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Motivations for Undertaking the New Social Work Degree


Appendix 2

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Motivations for undertaking the new Social Work degree
Topic Guide - Under Graduates/ Graduates

Principle aims:

  • To explore why students are choosing to do social work generally, and their course, specifically
  • To understand whether motivations vary across different student groups
  • To consider the impact of the Care in Scotland campaign on persuading school leavers to take up a social work degree
  • To consider the impact of the Scottish Executive's social work recruitment initiatives
  • To explore perceptions about and aspirations for the role of the social worker and the role of social work in modern society

Researcher please include this in the introduction -

The findings will be used to inform the 21 st Century Social Work review in Scotland. This work is taking a fundamental look at perceptions and expectations of the role of the social worker. The review is gathering evidence from a variety of sources and this research will provide information to the review group on students' aspirations regarding social work


  • About BMRB
  • About the research (see Aims, above)
  • Commissioned by the Scottish Executive
  • BMRB - independent agency working on behalf of the Scottish Executive
  • Length of group discussion - up to 90 minutes
  • Confidentiality and anonymity
  • Tape Recording - recordings / transcripts only available to the research team

NOTE: the discussions are not concerned in any way with evaluating specific courses; the research focuses only on motivations, perceptions and aspirations

Group Introductions:

Ask respondents in turn to give their name and a brief account (eg two sentences) of why they are studying social work. Explain that their choices and aspirations will be explored more fully later.

2. BACKGROUND (Briefly)

I would like to start the discussion by asking you a little about yourself, in terms of your education and any work that you have done…

  • Education
  • Secondary education; qualifications gained
  • Post-16 education; qualifications gained
  • School subjects they were most interested in
  • Was this their first choice of degree course
  • If not what other degree courses/employment options did they consider before they started the social work degree
  • For undergraduates, only
  • Did they take a gap year; what did they do; was it social work related?
  • For graduates, only
  • To what extent does social work relate to their first degree?

What have they been doing since their first degree/ for the last few years? Is this related to social work? How?

  • Employment

Researcher note- sketch out respondents' employment history

  • Note any experiences of social work or caring (eg Voluntary work, Vacation work, Post education work, VSO, Community Work etc.). How did these experiences influence them/ link to their decision to study social work?
  • Any relatives employed in social work / social care / probation / similar types of work. How did this influence them - eg negative, positive, gender-biased…?
  • Do they currently/still want to pursue a career in social work?
  • If yes
  • Any desire to work within any particular area, e.g. children/ family/ communities / work across a range of areas. Why?
  • If not
  • Explore reasons why not
  • What other career options have they considered?
  • How might their degree in social work relate to other career options?


I would like you to think back over time now, about the thoughts you've had about work and career…

  • What career ideas/ professions have they been interested in / considered as individuals?
  • Why choose social work rather than another profession?
  • Why do they want to become a social worker? EXPLORE FULLY AND OPENLY BEFORE PROMPTING.
  • Note the relative importance of:
  • The role itself
  • Philanthropy
  • Value to others, who?
  • Influenced by others in the profession, who?
  • Influenced by advertising
  • Perceptions of pay / conditions / promotion opportunities
  • Perceptions of job availability
  • The £9000 (incentive scheme). To what extent are they influenced by this?


  • Specifically, explore the potential effect of incentives and advertising on decision


  • What is social work all about / what characterises social work? Who and what does it deal with?
  • Does society need social workers? Why?
  • Do social work and social workers have a distinct image? According to the general public? According to themselves as individual social work students? EXPLORE. (Separate individuals' views from perceptions of the public's views)
  • What kind of person becomes a social worker?
  • Why do people become social workers?
  • What kind of person doesn't become a social worker?
  • Why do people not become social workers?
  • Do you think the public understands social work?
  • Note any differences between the 'public' image and the 'personal' image and explore reasons why
  • Have respondents' views changed over time? Since beginning the degree? Why?
  • What is important about having 'a profession'? What is important about being a 'professional'? What are the key features?
  • What do they see as being the role of the social worker
  • What is the distinctive role of social workers?
  • What particular knowledge, skills, values and behaviours do you think social workers use in their work?
  • What type of roles do social workers undertake (advocates, counsellor, care manager etc)
  • How clear is the role (important question)
  • How does it differ / overlap from other professionals
  • What roles and responsibilities should only be taken on by a qualified social worker?
  • Are there challenges or issues within the role of social worker ( e.g. care and control; rights and responsibilities)? What are they?
  • Which other professions might those who are attracted to social work consider? How does social work compare with these other professions?
  • Job role
  • Level of qualification needed for entry into the job
  • Pay
  • Working conditions / promotion opportunities
  • Responsibility
  • Social standing
  • Has social work changed over time? Is social work changing now? How?
  • What effects are these changes having /have these changes had on the numbers of people who might be recruited to social work as a profession? How have they affected you? Are people entering social work as a profession because it is changing?
  • What changes would you like to bring to social work, in the future?
  • Are there likely to be any differences between imagined or ideal role and practice? What do they foresee? Why?
  • Explore awareness of other professionals that they might be working with
  • How important is it for social workers to work with others? What might working with others be like in practice?
  • What are the current issues facing the social work profession? How did they become aware of them? How might these issues be best tackled?
  • Is there a clear vision for the future of social work in Scotland?


Note: this is NOT evaluative of the degree course or university

  • How did the idea of doing a social work degree come about? In what way is a degree important? EXPLORE VARIOUS INFLUENCES
  • Any reasons for beginning this particular degree? Did they consider other courses? Have they considered changing to another course?
  • What do they think of the Course structure? The topics/issues covered?
  • How does experience so far match expectations of the social work role?
  • In order to study for the degree, what facilities have they had to put in place (if relevant - e.g. part-time job to finance course, child care facilities)
  • Work placement experience
  • What work placement experience have they had so far (if any)? What kinds of issues have they been dealing with?
  • How does this match with pre-course expectations? Explore reasons for any differences
  • Has work experienced changed their views on social work in any way?
  • Explore any concerns about (potential) placements
  • Diploma
  • Have they heard of the diploma in social work?
  • If yes, any perceived differences between the diploma and degree course in social work
  • If the degree course was not available would they have undertaken the diploma instead, explore reasons


  • Can they recall any advertising / media campaigns concerned with social work or social care (explore spontaneous awareness first)?
  • Awareness of 'Care in Scotland' campaign

Research note- Launched on October 2002, the campaign aims to raise the profile of working in social care as well as tackling recruitment and retention. Campaign activities have included press, TV, radio and outdoor advertising, the specific targeting of school leavers to promote a new social work honours-level degree and road shows across Scotland.

Discuss each of the campaigns features (in bold) in turn

Poster 1 (Social work World tour)
Poster 2 (Surinder poster)

Poster 3 (Jessica and Gary poster)
Poster 4 (Malcolm and Margaret poster)

Leaflet 1 (Life changing work)
Leaflet 2 (Social work world tour)

Radio and TV advertising

  • Explore effects of each media campaign on them personally
  • Are they aware of the campaign? Which aspects? How?
  • What messages/ impressions/ information did they take from the campaign?
  • What aspects, if any, attract them to a degree/career in social work
  • What did they do as a result of the campaign? What effect did it have?

School leavers' campaign

Research note-Within the main Care in Scotland campaign, a mini-campaign has been running, aiming to encourage school leavers to sign up for the new qualification. The mini-campaign has involved posters and leaflets being sent to careers advisors in all secondary schools in Scotland and to Careers Scotland Offices, a new website -www.socalclimber.co.uk- posters on telephone boxes, buses, ad-bikes, postcards in schools, cinemas, FE Colleges and leisure centres.

(World Tour covered earlier)

  • Are they aware of the campaign? Which aspects? How?
  • What messages/ impressions/ information did they take from the campaign?
  • What aspects, if any, attract them to a degree/career in social work
  • What did they do as a result of the campaign? What effect did it have?

Incentive Scheme

The incentive scheme involves grant assistance to assist employers' efforts to fill difficult social work vacancies Under the scheme, new social work graduates who take up posts which employers are finding difficult to fill may be eligible to receive payments in addition to their salary - up to £9,000 over 2 years.

  • Check awareness of the incentive scheme. When and how did they become aware of the incentive scheme?
  • Did the incentive scheme have any impact on their decision to undertake the degree course? Would they have undertaken the degree course if the scheme had not been available

6. Summary

  • Summarise the key messages of the group discussion
  • What more could the Scottish Executive do to attract more people to social work as a profession? (CREATIVE SUGGESTIONS)
  • Is there anything else that they would like to add that has not been covered?
  • Thank and close the discussion

Reminder: Please remind respondents that BMRB would be very grateful if they would complete the questionnaire sent to them through the post ASAP, if not already done so.