Campus Life  

Master of Social Work program benefits from Senate decision

School of Social Work restructuring meets growing need for higher skills

UBC’s Okanagan Senate has approved a recommendation to significantly enhance master’s level education in social work.

“The decision to discontinue admissions to the Bachelor of Social Work program in order to focus on Master of Social Work (MSW) level education allows the school to reduce the number of courses taught while simultaneously developing highly specialized clinical, practice, policy and organizational evaluation courses,” says Edward Taylor, associate dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Development and director of the School of Social Work.

“We are moving to an all-MSW program because both British Columbia and Canada have a growing need for highly trained, specialized graduate-level social workers.”

The MSW is becoming established as the preferred credential for many career routes and is required in order to become a Registered Clinical Social Worker, essential in many career paths.

Registered Clinical Social Workers can make diagnostic assessments, independently develop mental health treatment plans and provide treatment without direct supervision by physicians or other professionals.

The change emerged following wide consultation with social workers, employers and students. Consultation also included long-standing partners such as Okanagan College, Interior Health’s Integrated Services and the Kelowna Family Centre, among others.

Those currently enrolled in the BSW program will be able to complete their current studies. In a recent vote, the change was supported by the overwhelming majority of the school’s faculty members. Clinical excellence will be the focus in the continuing development of the School of Social Work, which, as of September 2014, will offer only the MSW degree.

David Brown, a clinical social worker in the Okanagan and former regional program manager, Interior, for Child and Youth Mental Health Services with the ministry of Children and Family Development, says the focus on clinical services with an MSW program provides a vision for the School of Social Work that aligns with the delivery of mental-health programs in rural settings.

“A clinical focus is justified because of the interest and commitment by the provincial and federal governments to  place greater emphasis on improving the access to and range of mental health related services available to the public, in line with the Canadian Mental Health Commission’s efforts,” says Brown.

“There is ever-increasing evidence that the greatest areas of disability and productivity losses among children, youth and adults are related to mental-health disorders. It makes sense in BC to have a mental-health program that is responsive to that,” says Brown.

The UBC Okanagan Senate decision to suspend the BSW program is based on several factors. Among them:

  • BC is well served by BSW programs through seven other universities, with an increasing number online, making the credential available to students anywhere in the province.
  • UBC’s School of Social Work does not have resources to support both MSW and BSW programs, a fact that accreditation reviewers have strongly stressed.
  • Concentrating focus and resources on MSW programs ensures that all UBC students are provided with the highest possible quality of educational experience, positioning UBC to become a force for positive change and known for clinical, practice and research excellence.
  • An all-MSW program fits well with the increasing need in BC and Canada for highly trained, specialized graduate-level social workers.

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