Liverpool Hope University has launched two new professional doctorates in social work and social care.
And Hope is looking for applicants who really want to make a difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the UK.
The , and the programmes begin in earnest in October 2022, with the application process now open.
And Professor Michael Lavalette, Dean of the School of Social Sciences, says that it’s not simply about being engaged in research, it’s about taking that research and using it to develop skills and ideas that have a positive effect on service users.
He explains: “With these two new doctorates, we want to bring in people from a wide variety of professions - whether that’s social work, residential care home management, or another aspect of health and social care - and ask candidates to really examine what it is they want to see investigate and ultimately change in the field they operate in.
“The key thing about a professional doctorate is that the research undertaken will enhance, improve and theorise practice in some way. It should be driven by key questions in a particular professional area.
“It might, for example, be changes to the child protection system, or it could be the way we work with older people with dementia. Or it could be the impact of the marketisation of care home facilities and the consequences for workers and service users.
“By using the existing literature and knowledge, while analysing policy developments and processes, candidates will carry out research, using a variety of scientific methods, and write up their new contributions to knowledge.
“And in a professional doctorate like this, conclusions will also involve a series of recommendations to make practice better.”
Both the new professional doctorate programmes are designed to be studied part time. The course takes a minimum of 4 years and a maximum of 8 years to complete.
The first two years of both doctorates are comprised of taught modules which will bring students up to speed with crucial research and ‘professional reflection’ skills, as they examine what it is they really want to investigate. This is followed by the completion of an extensive research project over the following two years.
The structure of the award is also the same for Hope’s other professional doctorate in Education (EdD), which has been running successfully for over 10 years.
Prof Lavalette adds: “A PhD tends to be more theoretically driven. It deals with historical, sociological or theoretical questions and develops knowledge for the academy.
“But our professional doctorates develop knowledge, practice and theory to improve the experiences of workers, service users and organisations in the real world.”
Hope’s new Doctorate in Social Work is unique to the region - meanwhile the Health & Social Care Doctorate is the first of its kind nationally.
And Prof Lavalette says there’s a great demand for such programmes when both social work and social care professionals are coming under such pressure.
Speaking about the Doctorate in Health & Social Care , he explains: “Everybody is aware of the social care crisis the UK is facing right now - particularly for children, older people, and those with disabilities.
“The industry is facing significant challenges, such as an ageing population, funding issues, as well as the marketisation of care and the consequences that has had on providers, workers and service users.
“Professionals are sometimes poorly paid, overworked, and over-stressed. In terms of health and social care, it’s also often dismissed and devalued as ‘just caring work’ - when it’s actually the most important work we do in society. It really does affect us all.
“And the questions raised and answered with these doctorates might prove absolutely crucial in these pressing times of need.
“With a sector in crisis, we need workers and professionals from the field to think through the problems and come up with solutions.”
Candidates looking to apply for the Doctorate in Social Work might include those who’ve been working in the profession for some time and now occupy a management position. They could be working in a wide variety of areas, from mental health to asylum seeking.
Prof Lavalette says: “Again, it’s about people who want to improve the institutions or the policies, as well as the structures of management, to make sure we deliver on our promises for social work service users.
“On the other hand, a candidate might be a long-time frontline worker who wants to garner their diverse experiences and think about how we can improve what social workers can and should do.
“Candidates may also include people who have developed real specialisms in social work, such as those involved in the emerging field of ‘play therapy’.”
Entry requirements for both the Doctor of Health and Social Care and Doctor of Social Work are either a First or Upper Second Class Bachelor’s degree and at least three years’ professional experience. A Master’s degree is also preferred.