The origins of GCU’s Social Work Department go back to the mid-1970s when its predecessor Queen’s College developed two programmes offering the CCETSW Certificate of Qualification in Social Work (CQSW). The unique ‘Three-Year Social Work Course for Mature Entrants with Family Commitments’ was established in 1976. This built on the success of a course (with the un-presupposing title of ‘three phase’) which was organised for experienced but unqualified social work staff who attended college initially on a ‘block release’ basis (one day per week for 6 months for phase 1; one day per week for an academic session for phase 2; and full-time for an academic session for phase 3). The other programme was established in 1977 as the One-Year Post Graduate Certificate in Social Work. At that time, the social work courses were located in the Department of Social Sciences and Communication with four qualified social work staff contributing to the courses alongside colleagues from psychology, sociology and social policy. The uniqueness of the ‘three-year course’ was that students had to be over 30 years old, with family (later changed to ‘care’) commitments. This ‘family-friendly’ approach was reflected in the timetable with students attending college (and placement) from 10am to 3pm and being given holidays the same as local school holidays. The student profile was overwhelmingly female with the majority of students drawn from so-called educationally disadvantaged areas (as indicated in ‘post code’ statistics). One consequence of this profile is that the ‘three-year course’ became a significant provider of qualified social work staff in the West of Scotland.
The One-Year Post Graduate Certificate in Social Work was for graduates with a relevant degree (i.e. that included sociology, psychology and social policy) with at least one year’s experience related to social work. Students on this programme tended to be more mobile than those on the three-year programme, with more of a gender balance also in evidence. The only other one-year PG programme running in Scotland at this time was based at Edinburgh University.
The Diploma in Social Work was introduced across the UK on 13th April, 1989 (CCETSW Paper 30) and the requirement that education providers worked collaboratively with employers led to the establishing of ‘consortia’ across Scotland. Queen’s College became part of the West of Scotland Consortium in 1989 with the Consortium Programme for delivering the DipSW approved in November, 1990.
The main differences created by participation in the ‘Consortium’ were: firstly, that the courses were now defined as ‘routes’ within an overall programme; secondly, that the curriculum was Consortium-designed (and, in the case of some ‘specialist’ modules, Consortium-delivered); and thirdly, that processes such as practice assessment and academic assessment took place within Consortium-managed forum. The three-year course continued with the same student profile and course structure as before while the one-year programme was extended to two years (interestingly, both Queen’s College and Edinburgh University obtained ‘conversion’ funding from the Scottish Office to help resource this extension). Inevitably perhaps, tensions developed with the Consortium particularly affecting assessment. For example, should the emphasis within assessment be on preparing students specifically for local authority practice within the West of Scotland? Alternatively, should a broader perspective on social work be taken? This tension manifested itself for instance in differing views taken over the value of placements under the European Commission’s Erasmus Programme.
In 1993, Queen’s College merged with Glasgow College of Technology to form Glasgow Caledonian University. The social work courses now were located within the Department of Social Sciences (which was one of six departments in the Faculty of Health) and one consequence was a physical move initially to St Andrew House in December 1994 and then to the main campus in September 1995.
In 1993, The Heatherbank Musuem of Social Work moved to GCU from its founder Colin Harvey’s home in Milngavie, Glasgow initially being accommodated in Park Campus before moving to a gallery at the entrance to the City Campus. This museum was described as ‘the only museum of social work in Europe’ and was divided eight areas of concern: housing; poorhouses; church; health; childcare; crime; disability; and work. It included models of lodging houses and a model of and artefacts from Glasgow’s Barnhill Poorhouse, a ‘Green Lady’ (health visitor), a collection of articles of punishment and restraint (e.g. tawses and restraint mittens) and early disability aids. It also included a book library of 2,000 titles and an extensive picture library. The public gallery was closed on 23rd December, 2004 essentially due to a decision by GCU Policy and Resourcing Group to no longer subsidise the running costs of the museum. A significant number of items from the ‘Heatherbank Collection’ continue to be accommodated in GCU’s Saltire Centre, alongside other social work related archives e.g. Association of Directors of Social Work (now ‘Social Work Scotland’) Archives.
Within the context of the formation of the new Glasgow Caledonian University, the social work programmes expanded during the 1990s to include a significant contribution to the development of post-qualifying provision in Scotland (including the BA in Post Qualifying Social Work jointly approved with Strathclyde University in June 1994). The involvement in PQ provision continues with GCU jointly offering (again with Strathclyde University) the Mental Health Social Work Award (MHSWA) from September, 2009. A part-time option later was added to the three-year programme and the opportunity to proceed to Masters was included within the post-graduate programme.
The academic strength of the GCU social work programmes was confirmed by the Social Work Cognate Area being awarded ‘excellent’ in a majority of aspects as part of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) Quality Assessment of Teaching and Learning undertaken over academic session 1995/96. The three-year undergraduate programme was by now a BA Social Work but continued to be operated on a ‘restricted day’ basis aimed at ‘mature entrants’ with care commitments. Interestingly, according to post-code analysis undertaken by the university in 2000, 60% of entrants to the programme were from educationally ‘under represented’ areas thus maintaining the ‘widening of access’ philosophy of the original programme.
In October 2002 the Scottish Executive commenced a consultation exercise on the reform of social work education, culminating in the publication of the Framework for Social Work Education in January 2003. The approval of the ‘new’ Social Work Degree across universities in Scotland in 2004 saw the demise of the consortia, including the West of Scotland Consortium, to be replaced by looser partnership arrangements (The Learning Network, in the case of the West of Scotland).
The existing Masters in Social Work and BA (Honours) Social Work were approved in 2005 and subsequent years saw a significant expansion in student numbers (from approximately 130 in 1995 to approximately 270 in 2016), growing involvement of social work staff in inter-professional education and an increasing contribution to social work-related research, publications and conference presentations. In comparison to the early years of the department, when teaching undoubtedly was to the fore, research now occupies a central position in social work strategy and activity, exemplified by the recruitment of an increasing number of PhD students, success in competitive research grants, increased quality research outputs and participation in the ESRC Doctoral Training Programme in social policy and social work. For the 2014 Research Evaluation Framework, social work and social policy ranked in the UK top ten for research impact.
Source: Ian Brodie, August, 2016