Welcome to Stellenbosch University

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Department of Social Work

The Department of Social Work was established in 1931 as part of a larger Department that included Psychology and Sociology. On 1 July 1957 a separate Department of Social Work was officially established. Throughout its history, the Department was known for its outstanding academics and alumni, notably Prof Erika Theron and Prof Narisscia Botha, who conducted  ground-breaking research in social work, and who were instrumental in establishing social work as a profession in South Africa. 

Our teaching and learning philosophy is guided by our core values namely: excellence; accountability and integrity; human dignity and respect; innovation and criticality; and ownership and leadership. Ultimately, our values not only cultivate thought leaders, but also engender overarching attributes as typified by engaged citizens, well-rounded individuals, and dynamic professionals.

We strive to produce cutting-edge research, which is disseminated consistently in leading local and international publications. Two of our staff members have recently received recognition from the South African Academy for Science and Arts for their significant research and publications. Social Work/Maatskap­like Werk, a journal for the social work practitioner (since 1965), is published quarterly by this Department. Each permanent staff member specialises in one or more of our six research focus areas, namely social development; child and family welfare; mental health and substance misuse; management, supervision and leadership; teaching and learning; and cultural practices.

The practice education programmes of the Department are regarded as the standard bearer of our social impact. Around 300 students are annually placed for field practice (service learning) at approximately 40 welfare organisations.

The Department is committed to ongoing and rigorous efforts to promote professional values that are responsive to social development, human rights, social inclusion, and the needs and aspirations of local communities in our teaching, research and social impact. The Department is therefore dedicated to passing on a scholarly theoretical body of knowledge as well as substantive practice experience and wisdom to subsequent social worker generations, by building on the legacy of the founders and alumni of the Department.​

The MA research programme in social work enables students to undertake independent research with the guidance of a supervisor, leading to a thesis that constitutes 100% of the programme's final mark. The programme extends over one or two years depending on the entry point. 

Information pertaining to the master's application process and required supporting documentation is available here.

The doctoral programme aims to increase students' advanced knowledge of and skills in research, equipping them to undertake independent research within the disciplines of social work theory and social work practice.

It takes at least two years and consists primarily of self-study and consultation with the supervisor about the research and the dissertation, which carries a weight of 100%.

Information pertaining to the PhD application process and required supporting documentation is available here.​


  • M in Social Work
  • PhD ​(​Social Work)​​
Application Process