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MA Comparative and International Social Work

Analyse the challenges for social work policy and practice in international and local contexts

Year of entry: 2022 (September)


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

Start date

September 2022 (term dates)

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The MA in Comparative and International Social Work is one of a very small number of programmes in the UK that focuses on social work in an international context.

The course explores comparative approaches to social work policy and practice in international and local contexts. You will develop research skills allowing you to investigate real-world issues in social work. Practice-based learning lets you apply your theoretical knowledge to practical challenges of leadership and delivery.

Through multidisciplinary and cross-national study you will gain in-depth knowledge of key social work theories and current issues, preparing you to contribute to global debates and lead change in policy and practice.


Please note that this degree will not qualify you to register as a social worker. If you wish to become a registered social worker, our MA in Social Work is a professional qualification recognised by Social Work England.

University of the Year shortlisted

We're proud to announce that we've been shortlisted for two prestigious University of the Year awards.

  • Times Higher Education Awards 2021
  • The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022

Find out more about our nominations

Course content

This flexible course lets you shape your own learning experience. You'll pick from a range of options to focus your studies, and work alongside an academic supervisor to develop an independent research project on a topic of your choice.

In addition, core modules cover research skills and key theories of policy and practice in comparative and international social work.


You will take core modules, an option module and the Independent Study Module.

Core modules

You will take core modules which may include:

Option modules

Option modules give you a chance to develop your knowledge of global social issues or develop advanced research techniques. Choose from the following options:

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.
Our course structures are changing in September 2023. Find out more about how this course may be affected.


The Independent Study Module is a chance to explore a topic which interests you. You'll work with a supervisor to identify a research question and develop a methodology to investigate it.

You'll complete a dissertation of 15,000-20,000 words, which at the highest levels will contribute to our understanding of a critical issue in international social work.

Your dissertation is a chance to focus on any aspect of comparative and international social work, for example:

  • A comparative study of child migration policy and practice within the EU
  • Culturally relevant adoption practices within indigenous communities: the case of Canada
  • 'Social work with Chinese characteristics'? Opportunities and challenges for the development of social work in China
  • The role of social work in post-conflict societies

You will be supported through one-to-one supervision, as well as workshops on and sessions to help you make the most of your supervisor.

The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Engage with and inform social work policy and practice discussions at local, national, cross-national and global levels, through in-depth knowledge of the local-global nexus in the social work field.
  • Identify and synthesise theories and concepts from multiple disciplines and critically apply them to real world contexts to contribute to the informed construction of social work responses to social needs.
  • Effectively design social work research projects drawing on appropriate comparative and international research theory and methods; and retrieve, generate and interpret relevant primary and secondary data.
  • Communicate research findings, policy analyses and practice evaluations authoritatively to specialist and informed audiences in ways that balance academic rigour and accessible presentation of complex information.
  • Conduct a social work policy and research project - working within appropriate ethical frameworks - in order to analyse comparative and global social work issues and devise policy and practice strategies, while taking into account multiple and multilevel interests.
  • Work effectively in teams, with sensitivity to the individual perspectives, organisational positions and institutional dynamics of peers and other actors, and recognition of their own subjective positions.
  • Critically apply knowledge and skills to the pursuit of social progress beyond the local and domestic social work context as active and participatory citizens.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2022/23

Study modeUK (home)International and EU
Full-time (1 year) £9,290£19,950
Part-time (2 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.

Students on a Student Visa (formerly Tier 4 Visa) are not currently permitted to study part-time at York.

For courses which are longer than one year, the tuition fees quoted are for the first year of study. Fees for subsequent years are subject to increase (no more than 2% each year).

Fees information

UK (home) or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK (home) or international student. Check your fee status

Find out more information about tuition fees and how to pay them.

Additional costs

There are no mandatory additional fees, but we do recommend that you set aside some money for photocopying. Course books will be available from the Library and online reading packs are available for most modules, but you may wish to buy your own copies. Each book typically costs £40.

Some modules include field trips and site visits which may involve transport costs. Typically these trips take place in and around York.

Funding information

Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.

We'll confirm more funding opportunities for students joining us in 2022/23 throughout the year.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.

Funding opportunities

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers additional costs that are not included in your tuition fee such as expenses for accommodation and study materials.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Teaching format

Our modules are taught using a mixture of lectures, interactive seminars and workshops. Some modules feature guest lecturers who offer insight into social work practice on the ground.

All of our teaching staff are active researchers and the course content is frequently updated to reflect our latest findings. Every member of staff operates a weekly two-hour drop in session, which is a chance for you to chat about your progress in an informal setting.

Guided independent study is a key part of the course. You'll be expected to prepare for classes by reading, completing research assignments and developing presentations in groups and pairs. Be ready for lively debates on issues at the cutting edge of policy and practice.

You'll also be able to attend the Department's lectures and University lectures from visiting speakers from across the world.

Teaching location

You'll be based in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work in the Church Lane Building on Campus West. Most of your teaching will take place on Campus West.

Some modules include field trips and site visits. Typically these will take place in or around York.


About our campus

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

Core modules are assessed via essays, a presentation, and a portfolio comprising a project report, reflective writing, a learning log and critical analysis. Depending on the option module you choose you'll be assessed on your ability to apply theoretical knowledge to policy and practice, or complete a research project using advanced methodological skills.

Some of your assessments won't contribute towards your final grade. These are opportunities to gain familiarity with the marking criteria, discover topics you're interested in studying further, and identify areas for improvement in your work.

The course culminates in a final dissertation of 15,000 - 20,000 words, based on an original empirical investigation.

Careers and skills

On graduation, you will be well-equipped to pursue opportunities in local, national, cross-national and global social work organisations where research, advanced practice, and analysis skills applied to global social work challenges are highly valued.

You'll also find you develop transferable skills that will allow you to progress to different career areas or to continue your studies at PhD level.

Career opportunities

  • Administrator for international charity
  • Research officer for NGO
  • International development worker
  • Civil Service fast stream
  • Social worker
  • Local government adviser

Transferable skills

A combination of academic and practice-based learning will give you skills in:

  • Project management
  • Research and evaluation
  • Critical analysis
  • Communication
  • Team-working

Entry requirements

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or equivalent
Other qualifications and experience We may also consider relevant work experience along with evidence of your academic potential - please contact our admissions team to discuss your individual circumstances.
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Minimum requirement
IELTS 6.5, minimum 6.0 in each component
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 176, minimum 169 in each component
Duolingo 110, minimum 100 in all other components
LanguageCert B2 Communicator High Pass with 33/50 in each component
PTE Academic 61, minimum 55 in each component
TOEFL 87, minimum of 21 in each component
Trinity ISE III Merit in all requirements

For more information see our postgraduate English language requirements.

If you've not met our English language requirements

You may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language courses. These courses will provide you with the level of English needed to meet the conditions of your offer.

The length of course you need to take depends on your current English language test scores and how much you need to improve to reach our English language requirements.

After you've accepted your offer to study at York, we'll confirm which pre-sessional course you should apply to via You@York.


You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

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Social Policy and Social Work

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