Swansea University social work course given worst rating in Britain

A SOCIAL work degree at Swansea University has received the lowest rating in Britain by students who were asked to “mark” their own courses.

Unhappy undergraduates gave the Swansea course a score of just 44%, placing it at the bottom of the list of more than 2,000 British courses.

Swansea University said yesterday it had ordered a “thorough review” to ensure students’ complaints were being addressed.

And officials at the seaside campus revealed they had taken on three additional social work lecturers plus a personal tutor to improve matters.

The courses were given ratings by 200,000 students across the UK as part of the National Students’ Survey.

The 44% rating for the Swansea social work course was less than half the mark given to the top performer, Exeter University’s finance and accounting course, which students awarded an impressive 96.2%.

Sunderland University’s law course was next with 95.8% followed by the medical science/pharmacy degree programme at Keele which scored 95%.

Yesterday James Houston, the National Union of Students’ president at Swansea University, said it had become clear over the past year or so there were concerns about the social work course.

He said: “We run an independent advice centre which helps students who have complaints or concerns about their course.

“We noticed a 20 to 30% increase in complaints about the social work programme.

“I would say the biggest complaint was placements, with students either unhappy about their placements or unhappy about arrangements for them,” he said.

“For instance some complained they were not having enough time to finish coursework before being sent off on placement.”

A spokeswoman at Swansea University said: “As a world-class and internationally excellent institution, Swansea University places equal emphasis on developing and maintaining high standards in relation to research and teaching.

“The level of satisfaction expressed by social work students in 2008 fell below these high standards and, as a result, the overall ratings achieved in this subject area were below the levels achieved for social studies and for the range of other disciplines.

“Overall, Swansea University achieved a satisfaction rating of 86%,” she added.

“The issues highlighted by the National Students’ Survey have been taken very seriously by the university and a thorough review has been completed to ensure that the concerns raised have been fully addressed by Swansea University’s Centre for Social Work and Social Care.

“As a result of this review, three additional lecturers have been recruited, and an additional personal tutor appointed, to ensure the on-going support for social work students.

“Swansea University welcomes the positive response that these new members of staff have received from the current cohort of social work students and the university looks forward to seeing improved levels of satisfaction reported in the latest NSS – which is due to be published before the end of the summer.”

Mr Houston said the NUS at Swansea University was confident the university authorities were aware of student concerns and were “working hard” to bring about change.

Mr Houston said: “This is a serious issue. With the problems we have had involving social services in Wales, this course in particular is extremely important.

“Students learning to become front- line social workers have to be inspired and passionate about going into what is a very tough job.

“The last thing they want is to be less than happy with teaching arrangements, though I am happy that the university is addressing issues raised by students in this survey.”

Common student complaints about courses at British universities were classes becoming bigger, teaching time being reduced and the use of postgraduate students “as a cheap form of teaching”.