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Liverpool Hope University

UOA 40 - Social Work and Social Policy & Administration

RA5a: Research environment and esteem

Social Work at Liverpool Hope University


Liverpool Hope University is an ecumenical higher education institution founded in the mid-nineteenth century. It received university status in 2005 as part of a strategic repositioning; research now occupies a central place in the corporate framework and vision. The Department of Social Work is a recent initiative of the institution, with the first academic staff being appointed in June 2006. It is located in the Deanery of Sciences and Social Sciences. The first cohort of BA Social Work students entered in January 2007 and there are now four dedicated staff members. 


This is therefore a new Unit of Assessment at Liverpool Hope. Nevertheless, there has been strong commitment to the establishment of a research culture and strategy, within the context of a well-established Deanery and institutional research management context. Development of provision in social work builds on a long-standing commitment to social and community well-being.


The research environment


Research in general


The University is fully committed both to the development of social work education and to research development. Indeed, one of Hope’s strategic aims is:

To enhance the scholarly culture through staff research, scholarship and research outputs and increasing numbers of research degree students.

Institutionally, research is the responsibility of Research Committee, chaired by the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research), reporting directly to Senate. All research is managed in accordance with the Research and Scholarship Plan (2006-10); each Deanery articulates its own strategy within the parameters of this, and the Dean oversees and monitors research within his or her area as part of annual monitoring processes.


Social work is part of the Health and Applied Social Sciences division of the Deanery of Sciences and Social Sciences. The Deanery’s research strategy has the primary goal of developing the respective subject areas into recognised research centres in their particular fields. The specific objectives are to: 


1)      increase involvement in research-related activity in all areas of the Deanery;

2)      increase the publication rate in higher level journals;

3)      attract research funding;

4)      increase the outside visibility of the departments by substantial conference presentations and the development of conferences at Hope; 

5)      develop collaborations with other universities; and

6)      support RAE 2008 entries for psychology and social work. 

In keeping with this strategy, the Deanery offers a series of research seminars, and all social work staff will be involved in making contributions.


The University is in the process of applying for research degree awarding powers as part of its commitment to investing in a firm foundation of research and scholarship. 

Human resources strategy

At an institutional level, clear strategies are in place for the recruitment, development and promotion of research-active staff. The Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research and Development) has primary responsibility for academic staff recruitment, and all new members are expected to be active researchers. A formal designation of ‘recognised researcher’ (through application) entitles staff to: additional research leave allowance above the contracted minimum within workload models; priority access to research funds, and managed distribution of duties to free up research time. All entrants in this submission benefit from this policy.

Clear promotion routes are available. Biennially, there are open invitations to apply for Associate Professorship or Professorship status. Research development programmes support staff in this respect: how to write a book proposal; preparing grant applications; promotions workshops. All junior staff have formal mentors, and research groups (see below) form a mechanism through which senior researchers can mentor and support the research of less established researchers.

Individual research activity is managed and monitored through annual staff performance reviews. These include review of past activity, the setting of targets, and the identification of areas for staff development. It is also a key mechanism for managers to identify upcoming periods of time pressure and, where possible, accommodate this in workload models.

Research centres and groups

The institution formally recognises areas of research strength, which are identified through application and peer review. This facilitates targeting of resources; strategic articulation of development plans; mentoring of junior staff; and a focus for the recruitment of research students. Students are recruited to selected areas of research strength; social work has been identified as one such area. The University offers research skills training based on the required research competencies set out by the Joint Research Councils of the UK, including subject-specific skills workshops and research seminar series. Common room and computing facilities are available in the Research and Graduate Centre. All supervisors receive formal training and staff development.


Social work has been identified as one of a small number of areas within the University for investment in becoming a centre of excellence. One of the first steps in that direction has been the appointment of leading social work author, Neil Thompson, as Professor of Social Work. Thompson has published 8 new books plus 5 new editions of earlier works, 6 refereed papers and 8 book chapters within the current RAE timeframe. One of the new book editions was Anti-Discriminatory Practice; the previous edition received 154 citations. A central part of his role is the development and consolidation of future research activity.


Within social work our primary research focus is currently through the Institute for Applied Social Sciences (a partnership between the University and Bishop Heber College, Tamil Nadu). Thompson is the Director of this Institute. This development reflects a long-standing partnership between the University and colleagues in India and other parts of the developing world. This is evidenced by the existence of Hope One World, an educational charity that makes a significant contribution to improving the well-being of sections of the developing world. Projects are located right across India, in both Indian and Tibetan communities, as well as in Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Malawi, South Africa and Brazil. 


We have already had social work students undertake practice learning opportunities in India. We also have excellent links with The University of Washington, Seattle which go back many years and have consisted of staff visits to deliver guest lectures as well as student placements. Plans are being pursued for a joint conference in 2009 and for publication opportunities to be developed.


We are also working closely with partner agencies. Liverpool Personal Service Society (PSS – a voluntary organisation established in 1919 and committed to being an innovative and empowering force across Merseyside) are our formal partners in the BA Social Work and are also involved in developing research initiatives – for example, a joint conference on reducing offending behaviour due to be held in February 2008. We are working closely with the Mary Walsh Institute (part of SACCS, a leading child care organisation with an international reputation for excellence in working with traumatised children) who are our formal partners in the MA Therapeutic Child Care. Work is currently in hand to locate this Institute within University premises. Thompson has recently completed a funded research project with senior staff at SACCS.


These examples show the vibrant collaborative research base that has been established in a short period of time and indicate the positive potential for major development in the coming years. They also show that we place great emphasis on the importance of working in partnership. 

Visiting and adjunct professors/fellows

The institution funds the appointment of Visiting or Adjunct Professors; these are distinguished academics who participate in and contribute to the research life of Hope. The University has recently appointed Professor Charlotte Williams OBE of Keele University as visiting professor in social work to support the development of social work research and scholarship. Professor Williams’ work links specifically to our second research theme: diversity and social justice. She will specifically host workshops, deliver a Deanery seminar and take part in planned conferences and colloquia. She is especially interested in becoming involved with our overseas links in India


Strategies in relation to interdisciplinary research 


We are committed to developing research links with colleagues in other Deaneries within the University. For example, social work staff have already had preliminary discussions with the Education Deanery about the possibility of establishing an interdisciplinary research centre on the child and society. Given the social work team’s interest in the organisational context, there is also scope for developing links with management education colleagues. This is something to be pursued in the near future. These developments will also create a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration beyond the University itself.


The significance of our research on a range of academic and other audiences


Much of the team’s work has proven influential in terms of being cited by other authors and being widely used by social work educators in their teaching. We fully intend to build on these foundations (see ‘Research plans’ below). Our philosophy with regard to research and scholarship involves a commitment to making what we learn through such activities relevant and accessible to practitioners, and so we shall be making sure that our work is made available to as wide a group of constituents as possible. This will be by:


  • Writing for professional and practice-oriented publications as well as academic journals;
  • Writing (and contributing chapters to) practice-focused books that draw on sound theoretical and research-informed foundations;
  • Holding practitioner-focused conferences and seminars at the University; and
  • Continuing to work closely with practice agencies, such as PSS and SACCS.

Research infrastructure

A former convent on campus has been converted into a dedicated Research and Graduate Centre. This hosts the institution’s Research Office and provides: offices for visiting and associate research staff; a common room with kitchen facilities for research students; and seminar rooms with priority use for research seminars, conferences and postgraduate teaching.

The Sheppard-Worlock Library hosts a wide range of print and electronic information sources, including, for example: JSTOR; Swetswise; NetLibrary, the Expanded Academic Index; etc. Staff also have access to other regional libraries (eg The University of Liverpool; the John Rylands Library, Manchester).


A central fund to support attendance at conferences and other research-related activities is available, under the stewardship of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research).


Research plans


Our plans for research development have been carefully thought through, based on the firm foundations already established in a short period of time. They are based on the following elements: topic themes; conceptual themes; overall goals and specific objectives.


Topic themes 


Our work to date falls under three topic headings:


  • The organisational context Our published output includes work relating to stress, occupational social work and workplace learning. This confirms our interest in developing a fuller understanding of how the organisational context plays a significant role in shaping practice.
  • Diversity and social justice A commitment to tackling discrimination and oppression runs throughout our work, and staff at Hope have produced some widely cited work in this area of social work values.
  • Loss, grief and trauma The significance of loss, grief and trauma in social work goes largely unrecognised. Our work has played an important part in making sure that these vitally important issues receive additional attention.


Conceptual themes


Underpinning each of these three topic themes is our commitment to two primary conceptual themes:


  • Empowerment Although often oversimplified and misunderstood as a basis of social work practice, we have a strong commitment to making empowerment a primary basis of professional practice. All our work is premised on promoting empowerment – for example, through service user involvement.
  • Integrating theory and practice Also fundamental to our approach is a recognition of the need to promote a fuller integration of theory and practice. This includes work relating to critically reflective practice, practice learning and theory development. All our work is therefore premised on developing our knowledge not only for its own sake, but also as a means of improving practice.


Overall goals


In recognising that the development of social work education at Hope must be premised on sound foundations of research, we have formulated the following goals:


  • To foster a strong culture of research and scholarship This will be achieved by ensuring that all staff are research active. Those staff not entered in this current exercise are being actively mentored with a view to becoming research active. Research activity will also be a significant consideration in appointing new staff.
  • To make a significant contribution to social work knowledge This will be achieved through an extensive high-quality publication record, including books, book chapters, journal papers and other such scholarly outputs; contributions to conferences and seminars; organising conferences and seminars; and promoting empirical research – for example, through funded projects and/or PhD studentships.
  • To integrate research and scholarship into teaching and learning This is in line with the University’s commitment to being a teaching-led, research-informed university and will be achieved by making sure all module leaders are involved in discussions of the team’s research and scholarship activities and their implications for practice and thus for teaching.


Specific objectives


In order to meet the overall goals, we have identified the following specific objectives:


  • Contributing to the Deanery’s programme of research seminars Bates has already delivered a lecture to an audience drawn from the whole University population and key partners.
  • Attracting PhD candidates We currently have three prospective PhD candidates in social work who are in the process of formulating applications. We intend to develop this aspect of our work further as soon as possible.
  • Organising major national and international conferences We are arranging an international social work conference as part of the Institute for Applied Social Sciences, due to take place in 2009. Colleagues from India and the United States will be involved. It is also intended that we will be involved in arranging further conferences in Tamil Nadu and Seattle. To launch the new degree in social work a conference on empowerment was held at the University in January 2007 at which there were speakers from the University of Washington, Canada and the UK.
  • Contributing to major national and international conferences Hope staff are involved in a conference on ‘Promoting Well-being: Community and Environmental Perspectives’, taking place in India in February 2008. In addition, the University is supporting Thompson and Bates as speakers at conferences in the United States in 2008.
  • Working closely with strategic partners to exploit opportunities for empirical research and/or theoretical or scholarly publications This involves building on the strong foundations we already have with PSS, the Mary Walsh Institute, Bishop Heber College, Tamil Nadu and the University of Washington, Seattle.


Peer esteem 


Journal editorships



Book review editor, British Journal of Social Work, 2000-2004

Editor, British Journal of Occupational Learning, 2002-2005

Guest editor of a special issue of Illness, Crisis and Loss, 2007

Thompson has recently been invited to take over as editor of the US-based international journal, Illness, Crisis and Loss (Baywood, Amityville, New York) in 2008.


Fellowships and visiting professorships/scholarships


Honorary Research Fellowship, University of Liverpool 2000-2002 and 2003-2005.


Research fellowship with NHS 2002-2008 at Manchester Metropolitan University.


Visiting professor, University of Liverpool, 1999-2002.


Keynote lecture invitations and invited papers


Invited speaker at Hong Kong Institute for Education conference on ‘The Impact of policy on the social and moral fabric of educational institutions’. May 2006.

Plenary speaker at social work conference, Bishop Heber College, Tiruchirapalli, India, December 2007.


Invited to give a lecture at the Institute of Electrical Engineers, Mersey & Western Cheshire Branch Events – ‘Stress’ – Management Group Programme, 24th November, 2003.


‘Best Practices for Management and Prevention of Stress’ Invited Speaker. World Trade Group HR Directors Business Summit. Dublin, April 2004.


Invited keynote speaker at BAPT international conference, 2008


Too numerous to list, but includes: Queen’s University Belfast (distinguished scholar presentation); University College, Cork; Center on Behavioral Health, University of Hong Kong; University of Melbourne; University of Sydney; and La Trobe University.


Editorial boards and consultancies


Consultant to London Borough of Hackneys race equality scheme.


Consultant to Healthcare Commission 2006-7 (2007 review of NHS Annual Staff Survey).


Invitation to join the editorial board for the Open Sciences Journal.


Member of editorial board of British Journal of Play Therapy.


See journal editorships above

Consultant to the Care Council for Wales, 2006-07.


Book reviewing


Reviews published in British Journal of Social Work.


Review published in Age & Ageing.


Reviews published in the Journal of Palliative Care (Canada), Ageing and Society, Quality in Ageing, the British Journal of Social Work, the European Journal of Social Work, Death Studies (USA), Health and Social Care in the Community, Disability and Society and Community Care.


Series editing


Theory into Practice series, published by Russell House. Seven titles published to date.

Learning for Practice series of learning resources, to be published by Russell House, commencing in 2008.

Currently in discussion with a major international publisher with a view to establishing a series of books for the social professions.


Professional associations


Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and member of the UK Public Health Association. 


British Psychological Society – with Chartered Status and Practising Certificate.

British Sleep Society.

European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology.


Health Professional Council.

Full Member of the British Association of Drama Therapists. British Association of Play Therapists.


Member of the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement (membership is by invitation only and is restricted to recognised leaders in the field).

Member of the North Wales Race Equality Network.

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy; the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development; and the Royal Society of Arts (elected on the basis of his contribution to workplace learning).

Life Fellow of the Institute of Welsh Affairs.


Peer review of publications


Referee for Illness, Crisis and Loss, British Journal of Occupational Learning.


Referee for the British Journal of Social Work, and Critical Public Health and have been invited to review abstracts for the forthcoming UK Public Health Association’s Annual Public Health Forum.


Age & Ageing, Work & Stress, also acted as peer reviewer for various national and international conferences.


Referee for Sage publishers.


Has been a referee for British Journal of Social Work; Mortality; Illness, Crisis and Loss; and a critical reader for Palgrave Macmillan; Routledge, Baywood and Jossey-Bass.


External examining of research degrees


DClin Psy: Kings College London 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 (n=15). PhD: Kings College London (2007).


PhD: University of Derby (2005); Queen’s University Belfast (2005);    Edge Hill University/University of Lancaster (2006).


External examining and panel membership


External examiner for Staffordshire University’s BA Social Work

Panel member for validation of MA Health & Social Care, Anglia Ruskin University, 2006.


Invited external Panel Member for the validation of BA (Hons) Health and Applied Social Sciences at Accrington and Rossendale College – April 2004.


External Examiner for University of Strathclyde MA in Play Therapy.


External examiner: Northern Ireland Practice Teacher Training Programme; University of Huddersfield BA Social Work.


Grants and awards


DeLPHE: £33,000 to develop research links with Stella Maris College, Chennai and Bishop Heber College, Trichy. 2007.


Peer Reviewer for various grant awarding bodies, including Merseycare NHS Trust, Colt Foundation, Health & Safety Executive, Parkinson’s Disease Society.


2003 – Surestart – to conduct a 'user satisfaction survey' - £3,950.

2006/2007 – Catholic Blind Institute – £2,400 – to supervise a researcher in a project which is researching barriers to employment for visually impaired women in the North West of England.

2007 – 2008 Salford PCT. Collaborative project between University of Salford and Liverpool Hope University to evaluate community food workers initiative: £16,000.


Care Council for Wales: survey relating to postqualifying child care education 2006-07, c £9,000.

SACCS: research project relating to childhood trauma, 2007, c £11,000.


Contribution to reference works and handbooks


Currently writing a book chapter (with Dr Lindsey Dugdill) ‘Physical Activity and Health Promotion: Evidence-based Approaches to Practice’, for the book Physical Activity and Health Promotion: Evidence -based Approaches to Practice, Dugdill, Crone and Murphy (eds).


 ‘Caring for the Carers’ In Parkinson’s Disease in the Older Patient. Handbook edited by J.R. Playfer and J. Hindle. London: Arnold. 2001.


International recognition

All social work staff are members of the Institute for Applied Social Sciences Research Centre.


Speaker at conferences in Hong Kong, University of Washington,  Seattle; Red Crow College, Alberta; Bishop Heber College, Tamil Nadu.


Member of European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology.

Speaker at conferences in Eire, the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Singapore, Italy, USA.

All Cousins’ published papers have been cited by subsequent research. Two papers have been cited over 20 times, including by overseas researchers.

Her Caregiver Distress Scale is used in practice in Parkinson’s Clinics in Florida (and elsewhere).


Speaker at international conference at Trinity College, Dublin.


Member of the International Work Group in Death, Dying and Bereavement.

Speaker at conferences in Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Hong Kong, Australia and the United States.





The arrival of social work education at Liverpool Hope University has created considerable excitement in anticipation of the key part the social work team can make to promoting research, scholarship and practice development on Merseyside and beyond. The University’s sound foundations of a major commitment to research development in general and social work in particular, combined with the strengths of the newly formed team and the clear plans for development provide a promising launch pad for the excellence we are determined to achieve in the coming years. Our international links, especially with the Institute for Applied Social Sciences in India, plus our strong links with practice agencies with a strong focus on knowledge development and dissemination (PSS and SACCS) provide an excellent foundation for building a vibrant focal point for developing the highest standards of internationally relevant, practice-focused research and scholarship.