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BA (Hons) Social Work

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From child protection to fostering and adoption, from youth justice to supporting adults with disabilities, from drug issues to alcohol dependency, from mental health to homelessness – social workers are capable of so much and helping so many.

Our course is accredited by the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC), which means you’ll be able to register as a qualified social worker the minute you graduate, explaining why over 95% of our graduates are employed within six months of leaving.

This practical degree, which is one of the top ten of its kind according to the 2018 Guardian League tables, blends a powerful combination of academic study with essential practical experience. As a result, you’ll leave us fully equipped with the specialist knowledge and practical skills needed to deal with a broad range of issues surrounding social welfare, social exclusion and discrimination, law and social policy, working with children, young people and adults, mental health and substance abuse. You’ll gain lots of hands-on experience during your placements, operating in real world settings. What’s more, you can even seize the opportunity to travel and complete your placements overseas!

Watch a webinar presentation to find out more about this course.

All statistics shown are taken from Unistats, Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE), BU institutional data and Ipsos MORI (National Student Survey) unless otherwise stated.

Key information

Next start date:

September 2018


Bournemouth University, Lansdowne Campus


3 years, including mandatory placements


Health & Care Professions Council

Entry requirements:

For 2018 entry: 120 - 128 tariff points including a minimum of 2 A levels or equivalent. BTEC Extended Diploma of DDM. For more information check out our 2018 entry requirements page

International entry requirements:

If English is not your first language, you will need IELTS (Academic) 7.0 with minimum 6.5 in each component or equivalent. For more information check out our international entry requirements page

Course details

On this course you will usually be taught by a range of staff with relevant expertise and knowledge appropriate to the content of the unit. This will include senior academic staff, qualified professional practitioners, demonstrators, technicians and research students.

Year 1

Core units

  • Social Exclusion & Discrimination: This unit explores the nature and impact of possible causes of social exclusion and discrimination. You will also be introduced to sociological and anthropological enquiry.
  • Law & Social Policy: You will develop an understanding of law and relevant social policy and, through your knowledge and harnessing of relevant skills, be able to use knowledge knowledge of law and social policy competently and creatively.
  • Working with Children & Families: You'll explore statutory, independent and voluntary sector services in early intervention work with children, young people and their families/carers.
  • Social Work with Adults: You'll be introduced to current research, legislation, policies, practice issues and service user perspectives in relation to areas such as mental health, disability, ageing, domestic abuse, homelessness, gypsy and traveller communities, asylum seekers and carers.
  • Personal and Professional Development for Social Work: In this unit you'll be provided with a range of practical guidance, support and knowledge to develop your capabilities against the Professional Capabilities Framework and the HCPC Codes of practice.
  • Practice Learning in the Community: This unit provides the essential practice experiences that you require in order to develop your competence to the requirements of the regulatory body.

Year 2

Core units

  • Models, Methods & Approaches for Social Work Intervention: The unit will equip you with an understanding of the complex and multi-layered nature of social work.
  • Use of Self: Theory & Practice: This unit aims to facilitate the development of personal and interpersonal communication skills as well as exploring and understanding theory that will aid the application of these skills in professional practice.
  • Values, Ethics & Ideology: You'll develop an understanding of ideological, religious and cultural belief systems, perspectives and practices and their influence on the practice of social work across diverse communities.
  • Psychosocial Perspectives of the Life Course: You'll develop an understanding of human growth, development and behaviour across the lifespan, and different sociological and psychological explanations for this.
  • First Substantive Placement - Part A and B: These two work based units provide essential practice experiences that you require in working toward meeting the regulations of the professional body.

Year 3

Core units

  • Family Intervention: This unit explores family as a context for socialisation and development; understanding and assessing children’s behaviour, parenting capacity and family interventions and will incorporate the use of child observations.
  • Working with Risk & complexity: Looking at social work in the context of protection, the unit covers: responsibilities, analytical skills and knowledge, practical skills and professional accountability in all areas of social work practice.
  • Mental Health & Substance Use: You'll explore beliefs surrounding mental health, drug and alcohol use, as well as expand your understanding of current legislation, policy and practice issues in order to respond to the needs of the individuals, families and carers affected.
  • Critical Literature Review: You'll undertake an intellectually challenging and in-depth literature review exploring a topic relevant to contemporary social work practice.
  • Final Substantive Placement - Part A and B: This work based unit provides essential practice experiences students require in working toward meeting the regulations of the professional body.

Scheduled learning and teaching activities

Contact hours

The hours below give an indication of how you can expect to spend your time during each year of this course. You will learn through a combination of lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops and practical sessions. Your independent learning could include reading books and journal articles, working on group projects, preparing presentations, conducting library research and writing your assignments.

Year 1 – 19% of your time will be spent in timetabled learning & teaching activities

  • Learning and teaching: 196 hours
  • Independent learning: 854 hours
  • Placement: 150 hours
  • Non-assessed learning and teaching: 44 hours

Year 2 – 14% of your time will be spent in timetabled learning & teaching activities

  • Learning and teaching: 155 hours
  • Independent learning: 445 hours
  • Placement: 600 hours
  • Non-assessed learning and teaching: 12 hours

Year 3 - 19% of your time will be spent in timetabled learning & teaching activities

  • Learning and teaching: 158 hours
  • Independent learning: 442 hours
  • Placement: 600 hours
  • Non-assessed learning and teaching: 12 hours

How you will be assessed

You will be assessed by coursework culminating in your final year research project, and you will also undertake group work and written exams. The assessment methods for each unit can be found on the programme profile in the programme specification for your course. As an indication, 100% of the most popular units on this course in 2016/17 were assessed by coursework.

Programme specification

Programme specifications provide definitive records of the University's taught degrees in line with Quality Assurance Agency requirements. Every taught course leading to a BU Award has a programme specification which describes its aims, structure, content and learning outcomes, plus the teaching, learning and assessment methods used.

Download the programme specification for BA (Hons) Social Work.

Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the programme specification, the information is liable to change to take advantage of exciting new approaches to teaching and learning as well as developments in industry. If you have been unable to locate the programme specification for the course you are interested in, it will be available as soon as the latest version is ready. Alternatively please contact us for assistance.

All statistics shown are taken from Unistats, Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE), BU institutional data and Ipsos MORI (National Student Survey) unless otherwise stated.

Placement opportunities

The Social Work team works in partnership with our local stakeholders which include Social Services departments in our neighbouring local authorities and also with many of the varied local voluntary sector agencies. In your first year you will undertake 20 days exploring a topic out in the community with the support of facilitators who are experts by experience (service users and carers).
In subsequent placements, you will be supervised in practice by qualified Practice Educators providing you with essential practice experience that will develop your social work knowledge and skills. In year two you will undertake a 70 day placement in a social care setting and in year three you will undertake 100 days within a social work team, undertaking statutory tasks.

A further 30 days is allocated to skills development.
The wide range of placements includes social work teams delivering services to older people, children and families or people with disabilities; hospital social work teams; residential and day care settings; drug and alcohol services; mental health services; supported housing and homelessness schemes; projects for young people experiencing home and school difficulties.

How long is the placement? 

In your first year you will undertake 20 days placement, in year two 70 days placement and in year three 100 days placement. 

Your application

Background and experience

For Social Work, we are looking for applicants who:

  • Have an awareness of the role of a Social Worker within society
  • Have undertaken work experience – the longer and more varied the better - and to be able to reflect upon your learning from these experiences
  • Have a non-judgemental attitude, an appreciation of diversity and self-awareness, flexibility and openness to new ideas
  • Can demonstrate relevant skills such as listening, negotiating and advocacy
  • Have life experiences which may have influenced the applicant to think about a career in Social Work.

We would normally expect you to have some paid or voluntary experience in a social work and/or social care capacity. The longer and more varied that experience, the better. Examples of the sort of experience that candidates often have are:

  • Employment as a carer in a residential home
  • Being a volunteer in an agency working with young offenders
  • Paid or voluntary work in a day centre for people with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, or mental health problems
  • Employment as a social work assistant in a social services department
  • Work on summer play schemes and/or after school clubs
  • Personal experience as a service user or carer.

If you are still in full-time education, you will need to have additional experience outside of the work experience arranged by your school.

You can find out about opportunities for volunteering from local volunteer bureaus, citizens advice bureau or in the public library. Newspapers such as the Guardian on a Wednesday or a magazine like Community Care are helpful.

NB. It would be unusual for us to offer a place to anyone without such social work/social care experience, but we will consider the merit of each application as a whole. Please contact us if you are in any doubt.

IT Skills

In the healthcare sector IT is now a vital tool for accessing and maintaining patient records, accessing literature to client care and conducting clinically-related research. As a student you will receive an introduction to IT near the beginning of your course and you will be provided with computer access and your own email address. During the course you will be expected to use your developing IT skills to produce assignments, to conduct literature searches, and to use client-related record systems in a practice setting.

Selection methods

We’ll use the UCAS applications to create a shortlist of candidates that we would like to find out more about and you may be invited for an interview. You can find some handy hints about filling in your UCAS form on our how to apply webpages. 

What to expect at interview

The interview day will begin with a welcome talk by a member of staff from our Social Work team. There will also be an opportunity for you to speak to current students on the Social Work programmes. You will take part in a group exercise with other candidates led by service users/carers. The service users and carers who lead this session will be considering your ability to express your own views, show appropriate listening skills, demonstrate openness to the views of others, and show curiosity about social problems.

There will a short break followed by a written test (you will be taken to a computer lab for his part of the day, as the test will be typed which will help us to evaluate your IT skills). We will be assessing your ability to express your ideas clearly, demonstrate an insight into the role of the social worker and show empathy. Content, spelling and grammar are all important.

The individual interviews will follow from 1.00pm. The interviews will finish at approximately 3.30pm. If you have a late interview time we recommend you use the time to take the self-guided tour or visit the library at Bournemouth House. Please allow a whole day for the interviews.

You can find further information about interviews with the Faculty of Health & Social Sciences.

Our offer making process 

Our offer making will typically be based on your main graded qualifications, including any required subjects. Additional study may be valuable for breadth of study, and we will look at a range of qualifications and subjects, including the Extended Project Qualification and General Studies, although these may not be part of our offer.

If you do not meet the criteria of your original offer, we may still offer you a place. We will review your whole application and consider all academic qualifications (including those not in the offer) and the rest of the application to see if you have the academic potential to succeed on the course. If we feel the answer is yes, we will still confirm your place.

How we'll assess your application 

We look at individual applications and make a tailored offer based on your potential to succeed on the course considering a range of factors, including your academic achievements, work and other experience, predicted grades, reference and personal statement, and in some cases, your performance at an interview/selection test.

If you meet one or more of our contextual data indicators for educational disadvantage (such as being in care, living in a low participation neighbourhood or in an area with less advantaged socio-economic characteristics), your offer could be between 20-60 points below the published tariff.

Unconditional offer scheme

Applicants who are predicted to achieve strong academic results will be eligible for BU’s Unconditional Offer Scheme in recognition of their academic performance and potential to succeed at university. If you are selected for the scheme and commit to us as your firm choice of university, then we will match this commitment by making your offer unconditional, which will guarantee your place at BU.

You will receive a standard conditional offer based on the entry requirements for your course via UCAS Track and your offer letter – it will advise that you are eligible for the unconditional offer scheme. We will then update your offer to unconditional should you choose BU as your firm choice on UCAS Track. We believe that unconditional offers reduce pressure on applicants who will continue to strive to achieve the best grades possible, and we will reward you with an Academic Excellence scholarship of £1,000 in your first year if you achieve AAA or above at A-level or equivalent.

2018 entry requirements

We use the UCAS Tariff to show our entry requirements and will accept a combination of grades from your qualifications. You can use the UCAS calculator to see how your qualifications equate to tariff points.

The entry requirements for this course are 120 - 128 tariff points including a minimum of 2 A-levels or equivalent. BTEC Extended Diploma: DDM.

Excluded subjects: This course does not accept General Studies A or AS-level but Critical Thinking is accepted.

GCSEs: GCSE English and Mathematics grade C (or grade 4 in the reformed GCSE grading) or equivalent qualifications.. 

Numeracy and literacy: We need to be sure that you can express yourself in written English and have basic numeracy skills. We look at Level 2 of the National Qualifications Framework, which includes GCSEs, iGCSEs, Key Skills and Functional Skills Level 2. If you do not have formal qualifications to this level or have alternatives, we may still be able to consider your application – please contact the Future Students Enquiry Team to find out more.

If English is not your first language: you will need IELTS (Academic) 7.0 with minimum 6.5 in each component or equivalent. This is a Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) requirement.

Other qualifications: We have outlined below other qualifications that we consider for this course. If you are studying a qualification that is not listed, please contact the Future Students Enquiry Team – it may be that we can still consider it.

Access courses: 118-128 tariff points with any combination of Distinction, Merit, Pass grades.

BTEC qualifications:

  • Extended Diploma: This course requires Distinction, Distinction, Merit (128 tariff points)
  • Diploma: Accepted as part of the overall tariff but it must be accompanied by an A-level or equivalent
  • BTEC National Foundation Diploma/ 90-credit Diploma: Accepted as part of the overall tariff but it must be accompanied by A-levels or equivalent
  • BTEC National Extended Certificate/ Subsidiary Diploma: Accepted as part of the overall tariff but it must be accompanied by A-levels or equivalent

Cambridge Pre-U Diploma: 120-128 tariff points including a minimum of 2 principal subjects.

Cambridge Technical qualifications:

  • Extended Diploma: This course requires Distinction, Distinction, Merit (128 tariff points) 
  • Diploma: Accepted as part of the overall tariff but it must be accompanied by an A-level or equivalent
  • Subsidiary Diploma: Accepted as part of the overall tariff but it must be accompanied by A-levels or equivalent
  • Introductory Diploma: Accepted as part of the overall tariff but it must be accompanied by A-levels or equivalent

International Baccalaureate (Diploma): 31 - 32 overall including grade H5 from 2 Higher Level subjects.

Scottish Advanced Higher: 120 - 128 tariff points including a minimum of 2 Advanced Highers.

Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Diploma: Accepted as part of the overall tariff but it must be accompanied by A-levels or equivalent.

Extended Project Qualification: Accepted as part of the overall tariff but it must be accompanied by 2 A-levels or equivalent qualifications.

Other Health Care Level 3 Qualifications and Bridging Programmes: We are aware that there are a wide range of health care qualifications which people undertake in their workplace. Find out more about Bridging Programmes and some frequently asked questions about them. If you would like to know if the qualifications you have or are working towards meet our entry criteria; please ring 01202 961916 or email us for further information and advice.

Deferred entry: We are happy to consider applicants for deferred entry.

Non-academic requirements

Occupational Health (OH) Checks

This course is physically and mentally demanding and you will  need to be mentally and physically able to undertake your chosen course. Places are offered subject to passing an OH check, and this will be carried out at the University Hospital Southampton. Health conditions need to be dealt with on an individual basis e.g. deafness, blindness, eczema (or other dermatological allergic reactions) on exposed areas, epilepsy, back problems, or mental health conditions, eating disorders and other disabilities. These do not automatically exclude you but please ensure that you fully disclose your condition  to OH. The University can then consider the recommendations made by OH and whether reasonable adjustments can be made to support you on your chosen course. If you require more guidance please contact us for more information.

You will be required to provide a record of your immunity status or be vaccinated or have the required blood tests. Please see this table for the required immunisations. You may need to ask your GP or current OH department or find your childhood vaccination record  for details of your past immunisation records. You should be aware that there may be charges made (for which you will be liable) relating to your gaining the appropriate immunity required prior to starting your training programme.

Refusing Immunisations

The University has an expectation that all students will comply with the vaccination programme.  This ensures that you will be able to undertake the wide range of training placements that your course  will require. Occasionally some vaccinations  are contraindicated in certain medical conditions. OH will advise the University in these cases.The University will consider students on an individual basis. Refusal to have immunisations will result in the student not being allowed to attend practice placement and being withdrawn from the course. There is no opportunity to appeal against the requirements of the immunisation policy.

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Check (previously known as CRB)

All successful applicants will be subject to an Enhanced Disclosure and Barred List check; this will be a condition of offer and will need to be completed prior to commencing the course. Please see the Government website for the most up to date information.

International entry requirements

From September 2017 we will be welcoming international students to this course.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide evidence that you can understand English to a satisfactory level. English language requirements for this course are normally:

  • IELTS (Academic) 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component of writing, speaking, listening and reading or equivalent.

View further information about our English language requirements.

If you do not meet the English language requirement for your degree then why not join our Pre-Sessional English course. Successful completion of our Pre-Sessional English course will meet your English language requirement, without the need to re-take IELTS.

Academic entry requirements 

You can find details of the international qualifications we accept, and what level of study they apply to, on our entry requirements for non-UK students’ page.

We offer a number of preparatory programmes through the Bournemouth University International College. These courses offer you progression from High School in your home country to a Bachelor’s degree at BU.


  • Students in professional/managerial job six months after graduation: 95%*

While this course will prepare you for a rewarding career as a social worker, it will also give you the skills you need to work effectively in a variety of other roles. Thanks to our close ties with local employers, as well as our service user and care partnerships, you will have the opportunity to undertake varied placements during your course and develop strong working relationships with those already in the profession.

Within six months of graduating, 95%* of our students are working or studying, with many taking the first steps into a career in social work. Among the roles you can apply for once you graduate are:

  • Social worker
  • Health service and public health manager
  • Care worker
  • Mental health social worker
  • Health assistant.

You will also be in a position to register with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC), the organisation that regulates social workers in the UK.

Industries worked in

  • Social work

  • Healthcare

  • Education.

Further study

Once you have completed an undergraduate Honours degree, you can further develop your education by studying for a postgraduate degree. Please visit our Postgraduate section for further details about our range of Master's degrees.

*All statistics shown are taken from Unistats, Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE), BU institutional data and Ipsos MORI (National Student Survey) unless otherwise stated.

Your lecturers

Our staff are actively engaged in research and professional practice in the social work sector which is integrated into the teaching of this course. Find out more about some of the staff who will be teaching on this course below and their research activities. Look at the list of publications authored or co-authored by the social work teaching team.

Richard Williams

Richard's passion for 'making a difference' to children, young people and families, is central to his academic work.

Having joined BU as a Senior Lecturer after his years in practice, he continued to focus his teaching, writing and research on outcomes in general and the positive impact of social work in particular.

Working at BU has allowed Richard to extend his interest in managing hostility and mediation and to apply this to teaching across different disciplinary groups.

Richard currently project manages a research project 'The Heart of the Matter' commissioned by the Bournemouth & Poole LSCB into the child protection processes and procedures. This work has successfully engaged with professional groups as well as parents, significant other adults and children and young people.

Dr Jill Davey

Prior to joining Bournemouth University (BU) in May 2003, Jill held both strategic and managerial positions in relation to social work. Jill’s last post in practice was that of a Principle Education Officer within Bournemouth Local Authority.

Jill’s currently undertaking a PhD, which has drawn on research from the UK and South Africa, where she undertook a five week field work study in Zululand, South Africa. In October 2014, Jill was awarded a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in recognition of my success as a high quality educator.

During Jill’s time in practice, she held specialist posts including managing a social work service to all Bournemouth Local Authority and Independent Schools. Jill retained responsibility for ensuring all children, living within the Bournemouth local area, were effectively achieving their optimal educational outcome and effectively safeguarded from harm or abuse. Jill also took the Education lead for the Local Authority on Serious Case Reviews.

Dr Mel Hughes

Mel is a Senior Lecturer in social work and a practice educator with specific interests in the student experience, practice learning, mental health and substance use.

Mel’s research includes articles on:

  • The impact of service user and carer involvement on students' subsequent social work practice: a follow up study
  • Developing standards of care in residential homes: A participatory Action Research project in collaboration with The Patient Association
  • Gaining insight into what works to minimise loneliness and isolation. A participatory action research project in collaboration with the Poole Wellbeing Collaborative
  • Principal investigator: evidencing the impact of service user involvement in professional health and social work programmes
  • Principal investigator: Parents Story Project: Gaining insight into parental substance use

Dr Margarete Parrish

Margarete Parrish’s career in social work began with her MSW from the University of Georgia in the US, where she specialised in Mental Health Social Work. Her PhD in Social Work is from Rutgers University, where she also specialised in Mental Health. Her practice background has been in both medical and mental health settings. Her practice specialities include adaptation following trauma, adolescents, mental health and substance misuse.

Margarete has taught in the UK since 2004, and joined the social work team at BU in January 2013. The second edition of her book “Social Work Perspectives on Human Behaviour” was published in 2014.

Richard Murphy

Jennifer Bigmore

Dr Sally Lee

No hidden extras

Course specific material(s) included in your tuition fee:

  • Professional body accreditation
  • Disclosure and Barring Service Check
  • Occupational Health Check

As a student at BU we will provide many things to support you and there will also be additional costs you may encounter whilst studying at BU. The information below will help you understand our provision and what you need to budget for.

What you can expect from us

All of your teaching and assessments are included in your tuition fees, including, lectures/guest lectures and tutorials, seminars, laboratory sessions and specialist teaching facilities. You will also have access to a wide range of support and services, many of these are included on the Next Steps insert enclosed with your offer letter.

  • One set of study-related consumables such as a memory stick/ DVD
  • Materials for laboratory and field-based teaching activity
  • Support for placements (UK or abroad) and fieldwork, and non-financial support whilst on placement
  • A range of student services – advisors, help desks, counsellors, placement support and careers service
  • The Library – access to a wide range of electronic resources (databases, e-journals and e-books), print and multimedia collections, subject librarians and study spaces
  • IT labs (some open 24/7), wireless network, AV equipment to borrow
  • Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) scheme
  • Disability and additional learning support
  • The BU Language Centre to help you develop/improve foreign or English language skills
  • 24 hours a day, 365 days a year security team.

Costs of living and other expenses you need to consider

  • Accommodation and living costs: view our price guide.
  • Text books: remember that our award-winning library is stocked with a large range of text books for all courses, as well as online resources such as industry journals, free of charge
  • General stationery and other supplies such as print and presentation materials: the Students’ Union shops stock a wide range of stationery supplies on both campuses
  • Travel to, from and between BU campuses: our bus service operates in the local areas offering a subsided travel rate; we also have a large number of secure bike storage compounds
  • SportBU membership: check out our student membership packages, sports events, varsity teams, information about our new facilities and more on the SportBU webpages
  • Optional fieldwork travel, outdoor wear and footwear (where applicable)
  • Telephone and travel costs incurred when undertaking interviews for coursework/securing placements.
  • A fee will be payable towards the cost of an Educational Psychology Assessment if this is required in connection with additional learning support. BU pays for approximately two-thirds of the cost of this assessment for UK students. For more details and current pricing please visit the Students section of the website.

Repeat units

If you need to repeat one or more units during the course of your studies (with or without attendance), you may be required to pay an additional fee of £1,500 per 20 credit unit. 

Financial help available from BU

We offer a range of scholarships and bursaries to students who are beginning their studies at BU. Our website also provides details on living costs, budgeting and paying your tuition fees.

Course changes

The table below indicates the latest changes to this course.

Date Changes to this course Where the change was made Previous text

2018 entry requirements have changed to 120 - 128 tariff points including a minimum of 2 A-levels or equivalent

Key facts and 2018 entry requirements 

The entry requirements for this course are 120-128 tariff points from 3 A-levels. BTEC Extended Diploma: DDM.


2018 GCSE entry requirements have changed to This course requires GCSE English and Mathematics grade C (or grade 4 in the reformed GCSE grading) or equivalent qualifications. 2018 entry requirements

This course requires a minimum of 4 GCSEs grades A* - C (or grade 4 or above in the newly reformed GCSE grading) including Maths and English or equivalent qualifications.

What our graduates think

Michelle Lillywhite

The staff all stand out as they come with such enthusiasm and passion for what they do and more importantly why they do it. Learning has ignited an acedemic passion that I didn’t know I had.

Hear from our staff

Richard Williams

Social Work is not a discipline for the faint-hearted and our students develop personally and professionally; they embrace the learning opportunities and the challenges these opportunities provide and the outcome is high quality practitioners.

What our graduates think

Mary Pursey

The course set me up for a successful career in frontline child protection, and the teaching and pastoral support I received enabled me to reach my full potential and achieve even more than I ever thought I could.

Enhance your studies

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