A new challenge around the corner
In September I will be taking up a Readership in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of York. This appointment is one of a series of chairs and readerships which the university is creating to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013. (A Reader is almost a Professor, but needs to wear out the elbows of his tweed jacket a little more first!)
I am very excited to go back to York, 18 years after I graduated from there with a degree in history. The university is one of the top ten in the UK for teaching and research, and earlier this year was invited to join the influential Russell Group of universities. It is set in a parkland campus on the edge of the city, which is undergoing a major expansion. The university’s inclusivity, informality and friendliness are particularly appealing to me.
I am particularly excited about joining the Department of Social Policy and Social Work which is ranked number 1 in the Guardian University Guide for social work and is one of the top large social policy and social work departments in the UK for the quality of its research. The department includes the internationally-renowned Social Policy Research Unit (SPRU), which won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2009. SPRU undertakes a large amount of research of relevance to social workers and social care workers; it is worthwhile subscribing to their new blog to keep up to date with their work.
One of my roles at York will be to enhance the department’s capacity in mental health social work research. I will be ‘taking’ the Connecting People study and the work on personalised care in mental health services with me. Additionally, I will work with colleagues in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work, SPRU and the Mental Health Research Group in the neighbouring Department of Health Sciences to develop proposals for new studies which will help to develop the evidence base for mental health social work. Research findings will be disseminated regionally via Making Research Count and beyond via this blog.
It will be a tremendous honour to work alongside leading social work academic Ian Shaw at York, who has a long-standing reputation for his contribution to social work research in the UK and beyond. I aim to follow his lead and develop the capacity of the discipline to undertake its own research to help determine its own future. This will include increasing the number of social work PhD students in the department. I will be actively encouraging experienced social workers to register for part-time PhDs to further improve the synergy of practice and research, train the next cadre of advanced practitioners and enhance social work research capacity.
This move will allow me to engage with social work students and their curriculum in a way which is not possible at present. I will be among a faculty at the top of its game and, at long last, back into the social work fold. I just hope that I will be able to rise to the challenge!