The School of Social Work of the Open University of China (OUC) was officially inaugurated on 26 November 2013. The school was jointly established by the OUC and the China Association of Social Workers (CASW), with the latter taking specific responsibilities.

The CASW, directly supervised by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, was established in July 1991 as a national professional social organisation approved and registered by China’s registration authority of social organisations. Since 2011, the OUC and CASW have conducted several rounds of exchanges on establishing the OUC School of Social Work (the School) in line with the positive aspiration of implementing the guiding principles of the Party Central Committee and to fulfil its social responsibilities. Both parties have agreed to establish a practical School under the premise of vigorously developing social work promoted by the central government.

The social work system in many developed countries and regions in the world has become extremely complete and professional, and social workers have become an important force in maintaining the healthy operation of society. With the acceleration of the functional reform of government institutions and the liberation of the government’s management and construction of social organisations, the number of people engaged in the social work industry is increasing day by day, creating greater difficulties in the performance of work. To this end, social work administrators need to be equipped with both modern management concepts and social responsibility and possess business management, decision-making, and pioneering innovation abilities. Based on these demands, the School mainly teaches three groups of people. The first is those engaged in social services at the grassroots level, including professional and non-professional social workers, such as community social workers, professional community corrections staff, nursing staff for older adults, and staff for Party and government departments, relevant public institutions, law enforcement units involved in social management and public services; the second is the managers of social service agencies, including the leaders of non-governmental organisations and relevant Party and government organs in the field of social work, such as management personnel in social welfare institutions, social relief and aid institutions, community services institutions, rehabilitation institutions for the disabled, staff assistance institutions, and non-governmental organisations; the third is the policy decision-making group, referring to the related departments that create policies in the field of social work.

For the time being, the School mainly offers the social work major. Its curriculum system consists of basic knowledge of social work and practical knowledge of social work. The courses usually have four parts, theory, method, practice, and social practice, which are logically consistent. The modular integration of related or similar courses can help learners to determine the orientation of the major and the scope of optional courses more effectively to meet the needs of learners and achieve the training objectives of the major. Specialised practice courses, specialised extension courses, specialised orientation courses, and examinations and trainings for social workers have been set up in the optional courses. Learners can choose their direction according to their own interests and work needs.

The School of Social Work makes full use of the OUC’s advanced modern information technology to build a lifelong learning “bridge” for the growth of vocational education learners of social work and achieve the educational training objectives of social work being available to “anyone, anytime, and anywhere.” The non-degree education mainly serves social workers working in different fields, with targeted, flexible, and timely educational training courses set up to meet their need to improve their work skills and enrich their professional knowledge. On the basis of the credit bank platform, the School will make pertinent analysis of the needs of educational projects and design trainings in combination with the educational training needs of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, and several other departments and commissions in the field of social work. It creates vocational qualification certifications to suit social services and management positions and introduces the relevant vocational qualification certificates. The school tries its best to realise the goal of “integrating degrees and work posts” through the construction of necessary systems, such as the system for the accreditation, accumulation, and transfer of learning results in degree education and non-degree education. To date, the approved vocational qualification categories related to social work are nursing assistant for older adults, nursing assistant for orphaned and disabled children, career counsellor, disaster information assistant, emergency assistant, marriage registrar, mortician, psychological counsellor, marriage family consultant, labour security assistant, and property administrator.

The School has an advisory group and a council. The advisory group consists of leaders from the national ministries and commissions, while the council is made up of leaders from both the OUC and CASW. The School hires leaders at the level of national ministries and commissions and renowned experts, scholars, and professors in the field of social work at home and abroad, as well as front line personnel with rich practical experience in the industry to serve as consultants and part-time teachers, along with the staff independently cultivated by the School to build a leading team with authoritative and farsighted consultants and full-time and part-time teachers. The School practices the presidential responsibility system under the leadership of the council, and the permanent offices carry out specific work under the unified leadership of the president.

The School also has study centres under its jurisdiction. The study centres are made up of local training centres, community tutorial centres, and local colleges and universities. To ensure the teaching quality, the study centres are required to be equipped with good teaching technology conditions. Meanwhile, they must have sound governing bodies, standardised management systems, and high-calibre management teams.