MPhil/PhD Social Work and Social Care

Start date
September, Other start dates can be negotiated
PhD: 3 years full time or 6 years part time; MPhil: 2 years full-time, 4 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Doctoral research
Standard fees apply
Learn more about fees and funding

We offer two types of research degree: an MPhil or a PhD – that consider topics, organisations or concepts relating to social work and social care services.

In the School of Social Policy we offer much more than a degree. PhD students have the opportunity to take part in a wide range of events including Departmental Research Seminars, Research Centre Seminars, Postgraduate Research Student Seminars, as well as a vibrant and engaged PhD researcher community. 

Our PhD programmes offer you a combination of taught courses in the first year and careful supervision throughout your study, with the aim of helping you to produce a thesis that makes a significant and original contribution to the discipline.  

Prospective applicants for research degrees in any aspect of social work and social care are invited to apply, outlining their special interests. All research degree programmes may be undertaken either by full-time or part-time study or via distance learning.  

We take care to match you with a suitable supervisor, and welcome applications to work in a wide variety of areas. Joint supervision, both between staff within the Department, and with staff in other departments is possible.

Find out more about our staff and their interests

All research students have regular meetings with their supervisors. PhD students also have annual panel meetings to support and review progress. We encourage you to give conference papers and to publish your work.

The MPhil requires a thesis of 60,000 words, while the PhD thesis is 80,000 words in length.

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Standard fees apply 

Learn more about fees and funding

Scholarships and studentships

Find out more about postgraduate research scholarships in the College of Social Sciences.

Use the University's postgraduate research funding database to find funding opportunities.

How To Apply

Learn more about applying
Apply online:

Please create a research proposal prior to applying. Learn more about how to create a research proposal

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

Our Standard 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.

MPhil/PhD Social Work and Social Care applicants would usually also have a relevant professional qualification and experience.

Potential for research generally also needs to be indicated.

Learn more about entry requirements

International Requirements

  • 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
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 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.

Assessment Methods

The MPhil requires a thesis of 60,000 words, while the PhD thesis is 80,000 words in length.

Our academic staff have wide research interests, and these are detailed below. Joint supervision is generally advised, and we can provide this with other departments.

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.

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