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Find out about the research we do in Social Work

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Social Work PhD

PhD topics

Find a supervisor

Start date

January

October

April

Mode of study

3 years full-time

6 years part-time

Fees

2020/21

International £19,280

UK / EU £4,407

Entry requirements

2:1

MPhil option available
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Research profile

Social Work at Brunel University is aligned with grand challenges for social work research including focus on individual and family well-being, creating a stronger social fabric, and developing a just society. The Social Work team has expertise in many current issues with which social work engages, such as ageing, children and families, LGBT identities, mental health, migration, health, loss/grief and environmental concerns.  The team holds strengths in social policy and interdisciplinary practice as well as planning for and adapting to current societal shifts. Brunel is one of the leading providers of social work and social policy research in London, funded by high-profile organisations like the ESRC, the AHRC, Nuffield Foundation, the Rowntree Trust, the European Union, the Department for Education and Skills and the NHS.

Find out about the exciting research we do in this area. Browse profiles of our experts, discover the research groups and their inspirational research activities you too could be part of. We’ve also made available extensive reading materials published by our academics and PhD students.  

Learn more about research in this area.

Brunel Experts by Experience has a long and proud history at Brunel whereby service-users help the delivery of Social Work training to students and staff.

 In the Division of Social Work we have members of staff who are:

  • Editor of Ageing and Society, the leading social gerontology journal in the UK
  • Fellows of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA)
  • Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health
  • Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences
  • University of Auckland Ralph & Eve Seelye Charitable Trust Award Fellowship holder
  • Serve on many editorial boards and have won many teaching awards

Other activities include:

  • Health Research Authority Social Care Research Ethics Committee.
  • National Institute for Health Research-Health Services and Delivery Research panel
  • Welfare, Health and Wellbeing theme at the Institute of Environment, Health and Societies.

The Division of Social Work has:

  • specialism in gerontology and children and families
  • commitment to anti-oppressive practice
  • service user perspectives and experiences
  • specialist researchers in gender and sexualities

You can explore our campus and facilities for yourself by taking our virtual tour.

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Find a supervisor

Our researchers create knowledge and advance understanding, and equip versatile doctoral researchers with the confidence to apply what they have learnt for the benefit of society. Find out more about working with the Supervisory Team.

You are welcome to approach your potential supervisor directly to discuss your research interests. Search for expert supervisors for your chosen field of research.

Potential research students are encouraged to contact members of staff in the area of interest to receive guidance on how to focus the research proposal and to discuss their research areas.  

Applicants are welcome to contact us about their own specialist topics and projects.  We particularly welcome proposals on

  • Ageing and LGBT identities
  • Ageing and spiritual and emotional well-being
  • Positive ageing and resilience
  • Ageing and virtues, especially wisdom, courage, and beauty
  • Anti-oppressive practice and the development of resilient practitioners
  • Diversity in contemporary family life
    • Religious minorities
    • Masculine identities
    • Mixed couples
  • End-of-life, palliative care, and hospice
  • Loss and grief; death and dying
  • Mental health
  • Migration
  • Public policy and personal life
  • Risk and its perception
  • Spirituality
    • Spirituality and health
    • Spirituality, religion, existentialism and meaning systems in social work.
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Research journey

This course can be studied 3 years full-time or 6 years part-time, starting in January. Or this course can be studied 3 years full-time or 6 years part-time, starting in October. Or this course can be studied 3 years full-time or 6 years part-time, starting in April.

A PhD involves demonstrating through original research or other advanced scholarship the creation and interpretation of new knowledge, a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge at the forefront of an academic discipline or professional practice, the ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the general of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline. Research degrees evolve in different ways according to discipline. Find out about what progress might look like at each stage of study here: Research degree progress structure.

PhD topics

While we welcome applications from student with a clear direction for their research, we can also provide you with some ideas. Search for PhD topics for your chosen field of research.

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Research support

Excellent research support and training

The Graduate School provides a range of personal, professional and career development opportunities. This includes workshops, online training, coaching and events, to enable you to enhance your professional profile, refine your skills, and plan your next career steps as part of the Researcher Development Programme.

Find our more: Study environment for research students

Library services

Brunel's Library is open 24 hours a day, has 400,000 books and 250,000 ebooks, and an annual budget of almost £2m. Subject information Specialists train students in the latest technology, digital literacy, and digital dissemination of scholarly outputs.

The Library services boast:

  • state-of-the-art research information management tools including a research
  • publication and grant database
  • one of the largest UK's full text repository
  • an integrated data management system
  • analytical tools such as Altmertic and InCites
  • Open Access centrally managed fund

Find out more: Brunel Library

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Careers and your future

Tailored careers support is offered to all our current PhD students and for up to 3 years after you complete your research at Brunel. We help you to actively engage in career planning and managing your personal development right from the start of your research. Our careers provision includes online advice, one to one consultations and a range of events and workshops.

In addition, where available, you may be able to undertake some paid work as we recognise that teaching and learning support duties represent an important professional and career development opportunity.

Find out more.

Social Work is an evidence-based profession. Research on the efficacy of social work interventions and on service user perspectives and experiences of services are crucial to it. This research is highly valued by the profession. PhDs in Social Work are respected in the field and set an academic research-active practitioner apart from practitioners in general. University departments that deliver social work education expect most staff to have PhDs.

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UK entry requirements

The general University entrance requirement for registration for a research degree is normally a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (1st or 2:1). 

An interview may be required as part of the admissions process, and if so it would be conducted by one of the academic staff members remotely via Skype, phone or other means. 

Applicants will be required to submit a personal statement and a research statement.
Please contact your proposed supervisor, where possible, to receive feedback and guidance on your research statement before submitting it. Learn how to prepare a research statement here.  

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EU and International entry requirements

If you require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK, you must prove knowledge of the English language so that we can issue you a Certificate of Acceptance for Study (CAS). To do this, you will need an IELTS for UKVI or Trinity SELT test pass gained from a test centre approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and on the Secure English Language Testing (SELT) list. This must have been taken and passed within two years from the date the CAS is made.

English language requirements

  • IELTS: 7 (min 6.5W, 6.5L, 6.5R, 6.5S)
  • Pearson: 64 (58 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 70% (65% in all areas)
  • TOEFL: 100 (min 20 in all areas)

You can find out more about the qualifications we accept on our English Language Requirements page.

Should you wish to take a pre-sessional English course to improve your English prior to starting your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider for the same reason. We offer our own BrunELT English test and have pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet requirements or who wish to improve their English. You can find out more information on English courses and test options through our Brunel Language Centre.

Please check our Admissions pages for more information on other factors we use to assess applicants. This information is for guidance only and each application is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Entry requirements are subject to review, and may change.

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Fees and funding

2020/21 entry

International

£19,280 full-time

£9,640 part-time

UK / EU

£4,407 full-time

£2,203 part-time

Fees quoted are per year and are subject to an annual increase.

Some courses incur additional course related costs. You can also check our on-campus accommodation costs for more information on living expenses.

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. Recently the UK Government made available the Doctoral Student Loans of up to £25,000 for UK and EU students and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.