The history of the Department dates back to 1956, when Chung Chi College, a founding college of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, established the Department of Religious Studies and Social Work. Adopting the North American tradition, the social work curriculum emphasised a liberal arts education as well as professional training. It was later combined with Sociology to become the Department of Sociology and Social Work.

In 1960, the Hong Kong Government invited Dr. E. L. Younghusband from Britain to advise on the future development of social work training in the territory. Based on her report, the government later invited Miss M. E. Moscrop, Professor J. D. Chaisson, and Professor A. F. Klein from North America to make specific recommendations for strengthening social work training in Hong Kong. Their report of 1963 gave much credit to the curriculum mode of the social work programme of Chung Chi College, and it was recommended that the curriculum mode be adopted by the Department of Social Work upon the establishment of The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

In 1964, the Chinese University of Hong Kong began to offer an Undergraduate Programme in Social Work, which was the first of its kind in the history of the territory. Responding to the continuing development of social services in Hong Kong and the increasing demand for advanced professional social work training, the Department has launched a number of postgraduate programmes, namely the Master of Social Work, the Doctor of Philosophy in Social Welfare, the Master of Philosophy in Social Work, the Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work, the Master of Arts in Social Work, the Master of Social Science in Social Work, the Master of Arts in Family Counselling and Family Education and the Master of Arts in Social Policy. The Master of Arts in Social Work Programme was replaced by the Master of Arts in Social Service Management Programme, and the Ph.D. and the M.Phil. Programmes were combined to form an articulated M.Phil.-Ph.D. in Social Welfare Programme. Being one of the most well-established social work departments in Hong Kong, our Department has been able to attract staff and students of high calibre.

We aim to provide quality professional and academic training in social work, to develop knowledge related to social welfare and social work, and to contribute to the social development of Hong Kong. In the undergraduate programme, the Department prepares students to be professionally competent social workers who are committed to the welfare of their clients and to social justice. In the postgraduate programmes, the Department provides advanced training for the development of those who wish to become professional and academic leaders in the social welfare field. Students in all of our programmes are encouraged to develop independent and critical thinking, identify with the humanistic values and ethics of the social work profession, maintain a special concern for the vulnerable groups in society, and keep abreast of current social issues. The Department strives to be a leading centre of social work education and research in Chinese communities.

Since its establishment, the Department has produced around 8,400 graduates. Most graduates are working in the field of social welfare in top administrative, middle management and direct practice levels. A number of our graduates are professors and researchers in social work training institutions. The contributions of these graduates are highly valued by the community. Some alumni have also been very successful in fields other than social welfare, such as education, the commercial and business sectors, and the judicial system, to name but a few examples.