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 has been ranked 1st in the UK by The Guardian University Guide 2014 and 2015, and The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2014. It is currently ranked 5th in the UK by The Guardian University Guide 2018.

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

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. We run both a Social Work BA and Social Work MA as qualifying courses which allow successful graduates to register as social workers with the Health and Care Professions Council (the regulator for social work).

83 per cent of Social Work and Social Care undergraduates are in work or further study six months after graduating. 95% of our postgraduates are in work or further study six months after graduating (Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey, 2016).

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.

See also the Centre for Social Work Innovation and Research.

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.

Both the Childhood and Youth: Theory and Practice BA and Childhood and Youth Studies MA courses prepare graduates for a diverse range of careers, or for further study. Their participatory nature provides opportunities to share and develop interests in working with children and young people in a broad range of environments and contexts. Their multidisciplinary nature, supported by the Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth (CIRCY), will appeal to candidates who are keen to pursue a broad, challenging and rewarding degree. Local and international students are welcomed.  


Led by a new Centre for Research and Innovation in Wellbeing, the Department of Social Work and Social Care can now offer courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level in the area of wellbeing which has very much come to the fore in academic research, Government policy and practice in numerous countries in recent years.

The Wellbeing MRes offers robust research training, preparing you for an extended dissertation and drawing on our excellent links to undertake empirical research in the UK or overseas. This course can also be used as a stepping stone to doctoral research. Contact Professor Charles Watters for further information.

The new Health, Wellbeing, and Social Care BA is offered for 2018 entry. This pioneering course will encourage you to look at the factors affecting wellbeing throughout the lifespan, including spiritual, emotional, socio-economic, physical and organisational. You will also evaluate the ways in which society cares for those in need of support. Interdisciplinarry teaching combines theory and social care practices preparing you for a range of careers in health, education, social care and further training. Contact Dr Tish Marrable for further information.

The focus of these two inter-related disciplines has been influenced internationally by demographic changes (such as an ageing population, which has led to an increase in disabilities and conditions such as dementia). The Care Act 2014, to be implemented in England from April 2015, encourages the building, at an individual and community level, of a system of care and support that is designed with service users’ full involvement and tailored to meet their own unique needs. The new emphasis on workforce capacity, knowledge and skills in this arena is resulting in a growing range of jobs within local authorities, NGOs and health services that explicitly require expertise in wellbeing and social care. This course will provide an excellent grounding for such employment, offering an optional placement year so students can integrate theoretical learning with practice.

See also the Centre for Innovation and Research in Wellbeing.

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.


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.

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) - established in 2012 and led by Professor Janet Boddy. Launched in 2015 are the Centre for Innovation and Research in Wellbeing (CIRW) led by Professor Charles Watters and the Centre for Social Work Innovation and Research led by Barry Luckock.

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.