Social work enters the twenty-first century in very different circumstances to those which have prevailed through the major period of its development. We are now in an era that has been characterised as that of ‘post-welfarism’. Using recent theories that focus on the ideological and structural aspects of the social changes within which contemporary social work is developing, this article examines the impact and implications of such changes for social work education. Some conclusions are drawn for a critical approach to thinking about the content and process of professional education. 2001, Copyright taylor & francis group, llc.