School of Education and Social Work


The Departments of Education and Social Work & Social Care have strong commitments to research, producing influential, world-leading reports which shape professional policy and practice nationally and internationally.

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ESW Strategic Plan 2019-25

The University's 2025 Research with Impact Strategy provides a structure for our Strategic Framework for Research (ESW) which outlines the aims, objectives and mechanisms underpinning our vision for research and knowledge exchange. 

Our Research Centres

The School of Education and Social Work provides a robust and nurturing research community with internationally recognised research centres delivering strong externally-facing identities and a ‘research culture without borders’. All research-active staff and doctoral researchers are actively involved with at least one interdisciplinary research centre. These Centres are the key mechanism through which the School's research agenda is developed and implemented through links, networks and knowledge hubs with local, national and international research partners and stakeholders and synergies between research, scholarship and teaching.

Department of Education

The Department of Education boasts three dedicated Research Centres:

Department of Social Work & Social Care

The Department of Social Work and Social Care has two dedicated Research Centres:

The Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth (CIRCY) sits across both Departments.

Research Staff

The School is dedicated to supporting the ongoing development of our research staff (for example, post-docs, research fellows, research assistants and associates). Research staff form a vital part of the strong research community making valued contributions to research, teaching and learning and community engagement. Two Research staff representatives convene meetings with research staff once a term and contribute  to the School’s research committee - ensuring that their views and concerns are taken seriously.

See more details on the Research Staff web page.

Elements: The new research information system

In January 2020, the University launched Elements, a new system for the management of research activities, including publications. The system was introduced in ESW in February 2020 from which time all new publications have been deposited into Elements. Full training and support is available.

Elements is an invaluable tool to capture, collect and showcase research and will be useful for future REF submissions. It aims to positively improve the University's REF submission by allowing individuals to upload a variety of evidence easily and in a standardised manner. 

Research Dashboard

The Research Dashboard provides all faculty whose contracts include research with an up to date record of their research profile over the last 5 years. It is linked into HR, Sussex Research Online, Research Finance and PGR databases, in order to present a record for each individual of their current and recent research project awards, research outputs, and PGR supervisions and completions. Information from the Dashboard should be useful for each individual when completing Individual Research Plans, appraisals, curriculum vitae etc. 

You can find your own Dashboard entry in Sussex Direct. Click on the Research tab, and choose  'Research Profile'  from the drop-down menu. This brings up a pdf file with your current record.

REF 2021

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. It is run by the four funding bodies in the UK. The outcome of REF informs the funding the University receives from Research England to fund our research. The next exercise will be conducted in 2021 with preparations currently underway. The deadline for submissions is 27 November 2020 and the Census date (when a snapshot is taken of staff) is 31 July.

The School’s REF preparation and submission is being overseen by the school's three Directors of Research and Knowledge Exchange: Professors Gill Hampden-ThompsonRachel Thomson and Janet Boddy. ESW has two Unit of Assessment submissions which are being led by Dr Louise Gazeley (UoA23) and Professor Elaine Sharland (UoA20). Dr Kristine Hickle is Academic Lead for Impact, with Deeptima Massey providing administrative support.

As with the whole REF exercise, many ESW staff members are involved in a collective endeavour to deliver the best account of the School's research culture and achievements over the last six years. We have tried  to ensure that relevant staff are aware of the processes for submission, and that identification of staff and selection of outputs for inclusion in the REF is transparent, consistent, accountable and inclusive. Staff are kept informed and those involved in selection have undertaken unconscious bias training. Our approach is compliant with the Code of Practice that has been accepted by Research England.

Regular information sessions are provided for staff on the main points of REF2021 guidance at which questions can be raised and issues discussed that may help to inform as well as to prepare institutional response to submission.

Exceptions to the REF 2021 Open Access Policy.

Research Impact

Research carried out by staff in the School of Education and Social Work is making a substantial and positive impact to the lives of people globally. Our work is improving policy and practice for children and young people at risk of abuse, neglect, violence, exploitation, and school exclusion. Strong partnerships with practitioners and policy-makers have enabled research on educating refugees, young people’s sexual health, adults in higher education, and children in conflict-affected areas to bring about measurable change in national and international policy. Our research on safeguarding adults, supporting individuals with learning disabilities, and evaluating interventions with parents, children, and families continually shapes the innovative practices of educators and social care professionals both nationally and internationally.

Planning for research impact is integral to the way in which we support academics and doctoral researchers to develop and carry out their research; discussing pathways to impact, planning and measuring impact is at the heart of our research culture. See the Research Impact web page for more details of our events and activities.

Research Ethics and Integrity

See details of how to apply for research ethics review on the 'Research and knowledge exchange' web pages.

Ethics are an essential part of conducting research, and need to be reflected on with considerable care and attention. It is important to ensure that no harm is done to you, your participants, or to the University in pursuit of your research goals. It is also essential to assess the level of risk involved, as well as how you will mitigate it, ie. how you will protect vulnerable individuals in your research sample; what strategies you will employ to avoid restimulating distress or trauma; what information you will provide for your participants with, etc.

In order to support ethical research conduct, a number of resources are available to you:

  • A 10- minute presentation on the ethics process for PGT students in Social Sciences and Humanities. This is a general introduction to ethics at the university and is designed to get researchers thinking about the process from the start of their time with us.
  • A free module from Future Learn offers a downloadable certificate on completion (you might like to submit this certificate with your research ethics application to show that you have taken ethics training as part of the research process).
  • An online ethics drop-in every Wednesday from 2-4pm. Email to reserve a place.


You can find up to date guidelines on the processes and procedures relating to research governance and ethics processes in these times of pandemic on Sussex Direct.

More information about staff with research ethics roles within the School, and other matters regarding research ethics for Education and Social Work specifically can be found on our Ethics web page.

See also the University's Research Integrity Policy Statement.

Staff Appraisals and Research Mentoring

Annual Appraisal and performance review is carried out for all staff; the School-level process allows for the identification of areas of strength and opportunities for development, including career progression goals. All appraisers must participate in centrally provided training.

The appraisal review document is used to record achievements in a wide range of areas (teaching, research and scholarship, external activity) over the previous 12 months. The form also enables the inclusion of evidence from existing quality assurance tools in use within the School, such as module assessment forms, module comment forms, and feedback from staff-student liaison meetings as well as the more traditional indicators of performance (publications, awards, research grant approval etc).


The aim of Research Mentoring is to support faculty to fulfil their research potential, whilst ensuring that this informs and fits within the School’s research strategy and supports individual contributions to our REF goals, activities and submissions. Our approach is distinct from other models linked to career development which are voluntary, confidential and independent. Research Mentoring is compulsory for staff with research in their contracts and research staff. Meetings with mentors are expected to take place termly and include the development of an annual Individual Research Plan.

The School is currently (in 2020) in the process of refreshing its approach to Research Mentoring and has commissioned an external consultant to review existing Research Mentoring activities towards the development of a bespoke set of recommendations for mentoring in the post REF2021 period.

Individual Research Plans

All research-active staff have a research mentor with whom they meet at least once per term. All 'Category A' staff produce an Individual Research Plan (IRP) through ongoing discussion with their mentor. Other research staff are encouraged to do similarly. IRPs facilitate planning and support for achievement of individual research, impact and career objectives. They are reviewed annually to identify individual and collective research training and support needs, and guide actions to meet these. 

Research Study Leave

The recently (Oct 2020) updated Research Study Leave Policy is consistent with university guidance on Study Leave for Research and meets the particular needs of the School.

All 'category A' staff may apply for funded study leave (normally one term every three years) subject to submission and approval of a research and impact plan evaluated against set criteria. Relevant faculty may also apply for shorter periods of 'exceptional study leave' for bidding, writing and impact activity within a tight timeframe.

The Research Study Leave Policy combines a rights-based approach to ‘standard research study leave’ and a needs-based approach to ‘exceptional research leave’ to maximise short-term flexibilities when required. It intends to ensure equity and transparency of the decision-making process, and the spirit of collegiality in which research study leave is resourced and undertaken.

Research Data Management

The University of Sussex recognises that a systematic and rigorous approach to research data management is fundamental to good research practice. To that end, it has established a Research Data Management Policy to set out and guide the approach of the institution and all researchers working within or for it:

Research Funding and Support

The School of Education and Social Work has a vibrant and thriving research culture with over 50 researchers working on projects across 6 research centres.

Research - as well as Professional Services - staff within the School work alongside staff in Research and Knowledge Exchange from the development and finance stage of bids in order to increase and deliver our portfolio of projects.

Once a funding opportunity is identified and/or you have been approached to conduct some research, please complete the ESW Research Development Proforma: Sept 2020.

See also the Workflow and Guidance: External research funding web pages for advice on the process for developing research bids and securing external funding for different types of research and consultancy projects.

See guidance on how to create a proposal.

Recently (January 2020), the Research Development session 'Costing Your Research Proposal' was organised by the Research Development Officer and Directors of Research and Knowledge Exchange. The session provided up-to-date information on the Research Development Office, support offered, and an overview of types of funders and their funding models. It also covered things to consider when costing a bid.

Guidance and Planning Docs