STUDENTS have criticised a university’s plans to shelve their degrees which they fear could lead to fewer social workers being trained in the North-East.

Durham University is consulting on plans to close its social work programmes – including its masters and international programme – in 2019.

Students are concerned the move will have an impact on social work practice in the region and will lead to more people taking fast-track courses, which take a year to complete.

Daniel Whitford, who is one of 30 students finishing the first year of the two-year masters course, said: “It’s quite concerning if they think social work is no longer an educational priority. Considering it’s been under so much attention and the quality has been questioned, wanting to scrap one of our leading courses is something we are quite concerned about.”

He added: “The Durham University course is quite prestigious and we’re worried that if it scraps its courses other universities will follow suit and that will have an even greater impact on social work in the UK.”

A university spokesman said a review had been carried out of the school of applied social sciences which recommended the masters programme should be scrapped to allow it to invest further in research in other areas such as communities and social justice.

Professor Tim Clark, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Social Sciences and Health) who is leading the strategic review, said: “The university strategy sets out a clear direction of travel: to invest in research, education and the wider student experience so they continue to be world-leading.

“The strategy has underpinned our review, which has also taken into account the provision of other social work training programmes in North-East England, the launching of new ‘fast-track’ schemes and our need to prioritise investment in our internationally leading research in the social sciences.

“We are consulting widely with staff, students and key stakeholders on the findings of the review, and the university executive team will take extensive evidence into account when making our final decision.”

Students, who were told about the proposals last week, have until May 31 to respond to the consultation.

They have launched an online petition against the proposals, which has been signed by more than 200 people.

To find out more about their campaign visit