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Centre for Social Work

About us

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

Social work at Essex is all about understanding and responding to some of the most urgent challenges that individuals, families and societies face in a rapidly changing world. The complexities of social problems that social workers deal with require excellent education, innovative research and a strong commitment to issues of social justice.

The Centre for Social Work is committed to providing an outstanding educational experience for all of our undergraduate and postgraduate students, and aspires to be centrally involved in conducting innovative research and influencing social work agendas nationally and internationally.

Our Centre's distinctive approach includes:

  • Citizen participation and involvement of experts by experience at all levels of teaching and research.
  • Global outlook, engagement with global debates and opportunities for international student placements and field-trips.
  • Partnerships with local agencies which provide our students with rigorous practice education and also offer our graduates employment opportunities.
  • Innovative teaching, focused on critical thinking that encourages students to challenge conventions.
  • Commitment to social justice and opportunities for our students to participate in wider activities and campaigns promoting social equality.
  • A scholarly and intellectually stimulating environment which emphasises excellent research and research led teaching.

The Centre for Social Work is host to the International Social Work Journal, one of the oldest and most widely read academic journals in the field of social work.

Study with us

As a student in the Centre for Social Work you experience a lively, informal environment with many possibilities to pursue your own interests whilst being part of a multidisciplinary school. We provide you with an active and stimulating environment for your studies and the chance to really make a difference within a profession that is essential in today’s society.

You’ll need to be hard working, adaptable, honest, and above all, passionate about finding long-term solutions and supporting positive changes for children, adults and families. You will develop the skills, knowledge and understanding of how to support people to improve personal, practical, psychological and social aspects of their lives.

All of our lecturers are highly experienced in teaching social work in Higher Education.

  • BA Social Work

    Our undergraduate BA Social Work meets the standards for registration as a Social Worker in England.

    Within the programme the central themes reflecting core values and principles of practice are always present; these include safeguarding and protection; evidence-based relational practice; inter-professional working; impact of practice; professional challenge; empowering service users’ autonomy; social justice and values; and equality and diversity.

    You graduate equipped with the specialist knowledge, vital transferable skills and the confidence to make a genuine difference to the world around you.

  • CPD opportunities

    Our Centre for Social Work delivers CPD courses which can help social work practitioners develop their academic, practical and professional knowledge. Through these modules qualified practitioners are able to build up academic credits which can lead to a full academic award.

    Our Centre provides opportunities for social work practitioners who wish to become practice educators through the following modules- specifically designed to meet the HCPC, employer and university expectations and standards:

    • Practice Educator Training (PEPS 1)
    • Developing as a Practice Educator (PEPS2)
    • Dissertation (HS982)
  • PhD Social Work

    The School of Health and Human Sciences offers a PhD in Social Work programme.

    The University of Essex is part of The South East Network for Social Sciences (SeNSS), one of 14 new Doctoral Training Partnerships funded by the ESRC, beginning in 2017-18. SeNSS will be awarding at least 35 studentships across the partner institutions in 2017.

    Academics in the Centre for Social Work are very keen to supervise Doctoral students in any of the areas of their expertise.

  • Placements

    Within the Centre for Social Work, we value the experience and opportunity that a placement can give you. Practice based learning is an intrinsic part of our course as it provides students with unique opportunities gain confidence, improve their practice skills and understand the crucial interplay between theory and practice.

    Our partnerships with placement providers ensure you gain effective, high-quality training, allowing you to gain experience working with children, adults, families and communities.

    A distinctive feature of our Practice Education approach is the facilitation of international placements. Our Centre retains excellent links with social work organisations and universities in many parts of the world including Latin America, Australia, South Africa and Cyprus and Greece.

    Within our BA Social Work you will complete at least 170 days in practice placement during your time at Essex.


The Centre for Social Work has a record of successful research and other collaborations with academic, professional, and public organisations nationally. Research in the Centre for Social Work is informed by a strong commitment to issues of social justice and is epistemologically oriented towards participatory and action research approaches.

Members of our team are currently undertaking research on the following themes:

  • Political economy of Social and Health Care with a particular focus on the impact of austerity policies on social workers and people who use social services in the UK and Southern Europe.
  • Citizen Participation in social work and social welfare.
  • Creative Social Work methods with a particular focus on the interplay between social work interventions and uses of humour.
  • Conceptualisations of critical and radical social work and social policy
  • Social Services in the context of armed and political conflict.
  • Comparative and International Social Work and Social Policy

Partnerships and collaborations

The Centre actively promotes partnerships and critical alliances at a local, regional and global level.

Members of the Centre have been elected to leadership roles in the European Association of Schools of Social Work (EASSW) and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW). EASSW and IASSW represent social work educators at a European and global level respectively. Currently, Professor Vasilios Ioakimidis is the elected Vice President of EASSW and Chair of IASSW’s Human Rights Committee.

The Centre has close links with the Social Work Action Network (SWAN). Professor Peter Beresford has represented service users in SWAN’s steering committee for several years and he regularly contributes to SWAN events as a key note speaker. Professor Vasilios Ioakimidis is a founder member of SWAN and member of its steering committee. Dr Stephen Jordan is a founder member of the regional SWAN group in Southend-on-Sea.

Also, the Centre for Social Work works closely with the Social Services in the Context of Conflict Network (SSCC). SSCC is an independent and multidisciplinary network of academics, researchers and practitioners interested in understanding the complex and often contentious changes social services and social work undergo in the context of political and armed conflict.