University of Southampton to scrap social work courses
MSc programmes face the axe as university cites lack of ‘internationally excellent research’ in social work studies
Sade Laja · guardian.co.uk
The closure would happen once current students have completed their respective courses, most likely the summer of 2013. Photograph: Justin Ouellette/Getty Images
The University of Southampton has launched a consultation on plans to close two postgraduate social care programmes.
In a letter to stakeholders, professor Judith Petts, dean of the faculty of social and human sciences, says that following a three-year review and analysis of the department, the university is considering to stop offering MSc in social work and MSc in professional studies because it cannot meet its “overall strategic commitment in this area”.
“This would occur when our current students have completed their studies,” Petts writes.
“Southampton is committed to ensuring that internationally excellent research can be found in all our academic disciplines, and that our teaching is strongly informed by this research.
“We are therefore channelling our resources into the university’s greatest research strengths and reviewing activities within our portfolio of programmes that align with these strategic objectives.”
A spokesman for the university said the consultation was taking place as the quality of the research being produced by the university was not of a high enough level to sustain the courses. It said it had not been able to reach a position where it could ensure that “internationally excellent research can be found in this academic discipline”.
A blog has been set up to provide information for those wishing to respond to the consultation, which will run until 1 February. Responses to the consultation will then be summarised and a report taken to the university’s executive group. A final decision on the future of the programmes will be announced on 29 February.
If agreed, the closure would happen once the current students have completed their respective courses, most likely to be in the summer of 2013.
Clare Parkinson, a respondent to the university’s blog, describes the proposed decision to close the programmes as a “blow to the profession”.
“The innovative approaches of specialist social work academics at Southampton make a significant contribution to the teaching, practice and research developments in social work, especially in the area of reflective and relationship based social work practice and interprofessional practice,” she says in her comments.
Fran Fuller, chair of the British Association of Social Workers, said that it was following the development “with concern” and hopes that it is not becoming a trend.
“While admittedly there is currently a surplus of social work graduates, which has led to difficulties with them gaining employment as newly qualified social workers; rather than scrapping these degrees, the numbers of students on all courses should be capped so that students get quality tuition and a valuable experience. This would also help to manage the issue of placement shortages,” Fuller said.
“Social work programmes make a strong contribution to university life as they offer opportunities for people without conventional academic backgrounds to engage with university study and to become qualified professionals. This is an opportunity that people local to Southampton may miss out on now.”
In December there were reports that the government was planning to cut social work education grant in 2012-13 by 18%. However, the government has not yet confirmed or denied this.