School of Education and Social Work

Social Work

Russell WhitingHead of the Department of Social Work and Social Care:
Dr Russell Whiting

Professor Gillian Hampden-ThompsonHead of the School of Education and Social Work:
Professor Gillian Hampden-Thompson

Social Work and Social Care at Sussex

The Department of Social Work and Social Care is the home to courses in Social Work, Childhood and Youth and Wellbeing at undergraduate, postgraduate and research levels. The Department is currently ranked 7th in the UK by The Guardian University Guide 2020.

Our degrees are taught by faculty whjo are research-active in their areas of particular interest and draw on their research to inform their teaching - as well as to encourage you to develop research-informed approaches to practice.

The Department's performance in the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) resulted in over half its submitted publications judged to be internationally excellent or world-leading.

Social Work courses

Social Work is a challenging profession that draws on both academic and practice-based learning to enable practitioners to work in a meaningful way with some of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our society. There is a great demand, both locally and nationally, for well-qualified social workers who are able to practise in a reflective and informed manner.

Both the Social Work BA and Social Work MA are qualifying courses which allow successful graduates to register as social workers. Successful graduates of both of these courses can apply for registration as a social worker via the professional regulator, Social Work England

We also offer the 19 month Social Work PGDip (postgraduate diploma) within which you can develop crucial skills for independent as well as collaborative learning. It includes practice work in two separate placements, and is just a dissertation away from an MA. Successful graduates can apply for registration as a social worker through the professional regulator, Social Work England.

We have excellent partnerships with local employers and placement providers ensuring a good range of learning opportunities. Our commitment to high-quality teaching and pedagogic innovation is evidenced through league table successes and the number of academic faculty holding local and national teaching awards.

Our excellent partnerships with local social welfare employers have also led to a robust and coherent portfolio of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses. These follow a flexible and modular framework, enabling practitioners and managers at all stages of the Professional Capabilities Framework to further their knowledge and skills.

Childhood and Youth

The School of Education and Social Work prides itself on its academic staff's expertise in the study of childhood and youth in both the Department of Education and the Department of Social Work and Social Care. The School currently offers three courses in this area:

Childhood and Youth: Theory and Practice BA
Childhood and Youth Studies MA
Childhood and Youth PhD

We welcome applications from candidates who are keen to pursue a broad, challenging and rewarding degree. Local and international students are welcomed and the participatory nature of these courses provides opportunities to share and develop interests in working with children and young people in a broad range of environments and contents. The BA and MA degrees prepare graduates for a diverse range of careers and/or for further study, while the PhD gives you the opportunity to develop specialist knowledge in an area of interdisciplinary interest and to hone advanced research skills.

Research degrees

There is a developing portfolio of flexible study opportunities for practitioners from a wide range of disciplines, and for those interested in pursuing research qualifications.

The Social Research Methods MSc offers ESRC-recognised research training in social work research methods and can be taken as the first year of the 1+3 route of the Social Work and Social Care PhD which provides excellent opportunities for disciplinary and interdisciplinarity doctoral-level study.

Researchers may also be interested in the Childhood and Youth PhD or the Wellbeing PhD which offer the opportunity to develop specialist knowledge in an area of interdisciplinary interest, and to hone advanced research skills. 

Research within the department

The Department of Social Work and Social Care's 2014 REF-submitted publications included world-leading longitudinal qualitative research on developmental trajectories, youth and migration, and on distinctive approaches to social work practice. The research reported was characterised by the use of innovative methodologies to tackle issues of considerable significance for social work policy and practice, and to further develop the domain of work with children and young people.

The Department excelled on impact, the new dimension for measuring research excellence and was deemed by the assessing panel to be ‘conducive to achieving very considerable impact’, evidencing ‘outstanding impact in terms of reach and significance to its intended constituency.’ The Department’s collaboration with service users and local service agencies, as well as national policy makers was of particular note, with Professor Suzy Braye and Dr David Orr’s case study on adult safeguarding heralded as an exemplar of exceptional impact for what could be achieved by working with users, practitioners and inter-agency networks to produce and disseminate materials.

The Department has successfully developed its research environment, establishing an impressive framework of strong interdisciplinary partnerships. The recent development of three new research centres headed by world-leading researchers provides a strong platform to consolidate the progress already made. Provision for staff development and mentoring is excellent, with notable results, including the award of a large European Research Council Starting Grant. The number of doctoral awards has grown significantly.  Staff have made world-leading contributions to the development of the discipline of social work and interdisciplinary research through the editorship of four major journals and strategic advice provision to the ESRC on social work and social care research. The Department’s research profile was particularly noted for its extensive collaboration with service users using imaginative approaches.

The department's research centres

The Department's research is organised as a cross-cutting activity and, in addition to a social work research cluster, includes the interdisciplinary Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth (CIRCY) currently led by Professor Michelle Lefevre. Launched in 2015 are the Centres for Innovation and Research in Wellbeing (CIRW) led by Professor Charles Watters and the Centre for Social Work Innovation and Research led by Professor Gillian Ruch.

A formal partmership with the School of Psychology also links us to the Andrew and Virginia Rudd Centre for Adoption Research and Practice.

The School of Education and Social Work is also a core member of the Sussex Humanities Lab