Professional Doctorate in Social Work (DSW)

    About This Professional Doctorate

    Course Description

    The part-time Professional Doctorate in Social Work, DSW builds on the established and very successful BA (Hons) Social Work and MA Social Work to provide a specialist route for social work or social policy professionals who wish to embark on doctoral study located within their own professional discipline.

    The programme of taught modules combined with the research component allows students to undertake study and research that is clearly relevant to their professional practice, will support them to contribute to professional knowledge in their field of practice and will enable their career development. 

    A professional doctorate provides a rigorous programme of advanced study and research, equally rigorous to the purely research orientated PhD. The taught modules which occupy the first two years of the programme, provide opportunities to develop students’ skills and knowledge in key areas to facilitate career development, whilst the research component allows for development of skills in critical appraisal and the ability to develop the rationale, methodology and methods for research studies. The modules also allow development of other transferable skills such as project management, problem solving, information management and academic writing.

    The Social Work Doctorate utilizes the expertise of the academic team across the whole of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences as well as experts from the clinical field to support the student’s development, research and scholarship; many of whom may be nationally and internationally renowned researchers in their own field.

    Students may wish to exit at key points prior to completing the whole programme and in doing so may be awarded a MRes in Social Work. This design is intended to provide flexibility for professionals studying whilst working in high pressured health service roles.


    The learning outcomes below describe what you should be able to do if you make full use of the opportunities for learning that are provided to develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding, and skills. In addition, by completing the Social Work Doctorate programme you will have the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring the exercise of personal responsibility, leadership and largely autonomous initiative in complex and unpredictable situations in professional environments.


    • Evaluate and reflect on the core skills that are required for effective communication at an interpersonal and organizational level.
    • Critically assimilate the current political challenges in health and social care and the role that culture, power and politics plays when communicating with organizations in this context.
    • Critically analyse and appraise the key elements of productive team working, including effective management of workforce conflicts, and how these can inform planned change processes.
    • Identify and apply strategies for implementing a change process and for networking across boundaries to build relationships and share information, plans and resources.
    • Critically reflect on the key characteristics and skills of an effective leader and how these can be used to implement change in the workplace.
    • Demonstrate a critical awareness of the principles of research and evaluation.
    • Critically evaluate the research evidence base to inform the development of practice based/professional research questions.
    • Develop an appreciation and knowledge base of quantitative and qualitative paradigms, methodologies and methods and their application to practice based/professional research
    • Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a range of research methodologies and methods
    • Analyse and reflect on the knowledge of the research process and methodologies and how these relate to own proposed research, providing a rationale and justification for choices made.
    • Compose and critically debate a justified rationale for the research philosophy underpinning the project.
    • Discriminate between and justify different research methodologies and methods underpinning the research project.
    • Select and critically discuss the relevant data analysis methods for the proposed project.
    • Develop a research proposal for the pilot study that demonstrates the ability to critically and analytically conceptualize the design of the research project.
    • Critically analyse and examine the principles of research ethics and governance.
    • Conduct a pilot study that shows the ability to implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of individual disciplines.
    • Develop or select appropriate research tools that will collect data to meet the aims and objectives of the research questions/hypotheses.
    • Demonstrate the intellectual capacity to undertake independent and original doctoral level research.
    • Synthesise the relevant literature in order to develop the research question(s) or hypothesis.
    • Design and justify an appropriate framework for the proposed research project that effectively integrates empirical focus, context, theory and methodology.
    • Confidently and concisely communicates an appropriate ethical strategy for answering the research questions or testing the hypotheses.
    • Communicate ideas and arguments effectively orally and in writing in language that is appropriate to doctoral level study.
    • Provide a portfolio of evidence to demonstrate achievement of competencies required for advanced practice as described in the competency frameworks relative to your professional practice. 
    • Demonstrate that you have developed a comprehensive understanding and critical awareness of a chosen field of your professional practice, through research, enquiry and critical reflection, and created an interpreted new knowledge, principally through the production of a thesis, which is of suitable standard to satisfy the University Criteria on Doctoral work.


    The Social Work Doctorate programme is led by Dr Alison Pooler, who is an experienced academic and has guided and supported doctoral students over a number of years to gain success in their studies. She works alongside a number of equally experienced academics from all the different schools within the faculty to provide the array of routes available to undertake the professional doctorate.

    The Faculty has an exceptional research standing with many staff gaining grants from national and international funding bodies and this also facilitates the expertise that can be drawn upon to support the supervision of doctoral students outside of the immediate professional doctorate team.

    Visit the Professional Doctorate in Social Work (DSW) page on the Keele University website for more details!

    Entry Requirements

    Hold a Masters Degree of this University or of another deemed equivalent
    Hold that qualification normally in the general field of social work, policy and/or management and/or social sciences or its equivalent in professional experience and a professionally accredited programme (normally an accredited social work qualification)
    Evidence of experience relating to social work practice or social work policy
    Have access to email and the internet for the e-supported parts of the programme

    See the programme website for more information.

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