‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌The social work research group has successfully increased our research income: PhD scholarships and doctoral awards; diversified our funding source with higher success rates; invested in our staff research intensity; developed new partnerships with external stakeholders; extended our interdisciplinarity and international research and deeply embedded our community and public engagement.‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌Social work award badge

Our strategy is to provide innovative, conceptually challenging and methodologically advance research in social work that is of relevance to society. We work on Scottish government, policy and third sector funded research. External funding confirms our reputation as leaders in user engagement in research. The research group very successfully achieved a UK Top 10 position for research impact at the REF 2014 national evaluation. The group is currently 2nd in UK rankings for the Guardian University Guide and 5th in the UK in the Complete Universities Guide. Social work and social policy researchers are members Scottish Graduate School of Social Science and the ESRC Doctoral Training Programme. ESRC bursaries and studentship are available for GCU social work doctoral candidates as part of this Doctoral Training Programme. The Scottish Graduate School of Social Science which is the UK's largest facilitator of funding, training and support for doctoral students in social science. By combining the expertise of sixteen universities across Scotland, the school facilitates world-class PhD research.
The social work research group offers opportunities for highly motivated graduates to develop their own project topic related to our research group’s aim of developing a critical understanding of the context of social work policy and practice at an international, national and local level. We have good success in high PhD completion rates and attracting external funding for doctoral projects. Social work research has access to three doctoral programmes: PhD, Doctorate by Publication
Science and Professional Doctorate.

Research strategy

Our research strategy draws upon the following key principles and enablers which inform our current work and prepare the ground for the future

Three Principles

  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Internationalism
  • Impact

Three Enablers

  • Methodological and conceptual innovation
  • Funder diversification
  • Collaboration and stakeholder engagement


Specialist research areas include:

  • Professional education and pedagogy
  • Innovative critical theory
  • Professionalism and professional identity
  • The politics of social work
  • Social work and community
  • Globalisation, migration, asylum and bordering practices
  • Ecological approaches to social work and environment
  • Ethics, values and social justice
  • Intervention, decision-making and the lived experience of practice

Interdisciplinary research

Our social work research team are interdisciplinary and focus on a range of academic disciplines including political philosophy, social policy, social work, sociology, health economics, social medicine, geography, disability studies, anthropology, political science, law and psychology. This makes us well placed to develop and deliver interdisciplinary research partnerships and advance conceptual thinking.

Global Academic collaborations

Our research has stimulated and shaped a range of perspectives strongly informed by international, global and comparative inquiry. We actively seek out international collaborations, many of which are interdisciplinary. These include social work, gender studies and critical social policy based in Germany, England, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Canada, Australia and New Zealand