Why aren’t more social work students joining the AASW?

older graduate image This year there are approximately 14,500 students enrolled in social work across Australia; a staggering number! (the entire membership of the AASW is only 10,000).

In 2017 we can expect around 1,200 graduates from qualifying masters programs, and 1,700 from bachelors programs.

Which universities are doing the heavy lifting? Actual figures from 2014 indicated that five universities had enrolments of more than 500 students. These were the University of South Australia with 778, Charles Sturt with 676, Western Sydney University with 550, Latrobe with 546, and Deakin with 528.

The AASW keeps its student membership numbers secret (why?). Nevertheless, I can be confident in guessing that AASW student membership is a tiny proportion of 14,500.

When I talk with students about this, a few themes emerge,

  • Many students are in abject poverty and the membership fee is beyond their means
  •  some students see the AASW requirements around recognition of prior learning, and  placement hours and attendance as punitive and irrational
  • Exposure to AASW marketing is on campus is patchy or limited

I would add to this by saying that in my estimate, only around 50% of social work academics are members of the AASW.

Boosting student membership is an issue of real urgency. The future health of the social work profession is in the hands of the next generation.

We must have,

  • a $10 membership for students
  • free mentoring for students and new graduates
  • a memorandum of understanding between Heads of Schools of Social Work and the AASW that guarantees regular access to students for marketing purposes
  • a placement regime that strikes a sensible balance between outcomes and hours
  • an AASW student club on every campus
  • a national student advisory body

If you want to join the conversation about having an AASW that truly connects with students, go to the #membersfirst AASW election conversation page on Facebook


This entry was posted in AASW Election 2017, AASW Policy and Strategy, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Why aren’t more social work students joining the AASW?

  1. Rachael says:

    Hi Vittorio,

    As a student, I couldn’t agree more. I am a member of AASW and when speaking to other students they normally say they have not joined due to their finances.
    I myself will continue to be an AASW member because I am looking at the bigger picture and know that it will be of great benefit.

    My AASW student membership benefits currently are receiving the quarterly academic journal and being able to state that I am a member on my resume. Some students have questioned me on this as even being a benefit and others have stated that they would join only if and when they felt it was a necessity.

    There are some great AASW accredited courses/events/seminars that I have access to however the ones of interest to me are the ones you have to pay for and even at the discounted student rate they are far too expensive.

    From my experience, there is a need for more benefits and reasons why a student should join the AASW.

  2. Mark Wilder says:

    Thank you for addressing and teasing-out some of the issues on this MrV. Indeed why would students join the Association when there is such limited value for money. We owe it to students to welcome, support and to informally mentor them as was done for many of us as students. I am so pleased to see you commit to this important matter as part of your current campaign pledge.

  3. Paul Henderson says:

    I would agree with Rachael, membership to the AASW is way to expensive, (even $55) most students can simply not afford to spare that type of money living a hand-to-mouth existence from week to week. Personally, I have only been able as a mature-aged social work student able to afford it from my Austudy payment that I get at the commencement of each new semester, without that I most certainly would not be able to afford membership to the AASW. Also, the cost of courses that are advertised through the AASW are also way to expensive for students (even with the student discount). In three years of membership I have attended just one function that I got to network with other future social workers. To use a cliche, current students are the future of the AASW and they should in my opinion at most pay no more than $20 per year during their time at university. Those four years should be used by the AASW to help nurture future social workers and help them realise that further education, networking, lobbying, industry news, international studies, and NDIS updates relevant to social work practices throughout Australia should be ingrained into the minds of current social work students into their working lives after graduation. The AASW is simply not known well enough at the grass-roots, on university campus’s. There needs to be much greater efforts by AASW management to spread the word of the association. Currently, they are poorly serving new students to the benefits of being part of the AASW. This change has to come from the “top down” to help alleviate this problem of many social work students not knowing about the AASW and what purpose it serves to its members.

  4. Ali says:

    Thank you for acknowledging the financial burden of the Social Work degree, and also for raising the issue of the ‘punitive and irrational’ RPL and placement requirements for students. I have yet to join the AASW and am unsure if I will do so upon completion of my degree.
    I am currently studying a MSW (Qualifying) as an external student having an undergraduate degree in nursing with close to 20 years of work experience in health, disability and community organisations. I am really struggling to see the value of 1000 hours of placement at a Masters level where the majority of students have worked in or are currently working in human services fields. To say nothing of the financial hardship and family stress that it causes students.
    The other thing is that keeping placement at 1000 hours means that only the most privileged students can meet the requirements. You need to be financially secure, healthy and with a solid support network in order to commit to months and months of unpaid work. For a profession that is supposedly about equity and social justice, I don’t think that this is acceptable.

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