Our MA in Social Work course is founded on good research evidence for practice, and our teaching is research-informed at all stages.

Active researchers are part of the teaching team, and there will be opportunities to engage with contemporary research and publications by our staff. Learn more about teaching and learning on the MA.

After your MA course, you may be interested in going into a research career through a postgraduate research programme.

We welcome doctoral students both from the UK and overseas, with several having successfully gained ESRC doctoral studentships to support their studies.

There have also been an increasing number of NIHR awards focusing on capacity building for research among social work practice professionals.

Learn more about our research below, or find out about our postgraduate research programmes.

Research themes

There are three main themes in social work research at Manchester.

Critical approaches to EDI and social work

We address social work theory and practice with a focus on the minoritisation of a range of communities and those with protected characteristics.

In particular, we are interested in promoting equity in social work practice through inclusive research methods that are responsive to participants' assets and preferences.

Recent work has focused on:

  • older LGBTQ service users;
  • the experiences of trainee social workers from minority ethnic backgrounds;
  • the social determinants of inequality of access to health and social care for Deaf sign language users.

We are also keen to promote critical approaches to our students' learning and research pedagogies of professional practice to enhance a situated understanding of learning processes.

Much of our work is international and comparative in scope.

Engaged communities, engaged research

Our research is characterised by cross-disciplinary approaches and partnerships, both inside the academy and with social work and health services providers, as well as a diversity of service users and carers.

Mindful of the often unintended exclusions resulting from traditional approaches to engagement in research, our studies are characterised by creative and non-traditional approaches to knowledge generation and participation.

Recent partnership studies with a range of colleagues include:

  • the impact of music making on those caring for people with dementia;
  • exploration of the outcomes of interpreter mediated Mental Health Act assessment through simulated practice with stakeholders;
  • the impact of modernist social housing design upon communities' experiences of belonging, social welfare and wellbeing.

Organisational research and uncertain futures

How services are planned, organised and delivered impacts both those who use and those who provide services.

Increasingly, this is considered from an integrated health and social care perspective with digital innovations offering expediency, benefits and exclusions.

Some of our work addresses organisational praxis in social work in light of a range of future uncertainties and unknowns.

Recent work in partnership with a range of colleagues includes:

  • a study of the impact on wellbeing for social work workforce as a consequence of COVID-19;
  • a study of how digital technologies include social workers' communication and sense-making;
  • an analysis of how social work agencies assess LGBTQ foster care and adoption applicants.

Research partnerships

Social work staff, researchers and service user and carer partners have close affiliations with a range of research groups and organisations.


The University is one of the national constituents of the NIHR School for Social Care Research.

Alys Young is one of the co-directors for the University, and is a senior Fellow of NIHR SSCR. Steve Hicks has also had research funded through NIHR SSCR and is a Fellow.

Both NIHR in general and NIHR SSCR offer a range of capacity-building funded fellowships at many levels for which social workers are eligible to apply.

ARC Greater Manchester

Greater Manchester has one of the national Applied Research Centres (ARCs).

The social work department collaborates with the ARC Greater Manchester on the creation of research internships, pre-doctoral fellowships and doctoral fellowships, specifically targeted to social workers.

The Morgan Centre

The Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives is an interdisciplinary centre that brings together a dynamic group of researchers who are committed to breaking new empirical and theoretical ground.

It also develops innovative and creative methodologies for researching the subtleties and complexities of contemporary everyday lives and socialities.

SORD (Social Research with Deaf People)

SORD is a well-established research group following a programme of research specifically focused on Deaf signers across the life course.

The team collaborates with social work, social care and health colleagues in projects designed to redress inequalities in services experienced by Deaf people.

Digital health and social care group

This brings together researchers from across the Division and the School of Health Sciences who work in digital health and social care research.