The University of Birmingham has been committed to understanding and responding to social issues through its research, education and civic engagement from its founding in 1900.
We were strongly connected with the early days of the Birmingham settlement movement and this provided opportunities for students to engage with deprived communities in the city. We were one of the first Universities in the UK to provide the opportunity for those engaged in ‘social and philanthropic work’ to undertake a formal qualification through the social studies course launched in 1908 and have been providing education for social workers and other professionals ever since. This provides us with a unique foundation upon which to build our current education and research programmes.
Lived Experience of Service Users and Carers
Lived experience of people and their families is at heart of good social work and social care, and this is reflected in our work as an academic department. We have a lively network of over 50 service user and carer contributors who bring personal insights of social challenges and the role of agencies and professions in helping them to address these in practice. This includes caring for others. Our network contributes directly within many of our teaching and learning activities, including the selection of candidates. We value the contribution of those with lived experience within our research and evaluation. This includes shaping research methodologies, interpreting findings, and being co-researchers who gather empirical data. Finally, our network of contributors provides a helpful challenge to our overall work and how we can improve our impact as a department.
As a global university, we have active collaborations with universities interested in addressing social issues in many countries. This includes Stockholm University and University of Warsaw with whom students have the opportunity to visit in person through our annual international programme. We are partners in the International Social Worker Exchange Partnership between Birmingham, Hamburg and Chicago which enables practitioners to learn from colleagues working in other countries. We have institutional relationships with other research-intensive universities across the world through our membership of the Universitas 21 network . The department regularly hosts seminars from international leaders in research, policy and practice issues related to social work and social care. Our academics are editors of a number of international journals.
Alongside generating knowledge and educating future and current practitioners and others, the department has direct engagement with providers, commissioners and policy makers regarding their work to design and deliver new models of support. An example of such activity is our research and education regarding leadership in social work. Our evaluations explore the impact and implementation of local and national programmes in order to improve the current approach and provide valuable learning for the future. We are core members of regional partnerships including the West Midlands Teaching Partnership and the West Midlands Workforce Alliance for Adult Social Care. We also work with other parts of the University of Birmingham to maximise our impact.