School of Social and Political Science

PhD Social Work

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The deadline to apply for September 2024 entry is Monday 1 July 2024.

We warmly invite candidates to apply for a PhD degree in Social Work

The PhD programme involves undertaking a significant research study in the field of social work. Students usually decide on and shape research project, under the supervision of two or three academics with relevant expertise.

We have PhD supervisors whose research has been recognised internationally on a range of topics, including:

  • children and families
  • criminal justice
  • mental health
  • health inequalities
  • older age and disability
  • migration and mobility
  • social work profession and teaching/pedagogy

We support interdisciplinary research, and often our research students will have supervisors from a mix of subject areas. The first year of the programme includes a regular research seminar series and student-led reading group, which will help you get to know the research staff and fellow students, and build your knowledge of social work research methods, preparing you for independent research.

Hear about PhD student Oluwatoyin's experience



Social work research offers a wide variety of methods and topics, often geared at understanding the experiences of those who are disadvantaged, challenges in social work practice, or contemporary social problems. Many research students collaborative with practitioners or policy-makers in the development or undertaking of their research, embedding their work in the realities of professional practice.

The potential to undertake cutting-edge research on contemporary real-world problems makes this programme an exciting opportunity to generate knowledge that may offer solutions to the challenges faced by individuals and families.

Programme overview

The School of Social and Political Science provides a range of high-quality research training courses, accredited by the UK Economic and Social Research Council, and a range of other postgraduate courses that you could take to increase your knowledge and prepare you for undertaking your research project.

The School has a large and vibrant postgraduate research student community, which will allow you to get to know people working in a variety of subjects across the School.

The University of Edinburgh also has a wide range of research groups and networks for you to join, helping you connect with those who have similar research interests.

Postgraduate community

For information about the research that some of our PhD graduates have conducted, visit our Social Work centenary web pages

You can also watch our video for information about some of our recent graduates on the PhD programme:


Applying for this PhD

  1. Identify potential supervisors suited to your research interests
  2. Write a draft research proposal
  3. Contact the Postgraduate Advisor with your research proposal and list of potential supervisors
  4. Once discussed with the Postgraduate Advisor, formally submit your application on EUCLID

Postgraduate Advisor

Programme advisor: Dr Robin Sen