Social Policy and Social Work

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We are a leading University in this research area (top quartile). All of our work has impact that is recognised as internationally excellent, 60% of which is world leading.

More than three quarters of our research is internationally excellent or world-leading significantly higher than the sector in general (69% sector mean average, 64.5% median average).

The University of Bedfordshire’s Institute of Applied Social Research (IASR) carries out ground-breaking research in critical areas of social policy and social work.

We work with society’s secrets (such as child sexual exploitation or substance misuse) in the belief that social research can improve people’s lives, by providing a better understanding of the issues people face and by ensuring that their voices are heard.

Research into new solutions for social problems

Our key strength is to use research to reframe public debate about the causes of social problems and their solutions.

Our research addresses longstanding social issues, so we are in it for the long term too. Our work is based in long-term working relationships with local, regional, national and international organisations, within Europe and globally including the EU and UNESCO.

In the UK, we work with providers of children’s services and adult social care in both the statutory and voluntary sectors to identify research needs, enhance research skills in the community and implement findings through the written word and social media.

Queen’s Anniversary Prize

The Institute’s research is recognised at national and international levels as world-class. Our pioneering work on child sexual exploitation was recently awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize, in recognition of the way it has changed the perception of children and young people so that they are safeguarded rather than criminalised.

Our work on developing new models of child protection practice in social work has been recognised by the Department for Education award as the academic lead for the new Frontline programme, designed to change the training and education of social workers.

Our work has surfaced the key role of substance misuse as a hidden factor as services for children as well as for older people, and revealed the extent to which professionals feel unprepared to tackle these issues.

Addressing key social issues

Becoming a leading research centre means taking on more and more research to address different aspects of key social issues. For example, our work on child sexual exploitation now includes attention to peer abuse (where the abuser is a child or young person), and to its links with human trafficking.

This in turn links to the issues the UK Government faces in implementing human rights for trafficked children, and a new Home Office-funded research project is examining the role of child advocates for trafficked children.

Similarly our work on models of social work means we are now a key partner in the initiative by the Department for Education to rethink child protection, including the work to improve the life chances of children who need public care.

Our work on substance misuse received a major boost when we were selected to undertake the evaluation of the Big Lottery Fund £25m initiative on older problem drinkers. We are also developing research on migration and on dementia services, recognising these issues as presenting major challenges to an inclusive and just society.

Read more about our research excellence


Enquire about research degrees

By telephone
During office hours
(Monday-Friday 08:30-17:00)
+44 (0)1582 489056

By email

International applicants should be aware of our English language requirements


For all the information you need on how to apply for a research degree and to make sure you fulfil the entry requirements go to How to apply

You should have a good honours degree (2:1 or above) or masters degree or equivalent in the relevant subject area.