Social work has had a long-standing place in the suite of courses offered at the University of Stirling. Indeed, it was one of the first professional programmes delivered by what was then one of Scotland’s ‘new’ Universities. There has been a postgraduate qualifying programme for social workers at the University of Stirling since 1972 and a BA (Hons) in Social Work since 1990. Like many of the programmes across Scotland, these have changed in response to various reforms in social work education and practice; the most recent being the establishment of the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) in 2001 and the allied Framework for Social Work Education in Scotland (Scottish Executive 2003). This framework includes the Standards in Social Work Education which each student is required to meet, and which critically informs the content of the courses. Additionally, Key Capabilities in Child Care and Protection (Scottish Executive, 2006) introduced a new set of 'learning outcomes' and 'competencies' in child care and protection to be tested prior to practice learning and then by the end of the qualifying courses.
Practice partnerships have been central to the programmes here at Stirling. Over the last thirty years, practice representatives have made regular and significant contributions both to teaching and to the assessment of students. They have been central in course reviews and innovations. In 2005 our service user and carer group UNITY was established and has continued to grow in numbers, in levels of involvement in the programmes and in wider national discussions on ‘best practice’. Indeed Stirling hosted the first service user and carer conference in 2012 and UNITY continue to actively contribute to the Scottish inter university user and carer group.
Stirling has had a long term commitment to social work education and knowledge exchange across the continuum from initial training to career-long learning and development. Since the 1980s Stirling has offered a range of full, part time and agency based post qualifying training in a range of subject areas from child welfare and protection to adult care to leadership and management. Most recently, this has extended to include courses encompassing direct practice skills with children and families as well as a Practice Education programme.
The commitment to partnerships between the University and practitioners has evolved into a well established culture of knowledge exchange and brokerage. From the introduction in the 1980s of the Social Work Research Centre to the more current With Scotland service as well as the new Centre for Child Well Being and Protection, Stirling has promoted the importance of applied research, of making research useful and accessible and of supporting practitioners to undertake research in practice.
Like many of our colleagues in HEIs we view social work education as ever changing and dynamic. At Stirling, we regard ourselves as training practitioners for a practice landscape which allows them to work globally and which equips them to support service users with diverse needs and biographies. Future developments include consolidating our international exchange programmes both for those involved in qualifying programmes but also exploring opportunities for practitioners engaging in post qualifying training. We continue to build on European partnerships and to engage in internationally recognised applied research relating to a wide range of Social Work
practice. We strive to make our research and teaching useful and useable, to ensure that ‘good practice’ has a clear, a scholarly underpinning and where service users are at the centre.
Source: Dr Ruth Emond, University of Stirling.