Advanced practice and research: social work and social care (D55)

Join one of the most established and respected doctoral social work and social care programmes in the UK

Intrigued by this professional doctorate? Learn more at a free, online open event on Wednesday 17 April.

This course engages with the realities of your current work experience, its emotional demands and complexities and enables you to respond to these more reflectively, effectively and with increased confidence in your role.

You are supported to design and implement a research project relevant to your area of work and interest. It is uniquely arranged with other professional doctorates covering consultation and the organisation and systemic therapy, making for a multidisciplinary student body and enriching learning experience.

The deadline for applications to this course is provisionally set for Wednesday 31 July 2024. However, we encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible, as spaces are limited and can be competitive.

Please note: you may see the D55 course also referred to as SCDOTP003 in communications from our application system.

About this course

The course is comprised of two years of ‘taught’ work and a minimum of two years applied research leading to submission of a 40,000-word doctoral thesis.

In years one and two, you will attend small reflective practice seminars focusing on direct practice as well as supervision/management or education/training. You will undertake an organisational observation and engage with theory and research around the contemporary policy environment and ‘complexity’ in social work and social care.

In year one you are also required to attend a five-day group relations conference which is a unique opportunity for experiential learning about how you work in groups, systems and organisations, and how they impact upon you and your role. The cost of this event is included in the course fees.

Research methods, lectures and seminars are shared with students on other professional doctorate programmes, making for a rich interdisciplinary learning experience.

By the end of year two, you will have developed a clear proposal for your research, and in subsequent years will be regularly supervised on your project by an experienced team. Research continuation seminars offer opportunities for group data analysis and problem solving, and strong peer support.

Each year you will also attend the annual Tavistock doctoral conference where students present work in progress, display posters and learn from the experience of doctoral graduates.

Who is this course for?

If you are working in the social work or social care sector, are looking for in-depth professional development and want to research a pertinent topic in a supportive and dynamic learning environment then this may be the course for you.

Course details

In order to undertake this course, we ask that you have a master’s degree and either a social work qualification and at least two years post-qualifying experience, or substantial experience working in the health and social care sector.

Please note: you may see the D55 course also referred to as SCDOTP003 in communications from our application system.

Home (2024/25)

£4,995 per year for years one to four. Fees for years five and six are £2,490 per year.

International (2024/25)

£9,990 per year for years one to four. Fees for years five and six are £4,995 per year.

You will be charged course fees for each year of your course. If your course is longer than one year, the fees that you will be charged after the first year will be subject to an annual inflationary increase. This will either be an increase of 3% or the Consumer Price Inflation as on 1 September of that year – whichever is the greater. At its discretion, the Trust may determine a figure between these two rates. Please refer to our Student Fees & Refund Policy for further information.

Financial support may be available to help you fund your studies at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.


Assessment in the first two years is by written coursework. Research methods units are assessed by 5,000-word submissions, a critical literature review in year one and a research proposal in year two.

Other units are assessed by 3,000-word essays or case studies. The research phase of the programme is assessed by a 40,000-word thesis and successful completion of all these requirements leads to the award of a doctorate.


The core attendance day is Thursday. The programme requires attendance on 14 full or half days in each of the first two years on a fortnightly basis, plus the five-day group relations conference in year one which normally runs in the week preceding Christmas week.

In the research phase, there are monthly research continuation seminars, normally on a Thursday, and individual research supervision meetings which can be organised on a more flexible basis.

There is provision for some one-to-one elements of the programme to be accessed remotely, but this needs to be negotiated. This relates to one-to-one aspects of the course only.

Graduates from this course have continued to develop their careers as practice leaders either in strategic leadership or practice leadership positions, in advanced or specialised practice roles and in education, or academia.

Why study with us?

The doctoral social work and social care programme at the Tavistock and Portman is among the most established and respected in the UK. We now have many successful doctoral graduates, a number of whom contribute to the teaching and learning, as well as a long established service user representative who plays an important role in the life of the course.  

A high proportion of our current and past students are from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds and many students are researching aspects of their professional experience of racism, marginalisation, migration, and discrimination, bringing to the surface aspects of lived experience that might otherwise remain relatively invisible. Our staff group is diverse and fully committed to supporting such work.

Our programme is unique in its emphasis on relationship-based and therapeutic practice principles and benefits from a course team who are experienced as well as current practitioners, leading academics and researchers.

Research supervisors are selected on the basis of their expertise in relation to your chosen area of research. There are also some opportunities to undertake supervised practice in one of the Trust’s clinical services as part of the course or to benefit from reflective supervision with clinical staff.

Our students have access to the rich programme of academic, research and multidisciplinary clinical practice learning opportunities in the Trust and events such as the Tavistock policy seminars.


“My decision to study at the Tavistock and Portman was a gradual process. I initially became aware of the Trust following an interesting reflective group discussion with Professor Andrew Cooper, which explored Relationship-Based Social Work Practice. I later had the privilege of meeting another lecturer which further sparked my interest in Psychodynamic Theory.”

Course facilitators


Skills for Care have endorsed us as a ‘Recognised Provider’ for our social work and social care courses.

Apply now

Start your application for this course.

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