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Postgradaute Ethics of Social Welfare

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  • Objectives
    This course aims to deepen your understanding of the philosophical basis of good practice, and to enhance your ability to think systematically about the moral issues that you may face in the course of your work. The full MA course can be used towards the requirements of the Advanced Award in Social Work as part of a portfolio. Please ask for further information. If you successfully complete the MA and wish to continue your studies in this area, you may apply to proceed to an MPhil or PhD.
  • Entry requirements
    Applicants should have either a degree in a relevant subject, or appropriate professional qualifications and/or experience. Applications are welcome from people with a professional or other serious interest in social welfare issues, such as (but not limited to) social workers, youth workers, community workers, probation officers, police officers and voluntary workers in relevant areas.
  • Academic Title
    MA, Postgraduate Diploma Ethics of Social Welfare
  • Course description
    Full-Time & Part-Time study

    Introduction

    This course is designed especially for social welfare professionals. It provides an opportunity to gain a deeper and more systematic understanding of the ethical issues, and to explore the moral problems which social welfare professionals face in their work. The course is structured to be compatible with the demands of full-time employment, and to be accessible from all over the UK or beyond. It is taught by staff from the Centre for Professional Ethics who have a particular interest in ethical issues in social welfare, and from time to time, outside speakers may also be invited to speak on this course.

    The Ethics of Social Welfare teaching team have many years of experience of teaching this course and other postgraduate applied ethics programmes. We are very aware of the special problems and challenges which may face those combining study with full-time work, and therefore we do our utmost to offer a supportive and stimulating environment for learning. Each student is assigned a personal supervisor from the teaching team, whom they can contact for help or advice at any time during the course.

    Students come from a diverse range of backgrounds within the fields of social welfare and from all over the UK, and beyond. Our graduates have reported that meeting and exchanging ideas with others who work in different fields and in different parts of the country is one of the major benefits of the course. A report from the Quality Assurance Agency, awarded the Centre for Professional Ethics the top mark of 24 for its teaching programmes. The report described our MA courses as “highly innovative” and “professionally relevant [with] immediate practical application”, and praised the course’s “diverse student profile” as a key strength, which “enriches the learning experience”. We are also pleased to see that some of our students’ work has been published in professional journals and in books.

    Course Structure and Content

    Masters courses require the successful completion of 180 M level credits: 120 credits through taught modules, and 60 credits for the dissertation of 15,000-20,000 words.

    Year one (part-time) consists of four taught modules worth 30 credits each. Each of these modules is taught in a single intensive three-day teaching block. The first of these blocks is normally in October, with subsequent teaching blocks spread throughout the academic year.

    In year two (part-time), students go on to research and write a dissertation to obtain the award of Master of Arts (MA). There are no specific
    attendance requirements at all during the second year – you may either meet with your supervisor at mutually convenient times, or keep in touch by phone or email, or a combination of methods. If you successfully complete the taught modules, but do not wish to write a dissertation, you will be awarded a Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip).

    The usual mode of attendance for this course is part-time, though it is also possible to undertake the course on a full-time basis. This entails undertaking the taught modules and the dissertation in one year. We regard high levels of student participation in discussion as particularly important for teaching and learning in this area, and employ teaching techniques which encourage this wherever possible.

    Course Modules

    • Module 1: Introduction to Moral and Social Theory – This module examines those parts of moral and social theory which are especially relevant to the work of social-welfare practitioners and policy makers. Topics covered normally include: the nature of moral theory and its relationship to practice; relativism and tolerance; the relationship between law and morality; the role and status of ethical codes.

    • Module 2: Autonomy, Responsibility and Punishment – This module aims to enhance students’ understanding of several different
    conceptions of autonomy, responsibility and punishment, and examines the way in which these notions can inform ethical decision- making. Topics covered normally include: information handling (e.g. issues of disclosure, confidentiality and privacy); compromised autonomy (e.g. issues relating to mental illness and addiction); the moral status of the child; the functions and justification of punishment.

    • Module 3: Equality, Discrimination and Rights – This module explores a number of competing conceptions of equality,
    discrimination and rights. Topics covered normally include: philosophical theories of discrimination and equality; discrimination and ‘affirmative action’; specific forms of discrimination (e.g. age, gender, race); feminism and the ‘ethics of care’; the nature and
    status of moral and legal rights.

    • Module 4: Ethics and Social Welfare – Contemporary debates – This module explores some current controversies in social and
    political philosophy that are of particular relevance to social welfare practitioners. Topics which might be covered include ethical issues
    relating to the family (e.g. the respective rights of children and parents and the legitimacy of state intervention); the tension between individual rights and community values; and the idea of a multicultural political system. The module also includes sessions on research methods for those intending to complete the MA.

    Assessment

    Each of the taught modules is assessed by an assignment of up to 4,000 words. If you successfully complete the taught modules, you may
    apply to progress to the MA stage to research and write a dissertation of 15,000-20,000 words, the title of which must be approved by the
    Course Director.

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