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MA Comparative and International Social Work

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

2018/19 entry


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

Start date

September 2018 (term dates)

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30, 31 January and 1 February

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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 multi-disciplinary 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 the Health and Care Professions Council.


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


Core modules

Introduction to Social Research Methods explores the basic principles of social research. You'll become skilled at both quantitative and qualitative research techniques and develop the ability to appraise published research. (20 credits)

Comparative Social Work: Concepts and Contexts for Research and Practice introduces you to different approaches to culture in social work research and practice. You will explore how cultural context informs responses to localised social problems, and undertake cross-cultural analysis of social work research, policy and practice. (20 credits)

International Social Work will enable you to critically analyse social work approaches to globally relevant challenges, such as forced migration and disaster relief. You will also examine the global institutions, policy and legislation which inform international social work practice. (20 credits)

Practice-focused Learning will give you real world experience of social work practice settings. You will work in partnership with a social work agency to complete an applied project and attend masterclasses run by experienced practitioners. This module will enable you to develop practice-oriented skills and learn from practitioners in the field. (20 credits)

Option modules

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

Please note, modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.


Independent Study Module (80 credits)

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 policy, 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. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

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.
  • Apply a critical and systematic understanding of social work theories and skills to policy and practice settings at local, national, cross-national and global levels.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, whilst 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 2018/19

Additional costs

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

Fees information

UK/EU or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK/EU or international student.

Funding information

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

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

Home/EU students

International students

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers accommodation costs and estimated social costs.

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. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

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.

Teaching location

You will be based in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work 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.

Course location

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

  • International, noational and regional social work agencies
  • International charities
  • NGOs
  • Think tanks and policy units
  • Development work
  • Advocacy and campaigning organisations

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

Qualification Grade

You should have - or be about to complete - a 2:1 undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification. We may also consider relevant work experience along with evidence of your academic potential - please contact our admissions team to discuss your individual circumstances.

Guidance on international equivalents for entry qualifications.

English language

  • IELTS: 6.5, with no less than 5.5 in each component
  • Pearson (PTE): 61, with no less than 51 in each component
  • CAE and CPE (from January 2015): 176, with no less than 162 in each component
  • TOEFL: 87, with a minimum of 17 in Listening, 18 in Reading, 20 in Speaking and 17 in Writing
  • Trinity ISE: level 3 with Merit in all components

You may also want to attend the University's pre-sessional language courses.


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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