Social Work

Find a programme
Run by Faculty of Social Sciences and Law
Awards available PhD
Programme length Four years full-time;
eight years part-time
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available Yes
Start date We welcome new PhD students all year round. However, the largest intake is in September each year with a secondary intake in January. We strongly recommend applicants to consider either a September or January start.

Programme overview

The School for Policy Studies links theory, policy and practice in a multidisciplinary, research-intensive environment. Our research engages with and influences national and international policy. Our policy experts come from a wide variety of backgrounds in social policy research, social work, sociology, gender violence, childhood studies, disability studies, health and social care, history, human geography, economics, psychology, physical activity and nutrition and health sciences, urban studies and poverty, based within seven specialist research centres.

Our research examines policy and social work areas that affect us all in day-to-day life, influences and challenges policies implemented by governments and institutions, and investigates the issues, factors and attitudes underlying the social concerns that make the headlines every day.

The school is an exciting environment for graduate studies; we welcome graduate students from the UK and abroad to join our diverse and highly-rated research team. We particularly welcome applications on topics with direct relevance to national and international social work and policy concerns.

Fees for 2022/23

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2022/23 are as follows:

UK: full-time
UK: part-time
Overseas: full-time

Following the recent changes to fee assessment regulation, Channel Islands and Isle of Man students will no longer be charged a separate tuition fee. From the 2021/22 academic year they will be charged the same fees as Home students.

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to a five per cent increase in fees each year. Find out more about tuition fees.

Alumni discount

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a 25% reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni discount.

Funding for 2022/23

The Faculty of Social Sciences and Law has an allocation of 1+3 and +3 ESRC scholarships. Applicants may also be interested in applying for funding from the University of Bristol scholarship fund and alumni PhD scholarship fund.

Further information on funding for prospective UK, EU and international postgraduate students.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class honours degree and a pass at MSc/MA level (or equivalent experience/qualification).

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you need to meet this profile level:
Profile C
Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Admissions statement

Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Admissions statement

Research groups

The school houses seven specialist research centres:

  • Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences
    Staff in the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences conduct research focusing on physical activity and nutrition, and their associations with health across the lifespan. The primary areas of focus include biomedical, psychosocial and socio-environmental aspects of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and nutrition.
  • Children and Families Research Centre
    This centre is a hub for research and training in child welfare, family policy, social work and young people's relationships. Our members have backgrounds in social policy, social work, psychology and sociology. We have strong national and international links with child welfare academics, policy makers, practitioners and service users.
  • Centre for Gender and Violence Research
    The centre is a leading site for the study of gender-based violence. Members have a long history of researching violence against women and gender-based violence in different contexts. This includes theoretical and empirical studies and evaluations of policy and practice locally, nationally and internationally. Our research covers victims/survivors, perpetrators, children, agency approaches and international comparisons using a gendered analysis.
  • Centre for Research in Health and Social Care
    This centre focuses on both applied and theoretical research into key health issues at national and international level. There are currently around 30 staff and postgraduate students working across a wide spectrum of research areas: inter-professional and inter-agency work, evidence-based care, health inequality, mental health and health issues relating to ageing, children and gender.
  • Centre for the Study of Poverty and Social Justice (including the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research)
    The centre was formed in 1998 to provide a more integrative perspective on existing scholarships in criminal justice, socio-legal studies, poverty and social exclusion. Our members come from a wide range of disciplines and have expertise in a number of policy areas, with particular strengths in data analysis and social statistics. We aim to promote a supportive arena for critical national and international analysis and research into monitoring the nature and extent of poverty, social exclusion and injustice.
  • Centre for Urban and Public Policy Research
    Research at the Centre for Urban and Public Policy Research is concerned with governance, housing, citizenship, globalisation and the transformation of social and economic life in cities. Centre members come from the disciplines of economics, social policy, history, geography, social economics and social work. We combine interests in theoretical approaches to social and urban theory with practical involvement in current issues of policy in the UK and across the world. Our staff members have active research links with institutions in east and south-east Asia, the European Union and Europe, particularly the Balkan countries. This results in work with a strong international and comparative dimension, which we see as one of our key strengths.
  • Norah Fry Research Centre
    The Norah Fry Research Centre is a leading international centre specialising in research with and for disabled adults, children and their families. The centre is known for its work to include people with learning disabilities in the research process, as well as the development of accessible, easy-to-understand information and the dissemination of research findings in multiple formats to different audiences.


Studying social work will equip you with a wide range of knowledge and skills across a broad spectrum of interests and fields. As a result, studying social work and developing skills in analysis and research is relevant to vocational or non-vocational work in many different settings and subject areas.

Previous University of Bristol social work students have entered employment in higher education, policy-related fields, local government, other public sector bodies and third sector organisations. Careers have included those related to health and welfare, social work practice, academic posts, community work, the criminal justice system, management and research consultancy.

Staff profiles

Dinithi Wijedasa B.A, M.Sc., (Lecturer)

Professor David Abbott, (Professor), Disabled children living in residential settings.; issues for disabled children and young people and their families; making transitions to adulthood; multi-agency working.

Dr Isabella Aboderin BSc, MSc, PhD, (Perivoli Chair in Africa Research and Partnerships)

Dr Nadia Aghtaie, (Lecturer), Forced marriage within the UK' s South Asian community; violence against women in Iran and the UK; violence against women in rural and urban areas in the UK; young people and intimate partner violence.

Dr Sarah Ayres, (Reader), Devolution and decentralisation; economic development.; English regionalism; governance; public administration.

Ms Ailsa Cameron, (Senior Lecturer), Health and social care interface; interprofessional and interagency working; professional boundaries; research ethics.; the emergence of new organisational models within welfare services and the development of professional roles; the evaluation of policy programmes; the housing contribution to community care.

Dr Natasha Carver MSc PhD, (Lecturer in International Criminology), ‘In here, everything is questioned’: Gender, Marriage and Migration among Bristol-based Somalis

Professor Ashley Cooper, (Professor), Active travel; children' s health and fitness; environment and physical activity; measurement of physical activity; Type 2 diabetes.

Dr Sandra Dowling, (Lecturer)

Dr Sebnem Eroglu-Hawksworth, (Senior Lecturer), Migration research and specifically in understanding the economic behaviour, success and integration of migrants; poverty and household livelihoods; qualitative and quantitative methods; the macro-economic and policy aspects of poverty reduction; the measurement of poverty from a deprivation perspective and methods used to combine its ‘objective’ and subjective dimensions.

Dr Eldin Fahmy, (Senior Lecturer), Area-based initiatives, social inclusion and anti-poverty policy; fuel poverty; participation and community governance; poverty and social exclusion; rural poverty; youth, citizenship and exclusion.

Professor Dave Gordon, (Professorial Research Fellow), Area-based anti-poverty measures; child poverty and human rights; childhood disability; crime and poverty; fuel poverty; rural poverty; scientific measurement of poverty and social exclusion; social and distributional justice; social harm; the causal effects of poverty on ill health.

Dr Rob Green D.Ed.Psych (Cardiff) MSc Ed.Psych (Southampton) PGCE (Southampton) BSc Social Psychology and Politics (Loughborough), Assessment, learning and intervention; Dimensions of social and emotional development; Multiagency working; Psychological dimensions of interpersonal communication

Dr Julia Gumy, (Lecturer)

Professor Pauline Heslop, (Professor), Befriending and short-break services; general health-related issues; mental health and related issues; poverty and social disadvantage; short-break services and supports; transition from children' s to adults' services; young people with learning disabilities and transitions.

Professor Marianne Hester, (Chair in Gender, Violence & International Policy), Child contact and domestic violence; comparative and transnational research on gender and violence; domestic violence in same-sex relationships; domestic violence perpetrators; perspectives on violence against women and children in the UK, Denmark and China; prostitution and sexual exploitation.

Dr Misa Izuhara BA MA PhD, (Professor of Social Policy), Ageing and intergenerational relations; cross-national comparative studies; East-Asian social policy; family change and social policy; housing and urban/social change; housing assets and inheritance.

Professor Russ Jago, (Professor), Determinants of physical activity and eating behaviour; measurement of physical activity and sedentary behaviour; physical activity and obesity interventions in youth.

Dr Laura Johnson, (Senior Lecturer), Nutritional epidemiology ; The role of overall dietary and eating patterns in the prevention and treatment of obesity, diabetes and coronary heart disease as well as understanding the factors that influence food intake and appetite control.

Professor Patricia Kennett, (Professor), Comparative, cross-national social policy; globalization, governance and public policy; housing and homelessness; welfare systems and citizenship in Europe and East Asia.

Dr Gernot Klantschnig BA, MSc, PhD, (Senior Lecturer), focus on drugs and crime and their role in broader debates about trade, security, the state and health in Africa, China and globally.

Dr Matthew Lariviere, (Lecturer), AI and robotics in social care; anthropology of care; care and ageing futures; care of older adults; dementia; digital health and care services; digital transformation of care systems; ethnographic and speculative methods; lived experiences of ageing; social construction of health and illness

Dr Rachel Lart, (Senior Teaching Fellow), Drug misuse policy and services, mental health and marginalised groups, eg. offenders, drug users; evidence-based policy and practice; general health and social care policy.

Dr Noemi Lendvai, (Senior Lecturer), Possible typologies for post-communist welfare regimes in New EU Member States, on the Europeanisation of social inclusion in Central Eastern Europe, and on the transnationalisation of social policy in South East Europe; the impact of EU Accession on Hungarian, Croatian and Slovenian social policy.

Dr Patricia Lucas, (Reader), Child disability, poverty and deprivation, and inequalities in health; early childhood development; educational, nutritional and social interventions and outcomes for children.

Professor Alex Marsh, (Professor), Economics, organisation and management in the public sector; housing policy, economics and finance; theorizing the policy process.

Ms Christina Pantazis M.A.(Soton), (Professor of Zemiology), Poverty, social exclusion and inequality; security and civil liberties; social harm, crime and criminalisation.

Dr Angeliki Papadaki, (Senior Lecturer), Effect of the economic recession on health status and dietary behaviour; nutritional epidemiology, dietary habits and socio-economic and psychological factors affecting dietary behaviour; primary nutrition interventions in work settings.

Dr Demi Patsios, (Senior Research Fellow), Cross-national comparisons of ageing policy; long-term and community care; poverty and social exclusion of older people and pensioners; the health and social care of older people.

Professor Julie Selwyn, (Professor), Adoption and fostering; permanency policy and practice; sibling relationships; the costs of care.

Dr Victoria Sharley BSc(Hons) (Plym), PGDip(Cardiff), PhD(Cardiff), (Senior Lecturer in Social Work with Children and Families), child protection and welfare; co-production with communities; international social work; interprofessional practice; research with families in low and middle income countries; Safeguarding children; statutory social work and schools

Ms Ann Singleton, (Senior Research Fellow), International migrants in the South-West of England; international migration, asylum and human rights in the European Union; labour migration; migration as crime.; the use of migration research and statistics in European Union policy development; trafficking of human beings.

Dr Jo Staines, (Senior Lecturer), Fostering adolescents; restorative justice interventions; the criminalisation of children and childhood; the interface between the criminal justice and care systems; youth justice.

Dr David Sweeting, (Senior Lecturer), Citizen engagement and comparative urban governance; local governance; local political leadership.

Dr Jon Symonds BSc, MSc, MA, PhD, (Lecturer in Social Work with Children and Families)

Mrs Beth Tarleton, (Senior Research Fellow), Supporting adults with learning disabilities; transition, short breaks (respite care), easy information and supported housing.

Dr William Turner, (Senior Lecturer), Gender identity and development in children and young people; practice and outcome evaluation in social policy; psychotherapeutic approaches in working with young people; research synthesis and systematic reviews in child mental health and child welfare programmes.

Dr Afua Twum-Danso Imoh BA, MSc, PhD, (Senior Lecturer in Global Childhoods and Welfare)

Dr Debbie Watson, (Reader), childhood identities and diversities, childhood wellbeing and impacts of poverty, adoption, identity and life story approaches, arts based methodologies

Dr Emma Williamson, (Reader), Gender, inequality and domestic violence; health professional interventions and state responses to victims and perpetrators of gendered violence; research ethics and research methods; violence against women in all its manifestations.

Dr Paul Willis BSWHons(Tas), PhD(Tas), (Senior Lecturer in Social Work with Adults), youth sexualities, health and wellbeing sexuality, care and ageing trans ageing and gender identity inclusive care provision for older people and, the needs and interests of LGBT carers

Apply now

Find out how to apply

Application deadline

We welcome applications at any time of year; early application is advised.

For details and deadlines of ESRC PhD studentship applications, please visit the SWDTP website (SWDTP website.)


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Watch on-demand recordings from November's virtual open week.

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School for Policy Studies
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School website: School for Policy Studies

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