Social Work

Find a programme
Run by Faculty of Social Sciences and Law
Awards available PhD
Programme length Four years full-time;
seven years part-time
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available Yes
Open to international students Yes
Number of places Not fixed
Start date Most students will start in September 2017, however other dates can be considered. Please contact the senior postgraduate admissions administrator to discuss the options available.

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 team of 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 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 2017/18

Full-time fees


Part-time fees


Fees quoted are provisional, per annum and subject to annual increase.

Funding for 2017/18

The Faculty of Social Sciences and Law has an allocation of 1+3 and +3 ESRC scholarships. Applicants may also apply 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.

Application method Online application form
English language requirements Profile C
Further information about English language requirements
Admissions statement Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

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
    The 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, including 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 is a focus of both applied and theoretical research around key health issues at national and international level. We currently have around 30 members including staff and postgraduate students who work 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 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 equips students 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 topic 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

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

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

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.

Professor David Berridge, (Professor), Adolescence; child and family welfare; children in need; education of children in care; educational disadvantage; foster and residential care for children; peer violence; ppecial education; teenage relationships.

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.

Professor John Carpenter, (Professor), Community mental health and learning disability services; disabled children and families; family therapy and family support services; outcomes of social work and interprofessional education.

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

Dr Kevin Doogan, (Senior Lecturer), EU policymaking; European integration, state and society; job insecurity and the ' new economy' ; mobility, flexibility and industrial relations at different spatial levels from the local economy to the European Union.

Dr Sandra Dowling, (Lecturer)

Dr Daryl Dugdale, (Teaching Fellow), Safeguarding, assessment and inter-professional training; working with fathers where risk is present.

Dr Sebnem Eroglu-Hawksworth, (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 Elaine Farmer, (Professor), Child protection; foster care; kinship care; linking and matching in adoption; looking after sexually abused and abusing children away from home; neglect; reunification.

Dr John Franey, (Senior Teaching Fellow), Ethics in professional practice; leadership and management in local authorities; school based multi agency group work.

Dr Geetanjali Gangoli, (Senior Lecturer), Feminist responses to violence against women in India; gender and violence, domestic violence, forced marriage and crimes in the name of honour in Black and Ethnic Minority Communities in the UK; prostitution and trafficking

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)

Dr Anne Haase, (Senior Lecturer), Body image, self-presentation, eating disorders and obesity; physical activity and mental health; psychology and intergenerational transmission of health behaviours (physical activity and eating in families and individuals); theory-based behaviour change interventions.

Dr Pauline Heslop, (Reader), 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, (Reader), 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, (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.

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

Dr Rachel Lart, (Senior Research 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 Liz Lloyd, (Reader), Ageing; health and social care policies and practices with older people; policies on unpaid care; social aspects of death, dying and bereavement; the health and well-being of carers.

Dr Patricia Lucas, (Senior Lecturer), 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.

Dr Shailen Nandy, (Research Fellow), Global child poverty; India; poverty and social exclusion in the UK; poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Angie Page, (Reader), Childhood obesity; clustering of health behaviours; developmental aspects of eating and exercise behaviour; exercise and self-esteem; measurement of physical activity.

Ms Christina Pantazis, (Reader), Poverty, social exclusion and inequality; security and civil liberties; social harm, crime and criminalisation.

Dr Angeliki Papadaki, (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 Sarah Payne, (Professor), Gender equity in health, gender mainstreaming; poverty, social exclusion and health, particularly mental health; sex and gender inequalities in health, gender aspects of health care use and service delivery.

Dr Dendy Platt, (Senior Lecturer), Children on the child protection register; social worker' s assessments of children and families; social worker' s decision-making working in partnership with families and social work education.

Dr Sue Porter, (Teaching Fellow), Identity and disability.

Dr Simon Sebire, (Senior Lecturer), Development and evaluation of physical activity and sedentary behaviour interventions in schools, extra-curricular settings and families; psychology of human motivation, specifically the “what” and “why” of physical activity and sedentary behaviour among children, adolescents and adults.

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

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.

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 Danielle Turney, (Senior Lecturer), Child neglect; child welfare and protection; relationship-based practice; theorising anti-oppressive and anti-racist practice in social work.

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

Dr Val Williams, (Reader), Analysing naturally-occurring communication, mental health support needs of young people with learning difficulties; inclusive research: including disabled people as active researchers.

Dr Emma Williamson, (Senior Research Fellow), 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.

How to apply
Application deadline:

We welcome applications at any time of year; early application is advised. The deadline for funded applications will be mid-February 2017 (the ESRC and University of Bristol funding application deadline is still to be confirmed).

International students

Find out more about becoming a student at Bristol, and the support we offer to international students.

I chose Bristol because of its outstanding academic reputation. It's reassuring to be taught by people who truly love their subject - their passion becomes contagious.


REF 2014 results

  • 38% of research is world-leading (4 star)
  • 42% of research is internationally excellent (3 star)
  • 18% of research is recognised internationally (2 star)
  • 2% of research is recognised nationally (1 star)

Results are from the most recent UK-wide assessment of research quality, conducted by HEFCE. More about REF 2014 results.

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The Bristol Doctoral College facilitates and supports doctoral training and researcher development across the University.

Get in touch

Senior Postgraduate Admissions Administrator Phone: +44 (0) 117 954 6785 Email:

School for Policy Studies
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