International Social Work anyone?

As well as undertaking research in the International Centre, Research Fellow Roma Thomas co-ordinates a Master’s in International Social Work. Here she reflects on three ways that the course interacts with our research, to support students for the improvement of policy and practice   

This academic year it’s been my pleasure as Course Coordinator to welcome our second cohort of students to study the newly developed MA in International Social Work and Social Development. Over the last two years, international and UK students have joined us with interests and heritages from nine countries including Nigeria, Nepal, India, South Africa as well as the UK. Our students come from a range of professional and academic backgrounds including social work, voluntary work with NGOs and experience in the care sector. The students are united by a keen interest in making connections between global and local perspectives. Writing this blog gives me an opportunity to reflect on reasons for studying this course. I have picked out what I think are three key reasons students choose  this MA.

Research, Teaching and Practice

A prime motivation for developing the MA here at the University of Bedfordshire was to give us the opportunity to incorporate knowledge from our work at the ‘International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence and Trafficking’, into the teaching we offer to students. For example, teaching draws on colleagues’ research into practitioner responses to trafficked children and young people and exploration of drivers for the prevention of CSE and other forms of child abuse and trafficking in international social development. Other key themes for the MA include participation and the ethical underpinnings for practice in different countries, particularly the global South. The applied nature of research in the Centre makes dissemination a priority. We aim to influence policy and practice at all levels through sharing and exchanging knowledge, and our engagement with practitioners and young people is an essential part of our work. Running courses gives us the added opportunity to engage with students from many different backgrounds and with diverse interests. Members of the Centre teach the course and are responsible for programmes within the MA.

Currency and Relevance

In light of recent events, it is unsurprising that one of the most popular units of study in our Master programmes is Complexities of Forced Migration Unit: Human Displacement, Trafficking and Refuge.   Among other themes, this Unit introduces students to the international system for refugee protection and separated children.  It also addresses practical and ethical implications of working with displaced populations.  We offer the chance for students to deepen this practical knowledge through a range of volunteering opportunities. This includes working alongside University of Bedfordshire Law students as part of a local refugee legal aid project which provides free legal assistance to refugees in the preparation of family reunion applications to the UK Visa and Immigration Authority.

Social Development for international practice

swOne of the unique features of the MA is that we bring together international social work with social development. As social work is delivered through social and community development in very many countries across the globe this is highly relevant for practice.  Our students can choose countries and contexts of interest and focus on specific service user groups and types of human need.  One of the ways we mark this fact is through our celebration of World Social Work Day where students present posters featuring a day in the life of social workers and social development workers. To date they have highlighted practice in Nepal, South Africa, Brazil and Tanzania.

The Global Agenda for Social Work advocates education and training programmes which prepare social workers and social development practitioners for ethical and informed interventions. While the reasons for studying International Social Work are, and will remain, varied, this principle lies at the heart of our teaching on the MA. We hope that we can work with our students to make it a reality in the countries they choose to work in across the globe.

The  MA International  Social Work and Social Development  is offered full-time over one year or two years part-time.  For more information email Course Coordinator

The International Centre also leads and contributes to a range of other postgraduate study opportunities and we offer short courses

MA Childhood and Youth – Applied Perspectives

MA Criminology

Professional Doctorate in Leadership in Children and Young People’ Services