University of Southampton proposes closing Social Work programmes

Thank you to all those who responded to the consultation and who shared their thoughts here too. The consultation is now closed and we await the outcome.

Apparently there were 94 submissions which is amazing, thank you. 

University Executive Group will make the decision on 21st February 2012

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University of Southampton proposes closing it’s Social Work qualifying and post qualifying programmes and is now in a consultation period from 9th December 2011 to 1st February 2012.

This page has been developed to provide information for those wishing to respond to the consultation at swreview@soton.ac.uk  Responses will be summarised and a report taken to the University Executive Group by the Dean on 21st February and the outcome reported to Senate on 29th February.

Hopefully you will respond to the email address above but it would not hurt if copies were sent to the Vice Chancellor either by email to vice-chancellor@soton.ac.uk or hard copy to him at the University. Please also post your comments on this blog so that a body of  views and comments can be developed. Please do share the SWSresponse blog address with colleagues.

University formal consultation letter

The University posted a hard copy letter to a number of ‘stakeholders’ on 13th December 2011 and the text of the letter is as follows:

9 December 2011

Social Work Studies postgraduate programmes
I am writing to you as a valued stakeholder in the University of Southampton’s Social Work Studies activities to provide you with some important information and to seek any comments you may have.

Following extensive review and analysis of Social Work Studies activities at Southampton over the past three years, the University has taken a decision to consider closure of its postgraduate programmes – the MSc in Social Work and the MSc in Professional Studies. This would occur when our current students have completed their studies. 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.

The reputation and quality of the University of Southampton’s Social Work Studies programme and graduates is well recognised, reflecting the high calibre of teaching being undertaken. However, despite a series of initiatives by the University, we have not been able to reach a position where we can meet our overall strategic commitment in this area. We are therefore now entering a period of consultation about managing the necessary changes and their consequences, for both staff and students.

The University is committed to ensuring that our current students will continue to be taught to our established high standards, be enabled to complete successfully all elements of their programmes and that the value of their Southampton qualification continues to be recognised. As valued stakeholders, the University recognises you may wish to contribute to the consultation process and would welcome any comments from you. These can be directed to us by email – swreview@soton.ac.uk. The consultation period runs from today, 9 December 2011, through to 1 February 2012. 

If you have any questions at all or would like to discuss this situation in more detail with the University, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Yours sincerely,

Professor Judith Petts
Dean, Faculty of Social & Human Sciences
University of Southampton
Highfield Campus
Southampton SO17 1BJ
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 5663
Email: swreview@southampton.ac.uk
http://www.southampton.ac.uk

Background context

There was an academic review of Social Work Studies (SWS) in the Universityof Southampton in 2009 immediately following the results of the 2008 RAE. The committee included 3 external members, 2 of whom had been members of the RAE sub-panel for Social Policy and Social Work. The review was set up to ‘make recommendations to the University for a clear strategy to ensure a leading national and international academic position for the discipline within a secure and sustainable financial base’.

At no point was closure of the discipline discussed. The review reported in July 2009 and the expectation was that the University, having accepted the report would provide the support for this to be achieved. However since that time senior members of the University of Southampton who were on the review and who were charged with seeing through the recommendations including the Dean of the Faculty of Law Arts and Social Sciences and the Head of the School of Social Sciences have left the University of Southampton. There is therefore little or no informed context for the current decision to close Social Work Studies.

At the time of the 2009 review the SWS Division was a lead income generator in the School by offering, among other things, UG and PG qualifying programmes that had guaranteed fee income provided by the Department of Health. The Division was also recognised for the quality of the education and teaching of the Social Work division, as recorded in league tables and student satisfaction surveys.

Among its many considerations the Panel noted the departure of the Division’s three professors in the previous nine months. While this was acknowledged to leave a significant vacuum of academic leadership, it was also seen to provide an important opportunity for the Division, the School and the University. To this end the University prioritised a professorial appointment in the Child & Family Welfare Centre. Unfortunately that appointment has since left the university. The University has not made a replacement.

There was also a recommendation that an additional senior academic appointment be made at professorial level to lead the Division.  The panel were clear that this role must be separate from the Chair of the Child & Family Welfare Centre. This has not happened

Since the 2009 review rather than devise a clear strategy to ensure that SWS at Southampton achieve its potential the University has managed a period of decline.

Other staff vacancies have not been filled and a diminishing staff group with little research leadership has been asked to both deliver high quality professional education and continue to research and publish at levels of international excellence defined by non-social work criteria.  Meanwhile the University also closed the UG programme which had a history of successful recruitment and, as has been said, provided guaranteed fee income. On the basis of these management decisions the University is proposing to close the social work programmes and thus by implication the Division of Social Work

2010 review

Information was provided to Social Work Studies staff in hard copy at a meeting on 8th December an excerpt from that information follows:

In March 2010 UEG approved a business plan for the programme with the following key features:
 Closure of the UG qualifying programme in Social Work (currently being taught out)
 A realignment to correspond to future academic direction
 Development of the Child Wellbeing Centre as a University hub for multidisciplinary research
 Expansion of PG provisions to include CPD and DL
 Step change in research performance
 Internationalisation of recruitment
 A three year academic and financial transition programme

October 2011 review

During the summer of 2011 a replacement for the departing Chair was advertised but no shortlist was approved. A second attempt in August to recruit a Chair, a Reader and a Lecturer resulted in the shortlist panel recommending a shortlist for all three posts. The view was taken by the Dean that the Chair had to be recruited first and that none of the candidates put forward were suitable and therefore no interviews would take place. Shortly afterwards a further review was announced to be undertaken by an small group from within the School of Social Sciences with one academic from Health Sciences. This group were given the following remit:

To review progress made towards the achievement of the various goals set out in the SWS business plan approved by UEG in 2010 [an outcome of the Post RAE 2008 review of SWS]. In particular, to consider whether there have been any material developments in relation to the ‘Risks’ or ‘Opportunities’ identified by the previous Head of School (Social Work Studies Business Plan 2010-14) and the implications of these for the future viability, direction and development potential of SWS, with particular reference to the following issues:

  • Staffing and recruitment progress
  • REF preparation and submission
  • Research income
  • Collaboration and links within and across Faculties
  • Financial performance of the teaching programmes
  • Fit of SWS with the new Faculty Strategic Plan

The review group came up with the following options:

1. Maintenance of the status quo.
2. Merger of SWS with Sociology and Social Policy.
3. Relocation to the Faculty of Health Sciences.
4. Closure of SWS programmes.

Outcomes

The Dean took Option 3 to the University Executive Group on 9th December and it was agreed to consult with Health Sciences. No discussion followed  between Health Sciences and the Social Work staff. Indeed the Health Sciences academic on the review group was not able to make the meeting Social Work staff had with the review group.   The Faculty of Health Sciences concluded that a transfer was not a viable option. Reasons included a lack of strategic alignment and ability to maintain and build provision for the programme in such a competitive environment.

A second report with these findings was submitted by the Dean to UEG on 6 December. where the Dean recommended the most appropriate option as closure of the Social Work Studies programmes in Summer 2013. The recommendation to pursue option 4 (Closure) was endorsed by UEG.

There has been no explanation or rationale offered as to why it was not possible for the other options to be explored. Indeed apparently a meeting of Professors in Sociology and Social Policy saw a number of synergies in both research and teaching if Social Work Studies were to merge with them.

At no time have the External Examiners, the original review group, or any external social work academics or employers been invited to be involved in discussions about the future of  the social work programmes prior to the University Executive Group decisions. As far as can be ascertained no informed view of the role of the social work programmes regionally or nationally been sought nor the implications of the Social Work Reform Board or the Munro Report. Colleagues will be aware that we do not yet know the outcome for the future of the bursary.

The University notified UCAS it would not be admitting students to the 2012 Masters in Social Work programme as soon as the UEG decision to close the social work programmes. The programme recruits strongly and increased its numbers for the 2011 intake whilst teaching out the last year of the undergraduate programme.

Governance at the University has changed in the last five years and power has been centralised to the University Executive Group and appointed Deans appear to be unable to be challenged. Senate is now for information and advice not decision making. There appears to be no formal process for closing programmes, other than UEG decision.  It is understood that the consultation currently taking place is a ‘good practice’ consultation rather than part of a formal closure process. It is not thought the decision needs to be taken to University Council.

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The blog for discussing the proposed closure of the Social Work programmes at the University of Southampton. Deadline for responses 1st February 2012
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27 Responses to University of Southampton proposes closing Social Work programmes

  1. Clare Parkinson says:

    The proposed decision to close social work programmes at Southampton Univiversity at this time is 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. Social Work academics based at Southampton have acted as embassadors for this approach in a wide sphere including the national board of the Centre for Social Work Practice.

    The timing is unfortunate. Social Work as a profession is on the brink of a major developmental change led by the work of the Social Work Reform Board, the College of Social Work and the Health (and Care) Professions Council and to pull out now reduces the potential input and influence which can be made to this.

  2. I’m not sure I can say anything more than has been said by Clare Parkinson. This is my third degree- the other two being at Brighton and Chichester, however the level of teaching and professionalism on this degree has far outweighed the others. I live in Brighton and commute to Southampton such is the Universities reputation. From skim reading the above information it would appear the original reason to close this faculty was because suitable management roles could not be filled. Other staff members are naturally worried and will of course start looking for other suitable vacancies which of course causes a snowball effect.

    I understand that nationally application levels for social work courses rose by around 30% for September 2010, the demand for social workers have never been higher, Southampton have one of the best social work degree reputations in the country and the University advise it has always provided good funding / profits for them. Why then would you shut such a profitable part of your business?

  3. Kes fuller says:

    As a social work student I would question comments that have been made with regards to international research by the department. I would question widely whether it is necessary for a course and department which is potentially beneficial to the rest of society should have to produce research at all? Surely that is the difference between taught programmes and research based programmes? Secondly I would question whether targeting courses such as this rather than other “floaty” courses that are offered by universities which a) do not provide research and b) do not necessarily lead to employment is such a wise idea.

  4. Hilary Hubbard says:

    As a social worker and practice educator employed by a local public sector organisation, and a current postgraduate student at Southampton University, I am saddened to hear about the proposed closure of the social work department. Southampton University has been involved in social work education for many decades and has a strong influence in the city. I am aware that there are other local universities offering social work programmes but there has always been a positive and cooperative relationship, rather than a competitive one, between them resulting in a strong partnership with the various social work employers in the region.

    From an employer’s perspective the closure of the department will result in a reduction in choice with respect to the programmes we commission, particularly post qualifying courses. Over the years the calibre of students we have received from the University on practice placements has been high and many have subsequently gone on to work for our organisation.

    As a student at the University I am aware that there is currently a lack of available courses for individuals in my position who wish to continue their professional studies at masters level with the nearest alternative currently being Bournemouth.

    I am disappointed to hear that one of the reasons cited for the planned closure is due to a perceived lack of ‘internationally excellent research’ opportunities. Social work is renowned for a wealth of research so I find this statement confusing. Maybe there is not the same potential for research funding as there is with other disciplines?

    I hope that my comments will be taken into account but it does seem that this consultation exercise is a token gesture as the University have already informed UCAS of their intention not to proceed with the postgradute social work course in September. If the decision has already ben made and will not be reconsidered I hope that there are sound plans in place to ensure that current staff and students are supported over the coming months.
    Finally I would like to thank all the staff in the department that I have worked alongside or been taught by for their committment to social work education. I’m sure they are equally disappointed by this decision.

  5. swsresponse says:

    Thank you for your contributions, much appreciated

  6. Harriet Knowles says:

    I am a current social work student and was very disappointed to hear the course may be shut. When applying to do the masters course my options were limited to were I could commute to from where I was currently living. Although there were several other options in the south east I believe that Southampton offered the best course from a university with the best reputation. I feel that closing the department will have a negative impact on others like me in the area wishing to train as a social worker but who have other responsibilities that mean it must be a commutable distance.

    I agree with Kes’s earlier comments that social work is an important career that nobody enters into lightly and leads to a ‘worth-while’ job that has a positive impact on society; more so than some other subjects the university offers. Therefore closing this course will impact negatively on the university as a body for change in society that I believe universities should be.

  7. Thomas Carey says:

    As an applicant to the course for 2012 intake, to say I am disappointed by this news is an understatement!

    I only applied for one course through UCAS this year, the Social Work Masters, and it sounds like before the UCAS application deadline had passed the decision had already been made not to run the course?

    It would have been nice to have been informed of this so I could have had the option of applying for other courses.

  8. Amy Cannon says:

    As a current student within the department I am disappointed at the decision to close the course. It appears that there have been issues regarding staffing and research, however the quality of teaching is outstanding and there is no doubt that the University is providing a fantastic opportunity for Social Workers to recieve the highest quality training and support.
    Surely by closing the course is sweeping the issue under the carpet, and whilst it may be the most convenient option for the University it is certainly not the one that will benefit society.
    As Social Work Students we are being taught to think creatively, it appears that some creative thinking is required within the University, and instead of considering the easiest option some thought should be put into the performance of the teaching and the outcomes from the end of the course and future employment prospects.

  9. Clare Graham says:

    Social work is a profession that seeks to address oppression; it is concerned with the human endeavour and research in the field reflects this. This research ensures that the most vulnerable members of society are empowered and protected. This is likely to cause difficulties for those bodies that support social work research, including the Research Funding Councils. Therefore international research is a competitive business, surely only a full staff team would be able to ensure that research is applied for and conducted. The potential of the social work department at the University of Southampton is being overlooked.

    It is no secret that the depleted staff team has had to work tirelessly to ensure that its students all receive the levels of education the General Social Care Council expects (and is paid for by the bursary). Supporting research agenda’s must have been next to impossible with the lack of wider university support. Ensuring all the students are supported with minimal staff can’t have been easy, and I have no doubt that this is reflected in the satisfaction surveys that have been returned to the university. Despite this almost impossible context, in my opinion, the staff team have demonstrated real commitment to its students; for this I will be internally grateful.

    A lack of investment in the recruitment of new staff for such a lengthily period and neglecting the proper procedures when proposing the closure of the MSC program is outrageous. I wonder about the university’s agenda. The Russell group is regularly disparaged for the elitism found in its educational establishments. I wonder if this elitism extends to what is considered ‘proper’ research at the University of Southampton. It begs the question whether a course that challenges oppressive practices and inequality have a place in the Russell group? The actions taken by the university would suggest there is not. It is difficult not to be suspicious about the rationale for closure; since it appears that from the reports that the department has been unsupported and disregarded by the rest of the university.

    I am saddened that the university is overlooking the value of social work and the potential of its students and of a fully staffed team to produce dynamic research. The tutors on the social work course have ignited my passion and my capacity for critical thought. The closure of what has the potential to be a fantastic course is a real shame!

    Yours Faithly,

    Clare.

  10. Kirstie Hodgson says:

    I would just like to further all above comments. I think its a real shame that in a time that highlights a need for better trained and professional social workers, Southampton University, one of the most renowned and respected in the area, has given up on its students and staff and the work they would achieve.

    The social work course at Southampton produces a high standard student and newly qualified worker; ask any organisation! The course makes the university money and had applications for the up coming year three fold its capacity. People want to study social work and they want to do so at the University of Southampton . As far as not carrying out enough research is concerned surely by recruiting more research focused staff, students will be enthused to follow their path. By closing the course, valuable research will not be discovered. Further more, surely research comes second to high class teaching as to how to safeguard those most vulnerable in society.

    Staff have worked hard in difficult times to support students and deliver high quality workers to social work. The closure of the course will be very disappointing.

  11. Adam Waterhouse says:

    In request to the invitation to close the social work department I would like to make the following contribution:

    Clearly social work, as a discipline, cannot necessarily demonstrate its reliance upon internationally esteemed research as effectively as many other disciplines. If this is the only criteria by which the university leadership judge the value of the department, then clearly the decision to close the department does make sense in its own terms.

    However, is it really necessary or appropriate to have such narrowly defined strategic goals? Why is the use of ‘internationally esteemed research’ considered to be the only criteria by which the value of a course is judged? Is it believed that subjects that do not rely upon such research are necessarily subjective and therefore lack credibility?

    Social work academic discussion does contribute a unique debate to the role of research in informing practice decision, and the manner in which the individual practitioner should balance objective considerations with their subjective impressions. Social work, like philosophy, has a role to play in debates about the nature and uses of research. Perhaps if the decision makers were willing to define their strategic goals even a little more broadly they would be able to arrive at a different decision. Perhaps they might even like to consider promoting creative inter-disciplinary forums that would allow for the sharing and dissemination of ideas and insights. Surely that would be the way forward if the aim is to create a university which stands out as a centre of excellence and innovation?

  12. John Lawrence-Jones says:

    Dear Vice-Chancellor,

    I write with regard to the proposed closure of the Social Work Studies Division, both as an alumni and as a local social work practitioner.

    I graduated from the university in 2007 and have worked for Southampton City Council Children’s Services since. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the university and benefited hugely from the MSc programme. The staff in the department were always accessible, helpful and friendly and my degree provided me with a solid foundation to take into practice – enabling me to gain employment locally straight away. Furthermore, some members of staff continued to support me for some time after I graduated, guiding me whilst I wrote an article based on my MSc dissertation that was later published in an academic journal.

    As you may be aware, social work generally and the field of child protection in particular, is beset with chronic issues around recruitment and retention of staff. This inevitably impacts on the quality of service delivery to those most vulnerable members of society that we serve – children that are at risk of significant harm due to abuse and neglect amongst others. It is therefore absolutely essential that training programmes continue to be offered to aspiring students in all parts of the UK and that leading research universities, such as Southampton, are at the forefront of this – enabling students to make links between research and practice from the outset.

    I was dismayed to learn of the proposed closure and do not accept its rationale. As far as I understand, the department is to be closed due to the lack of internationally excellent research. However, a number of highly respected and widely published academics have been based at Southampton over recent years and social work has well established roots at the university. If the research side has dipped recently due to staff leaving the department, then surely the challenge for the university is to have a drive to recruit quality successors, not simply to give up and to close such an important division?

    I also feel that to judge a department purely by its research output is one dimensional: surely considerable consideration should also be given to the needs of students and to the needs of the local community. In the case of social work, it is particularly important that students continue to have the opportunity to gain essential qualifications and that the most vulnerable within the local community continue to be served by those student when they have graduated and go on into social work practice.

    I sincerely hope that the university will reconsider this calamitous proposal and that the Social Work Studies Division will continue to flourish for many years to come.

    Yours sincerely,

    John Lawrence-Jones

  13. Professor Patricia Higham says:

    As a previous external examiner for the BA (Hons) Social Work programe at Southampton, and an independent consultant engaged with the reform programmes for social work, I am saddened by the proposal to close the social work programmes at the University of Southampton just when the national Social Work Reform Board has developed stategies and policies to raise the quality of the profession. The Reform Board’s policies include requirements for higher entry standards and outcomes on social work qualifying degrees. The University of Southampton’s social work qualifying degrees enjoy a high reputation, so loss of the Southampton programmes will impoverish the profession’s future development.

    The timing of this announcement is puzzling. Currently the government is backing the reform of social work. Southampton’s previous social work professors contributed to the leadership of the profession and generated excellent research. The current absence of a social work professor and lack of investment in the social work programmes can be remedied through the appointment of a social work professor who can offer strategic leadership to the research programme and also to the forthcoming changes to social work degrees proposed by the Social Work Reform Board. Southampton’s social work programmes’ high reputation indicate that it should have no difficulty in sustaining a high reputation. The social work profession needs higher quality, and the University of Southampton could lead on this agenda.

    The University’s process for reaching a recommendation for closure comes as a shock because there were no previous indications of this decisions. The University does not seem to have considered alternatives to closure. Consultation after an announced recommendation to close is not a suitably inclusive process in my view. I ask the University to reconsider its decision and consider more carefully the alternatives to closure.

  14. Joe Godden says:

    I am writing on behalf of BASW. BASW were invited to comment on the consultation. In order to inform our response I wrote to Kim Newton Woof – HR client partner (what ever a HR client partner is?). I asked whether ” you are considering closing the Masters programme, not the undergraduate programme in social work.”
    The response was:
    ” I can confirm that the programmes being considered are the postgraduate programmes – the Masters in Social Work and in Professional Studies.”
    Now it could be argued that I should have researched better to see if the undergraduate programme had already been axed, but I didn’t and I would retort that most people on reading the above reply would have thought that the under graduate programme was to continue.
    Having now read the blogs it would seem that the whole process of “consultation” is very dubious. The response to my enquiry at best could be described as “economic with the actuatlite.
    Having read all the comments and “learnt” lessons from the consultation process BASW is now going to campaign to save social work at the University
    Joe Godden Professional Officer BASW England

  15. Grace Roscoe says:

    I am a current MSc student and have been incredibly disappointed with the University’s proposed closure of the social work programme. It is disappointing that at a time when Social Work as a profession is trying to improve the calibre of its workers a respected University is failing to prioritise the course. I think this is sending a very disheartening message to the profession. I feel that the University has not been entirely honest with students about the proposed closure and has left a very short window for any real dialogue to be started.

  16. Cathy Roblin says:

    As a practice educator who has been involved with the University for a number of years I will add my voice to the concerns raised with regards the proposed closure of the social work program at the university.

    I have had students from both the BSC and MSC programs and the quality of these students has been of a very high standard. Given the poor press that social workers receive from the media I find it is particularly important to train students to a hig level so that they become good practioners.

    I hope that you will reconsider your decision and keep this valuable program running.

  17. Joe Godden says:

    Dear Professor Nutbeam and Kim Newton-Woof,

    I am writing following your letter of 9th of December 2011 in which you ask BASW, as a “valued stakeholder” about our views on the proposed closure of the Masters in Social Work and the MSC in Professional Studies.

    BASW are convinced that there are very strong arguments to keep these two important programmes open. Social work is undergoing a major national review, you will be aware of the recommendations of the work of Professor Eileen Munro and the work of the Social Work Reform Board. Both these reviews emphasise the need to radically overhaul social work, including social work qualification programmes and post qualification training. The reviews emphasise the importance of good quality research to inform practitioners and policy makers. Southampton University, as a key member of the Russell Group of Universities we believe has the potential to play a pivotal role in these changes. Of particular concern to us is that you are the only Russell Group University in the region, with huge implications for the quality of social work training and employers in the region if the courses are scrapped. The Masters in Social Work courses at Southampton are very much in demand and attract exceptional applicants, many of them will become the industry and academic leaders of the future. We know that graduates of the university have a very high reputation and many are in key front line and managerial positions in the region and beyond. First class decision making, which frequently concerns life and liberty are made by these social workers. It is of great concern that the supply of such able people to employers will dry up if the Masters Courses cease.

    Social work and social work thrives where there are close working relationships with employers. This is exactly the sort of relationship that the social work department at Southampton has enjoyed with employers to mutual benefit. Social work and social work courses have a crucial role in engaging with communities, globally as well as locally. The skills and knowledge of social workers are fundamental to community development and community cohesion. This is an area ripe area for more research and one that the University of Southampton would be well placed to seize. That research will not be fruitful however unless the relationship with employers are allowed to continue. The relationship will be severed if the programmes are axed.

    We understand from industry leaders in the Southampton area that there are significant shortages of well qualified social work applicants for key front line social work posts in the area, this situation will only get worse if the Social Work Masters at Southampton closes. The proposes closure of the Master in Professional Studies will also lead to significant issues for social workers and employers perusing post qualifying training. One of the career pathways for the course is a qualification in Practice Learning and Practice Assessing. These practitioners are learning how to support and supervise social work students. There is already a shortage of people in such roles. The knock on effect will be that there is a significant risk of deterioration in practice in social work teams and a reduction in the number of social work students who can be supported. Without these students the future of social work and the consequences for the citizens in the region will be deleterious.

    BASW has been informed that there have been serious incidents of mismanagement at the University in relation to recruitment processes, not least the failure on one occasion to invite a strong field of short listed candidates to interview. The result of that fundamental mistake was the inability to appoint to key posts, resulting in great difficulties in taking the research agenda forward. The dedicated team of professionals, left to run the department without the key posts were not able to prioritise research over teaching to students. The consequences of course being that there has been a dip in research output. It is BASWs view that the decision by the lecturers to prioritise working with students has been an ethically correct as well as a sound business decision. Without the support of employers social work courses cannot run, if one alienates the employers the long term consequences for the university are severe. Embrace the working with industry and quality and relevant research follows.

    BASW has been informed that applicants for the 2012 intake of students were notified of the decision not to recruit in 2012 after submissions had been made to UCAS. We know of at least one applicant who only applied to Southampton, he has probably lost the opportunity to get on an alternative course this year. We must conclude from this situation that a decision to close the course has already been made and that the consultation is a sham process. That would seem to strongly undermine the integrity of the university and its standing in the world. BASW has recently been instrumental in setting up an all Parliamentary Group of MPs and as the lead professional association of social workers we have already instigated debate and action by MPs about situations where ethics, poor practice and probity have been of concern. Consultation must be and must be seen to be ethical and neutral. From the view point of BASW there must be serious questions raised about both the consultation and some of the practice prior to the consultation at your University.

    I sincerely hope that the consultation process is genuine and that a decision has not been made to close the course. Social work has a vital role to play in the future of our country and increasingly internationally. Loosing that role at Southampton is a real tragedy and will have repercussions.

    Hilton Dawson
    Chief Executive
    BASW

  18. Tracey Lander says:

    As a current student on the MSc programme at Southampton I want to express my regret at the proposal to close the programme. The logic behind the decision is difficult to fathom and alternative options seem to have been dismissed with minimal consultation and no clear reasoning.

    Failure to recruit staff during the last twelve months is given as one of the reasons. However, given that the undergraduate programme had already been closed at this point, it’s little wonder that staff of the right academic calibre failed to come forward. From an outsider looking in the commitment of the university to the Social Work Program as a whole was obviously questionable.

    The current period of consultation seems merely to be an act of going through the legal motions prior to announcing a ‘fait accompli’. I dare say the real consultations took place at a higher level without any genuine involvement from front-line lecturers. The obvious question is why the option of a merger with Sociology and Social Policy was not fully explored? The SW department at Southampton has an enviable reputation. The backing and support that would have been available in the context of a merged department would have allowed the recruitment of additional staff and a rebuilding of the research capability. Additionally synergistic cost savings would have ensued in a number of administrative areas.

    Social work education is about to undergo a period of potentially radical change following the recommendations from the SWRB and the setting up of the National College of Social work. The one message that has been coming out loud and clear is the need for highly qualified, insightful and motivated practitioners to become tomorrow’s leaders. Surely this means there’s an opportunity to establish a centre of excellence for high quality post graduate social work education. I’m extremely disappointed that Southampton University isn’t able to capitalise on this. The excellent reputation enjoyed by the Social Work Division at Southampton means it should be at the forefront in terms of guiding and informing the social work research agenda. Why give up such a well-earned reputation without fully exploring every possible option to rebuild and rejuvenate the department.

    I sincerely hope the university will rethink its’ current strategy and give full consideration to other options, in particular the possibility of a merger within social sciences.

  19. Pam Jackson says:

    As the Lead for Interprofessional Learning at the Universities of Southampton and Portsmouth, I am deeply saddened by this decision to close the Social Work programmes. All the health care and social care undergraduate programmes at the two universities have worked together over the past 10 years to provide an interprofessional experience second to none. We have an international reputation and have hosted numerous colleagues and students from universities around the world. Students work with each other for three units to develop skills in interprofessional working, the latter two based in practice. Student and facilitator evaluations are very positive and external examiners have high praise for the IPL programme. The social care dimension has contributed to the strength of the student experience and encouraged students to consider concepts such as professional culture. It has also provided students with an opportunity to have experience in a very different context to that offered in their uniprofessional programme and this has often enabled students to seek employment in an alternative setting. On behalf of the Common Learning team, I wish to thank the Social Work team for their support and encouragement. I wholeheartedly hope that the consultation process will be exactly that and will take account of the many voices of support for the continuation of the Social Work programmes.

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