Doctor of Social Work

The Doctor of Social Work is designed for social workers and for those wanting to undertake a professional doctorate in the field of Social Work and Social Care. Its purpose is to enable those working in professional contexts to make a difference by carrying out applied or action orientated research in a variety of areas. It also facilitates organisational input on agreed research areas and can enhance organisational research capacity.

It is a professional doctorate for both UK based as well as International (EU and wider Overseas) students.

Over 4,500 students from 150 countries worldwide choose to study here at Birmingham, and we now boast one of the largest and most vibrant international student communities in the UK. You can also find out why our students love living and studying in Birmingham.

Download our brochure, 'Postgraduate Research at the School of Social Policy' (PDF)

The Doctor of Social Work is designed for those who are involved in aspects of social work, social policy and practice in a wide range of settings, including government, voluntary organisations, community-based projects, management, education, social care, health care, probation and user groups, as paid workers or volunteers.

It is of interest to all those operating in social work and related arenas. It aims to develop critical reflection within participants' policy, practice and organisational contexts, enhance applied social research skills, and develop ability to carry out and apply original research.

The programme comprises research training, work orientated assignments and a 50,000-word thesis demonstrating original work.

Fees and funding

Standard fees apply 

Learn more about fees and funding

Scholarships and studentships
Scholarships may be available. International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government. More information on international scholarships

More on scholarship opportunities

For further information contact the School directly or contact the Student Funding Office viat the online enquiries system at

Entry requirements

Normally a first-class or upper second-class Honours degree in social work or a relevant social science, or the successful completion of an appropriate postgraduate programme is required.

Doctor of Social Work applicants would usually also have a relevant professional qualification and experience.

Potential for research generally also needs to be indicated.

International students

We accept a range of qualifications from different countries.

Listen to what some of our international students in the School of Social Policy say about studying at Birmingham.


How to apply

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

The Department of Social Work and Social Care is an internationally leading centre for research in social work. The department is part of the School of Social Policy, which is located in the Muirhead Tower - a fully WiFi enabled, sophisticated, hi-tech learning environment. There are nine libraries supporting your learning through access to one of the biggest research library facilities in the UK. Open access computing facilities are widely available across campus.

Research interests of staff

  • Black service users' views of mental health services; re-ablement and community services for older people; mental health legislation; the contribution of social theory to the understanding of mental stress; risk assessment in mental health; the role of masculinity in shaping men's experience of mental distress and our responses to it; service user participation; evaluation of health and social care responses to mental health and old age
    Contact: Ric Bowl
    Tel: +44(0)121 414 6688
  • Comparative international analysis of social work policy and practice in relation to aspects such as age, gender, mental health, disability and communities
    Contact: Professor Barbara Fawcett
    Tel: +44(0)121 414 5730
  • Race and gender; Asian women within the family and wider society; service provision within areas of disability and sexuality
    Contact: Dr Surinder Guru
    Tel: +44(0)121 415 8481
  • Social work with older people; community care policy and practice; adult service users' experiences of social work and social care services; enhancing service users' quality of life and mental well-being; service user involvement
    Contact: Dr Denise Tanner
    Tel: +44(0)121 414 2941
  • Mental health, recovery and social inclusion; whole family approaches; wellbeing and resilience; personalisation and self-directed support; identity issues; social theory and social models of mental distress; service user and carer participation; social work and interdisciplinary working
    Contact: Dr Jerry Tew
    Tel: +44(0)121 414 3640
  • Gender; sexuality and sexual orientation; services for people with learning difficulties; relationships of care; narrative methods; social work ethics and values; adult social care; social inclusion; diversity and equality
    Contact: Dr Nicki Ward
    Tel: +44(0)121 414 5713
  • Impact of social media on social work education and practice; using digital technologies in social work education/practice; social work and online communities of practice;  using 360-degree video in professional education and practice; solution-focused approaches in social work practice; social work and child protection practices.
    Contact: Dr. Tarsem Singh Cooner
    Tel:+44 121 414 8184
  • Social work and child protection; domestic abuse; fatherhood, masculinities and men's lives; mobile research methods; ethnography; the social science of social work.
    Contact: Professor Harry Ferguson
    Tel:+44 121 415 8653
  • Mental health, including the role of the Approved Mental Health Professional; motherhood, stigma, child protection and social futures; qualitative methodologies, including ethnomethodology, and visual, sensory and arts-based approaches.
    Contact: Lisa Morris
    Tel: +44 121 415 8031
  • Sexuality, specifically LGBT; young people and professionals’ engagement with them; gender, particularly men and masculinities; children and families, specifically inter-agency working.
    Contact: Jason Schaub
    Tel:+44 121 414 5732

Assessment methods

The programme comprises research training, work orientated assignments and a 50,000 word thesis demonstrating original work.

If I gain a postgraduate research degree in this area, what are my career prospects? 

The University of Birmingham has recently been ranked 9th in the UK, and 55th in the world, for post-qualification employability in a global survey of universities commissioned by the International Herald Tribune.

Over the last five years 98.6% of postgraduates from the School of Social Policy have been in work and/or further study six months after graduation.

The skills you’ll gain from studying in the School are highly sought after in most jobs or professions, as you will develop analytical skills and the ability to gather, assess and interpret data, all of which require clear and logical thinking.

Birmingham’s School of Social Policy postgraduates enter a wide range of occupational sectors: the majority in the public sector in areas such as youth work but others including events, sales, administration and education. Graduates also opt to continue in academia.

What type of career assistance is available to doctoral researchers in this department?

The College of Social Sciences, to which the School of Social Policy belongs, has specially designated careers advisors and careers consultants who can provide guidance for doctoral researchers on career paths, CVs, training opportunities, application and interviews. The University’s central Careers’ Service also runs workshops and offers personally tailored advice and guidance including 1-1 careers advice, 1-1 CV advice. The Career’s Service also runs CV writing workshops especially for postgraduates in the College of Social Sciences, giving advice on how to compile CVs for both employment and for academic roles.

The University also has dedicated careers advisors for International students who run workshops and networking opportunities with potential employers. These are especially popular with International postgraduate researchers.