our large inter – disciplinary School. Around 300 students join the School each year to pursue postgraduate study in a range of social science disciplines. Much of our research involves collaboration with major universities and international agencies around the world. It also involves us in local contacts with policy makers and practitioners. This creative combination of interests and practices is the hallmark of the School.


Professional Doctorates aim to integrate academic and professional knowledge in new ways. A professional doctorate is designed to develop the capabilities of individuals to work within a professional context. In Cardiff School of Social Sciences we offer an integrated professional doctorate scheme within which education, health and social work professionals work together for some of the taught modules. The unique interprofessional learning allows students to reflect on both what is shared across professional boundaries and what is distinctive to their own occupational traditions.


The Professional Doctorate in Social Work is aimed at managers, trainers and a wide range of practitioners. It offers the opportunity to examine leading edge theories and research evidence in order to understand the social context of social work interventions and the impact they have on people’s lives.



Programme of Study

The degree consists of two major elements:

Part one | eight taught modules each with a 4,000 word equivalent assignment

Part two | research thesis of 35,000 – 50,000 words in length reflecting a particular interest of relevant to a student’s area of professional practice. Theses may be desk-based or students may opt to conduct field-work.

All students will be required to take 8 taught modules. As all students will be part time, with substantial professional commitments, modules will be taught intensively over 2½ days with suitable pre and post reading and activities. Typically, students will receive reading materials one month prior to each module. Three different types of modules will be offered — compulsory, generic options and specialist options:

Five research training compulsory modules:
» Research Design
» Changing Modes of Professionalism
» Quantitative Research Methods
» Qualitative Research Methods
» Research and Evidence-Based Policy and Practice

Two compulsory specialist modules:
» Management in Social Care
» Advanced Social Work Practice

One generic optional module. Provisions may very each year, but the following have been available recently:
» Social Policy
» Public Sector Management
» Negotiating Equality and Diversity in Policy and Practice

With the exception of “Changing Modes of Professionalism”, which is the first compulsory module that introduces the programme, the rest may be taken in any order. Students may also opt to take a specialist module from other Social Sciences-based Professional Doctorate as their option module.


Once the taught modules are successfully completed, DSW candidates are assigned a supervisor and formally registered for their thesis.

Students will be required to submit work for annual progress reviews until they complete their thesis.

The thesis will be between 35,000 and 50,000 words in length.


Period of Study

The normal expectation is for the taught element to be completed in two years, and the thesis to be completed within a further two years. The maximum time limit for the degree overall is 7 years.


Admission Requirements

The basic entry requirements are that candidates should possess a good first degree and normally a Masters degree; they should also have two or more years’ professional experience in a field appropriate to their chosen programme. As some of the assessments may draw upon professional practice issues, it will normally be a condition of entry that applicants have access to professional settings in an appropriate professional field.

All students will be interviewed for their chosen programme prior to admission; they will be counseled on the appropriateness of the course for their particular stage of professional development. Recruitment of students will comply fully with the University’s equal opportunities policy.

Candidates are also asked to submit a research proposal with their application to enable us to identify potential supervisors early on. For guidance see the Guidance for Research Proposal in the Related Resources Section at the top of this page.



Tution Fees

Please visit the postgraduate fees section for the most up to date information.


The course has a single, annual, admission date in late September every year. Applications are welcomed until 1st July.

How to apply

Please visit the `how to apply` section. Informal enquiries about the research degrees and application forms to be addressed to:

Professional Doctorate Programme
+44 (0)29 208 70855, extension 70855


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