The degree programme offered by the Department derives from two relatively disparate sources: social pedagogy and social work. In historical terms, these two disciplines have evolved in different ways. Whereas social pedagogy is traditionally reckoned as belonging to the field of education studies, the academically based activities connected with social work are encountered in a wide variety of different sectors. Examples include sociological analyses of social phenomena and situations, the interpretation and application of legal provisions in the social context or the drafting of expert opinions from the perspective of organisational sociology. Accordingly, this discipline has been notable for lively debate on the theories underpinning its activities and on its specific position relative to neighbouring fields of academic endeavour.
In the understanding of the Department, the academic approach to social work in the active sense of the term is broad and highly differentiated in scope. As such, it rubs shoulders with a variety of related disciplines, meaning that research and teaching at the Department are interdisciplinary in nature. Gender principles are writ large, as are intercultural and international perspectives, while legal and ethical aspects play an important role throughout.
The degree programme in Social Work centres around five obligatory components: social work in theory and practice, essential aspects of a theory of society, fundamentals of behavioural studies, a grounding in legal studies, and project-related study. Undergraduates are confronted with practically oriented research issues from the outset. This enables them to establish initial contacts with social institutions and companies at a very early stage. These contacts can then be intensified in the further course of their studies. Prior to the more practical phase of the programme, students acquire the key competencies specifically required for the purpose: intercultural skills, interview techniques, project management, planning, moderation, presentation and personality development.
The conditions for social work are constantly changing. To keep pace with developments, the Department identifies existing needs by means of permanent discourse between theory and practice. Curricular learning focuses around practically oriented research, experimentation and reflection. In this endeavour, the Department of Social Work regards both itself and the University as a whole as a model terrain for its activities. One outcome from this approach is the “Family-Friendly University” project initiated and maintained by the Department.
In conjunction with three universities in Hamburg and one in Bremen, the Department of Social Work also runs a continuing education/Master programme entitled “Violence Prevention and Conflict Management.” The Department’s Institute of Ongoing and Continuing Education (IFW) provides continuing education courses for professionals, focussing on the subjects “Gerontology”, “Systemic Coaching” and “Confrontation Training: De-Escalation”.