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The Institute of Social Work (ISW) is one of the higher learning institutions in Tanzania. The Institute was established by the National Social Welfare Training Institute Act No. 26 of 1973 (as amended by the Miscellaneous Act No. 13 of 2002) herein referred to as the Act. The Institute was established to prepare qualified human resource for strengthening the social service delivery structure in Tanzania.

The Institute started operating in 1974 in rented buildings of the Tanzania Episcopal Council (TEC) at Kurasini before moving to the present premises at Kijitonyama, Dar es Salaam in 1978. The first programme was the Ordinary Diploma in Social Work, which was designed to address the manpower problem facing the Social Welfare Department. In 1977 the Institute began offering the Advanced Diploma in Social Work. This was necessitated by the need to meet social work professional standards. In 1982 the Institute introduced the certificate course in Labour Studies and later in 1990 an Advanced Diploma in Labour Studies was introduced. The purpose of the course was to train Labour Inspectors and Labour Administrators for the Labour Department.

Further development was experienced in 2002 when the Institute introduced courses in Human Resource Management at Certificate and Advanced Diploma levels, and Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work. In 2004 Postgraduate Diploma in Law, Mediation and Arbitration was introduced. In 2006/07 the Institute introduced Bachelor Degrees (National Technical Award Level 8) and in 2007/08 Ordinary Diploma (National Technical Award Level 6) in all fields of study offered. All training programmes offered by the Institute are competency based, aimed at equipping the trainees with requisite professional knowledge, skills and competence in their areas of specialization.