Focus on social work

26 March 2018

Social workers are a key element in society’s management of social problems. Uppsala University is therefore investing in a centre for both social workers’ training and research in social work.

At Uppsala University’s newly established Centre for Social Work (CESAR), which has hit the ground running, numerous projects have started.

Activities at the Centre for Social Work, set up at year-end 2017, have now begun in earnest. Director Siv-Britt Björktomta, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, is on the spot with the new Professor of Social Work Stefan Sjöström and Assistant Senior Lecturer Stina Fernqvist. Another assistant senior lecturer, Anna Olaison, is to start in the spring. At the time of writing, too, appointment of at least two more senior lecturers is under way; with 17 applicants, interest has been very keen.

The inception of the Centre for Social Work (CESAR) is part of the University’s investment in the Social Work Programme and social work research, which is the basis of the Programme.

Social workers’ vital role

“Social workers are key to tackling social problems arising from trends in society that now, with migration, have also taken on various global aspects. Situations are often multifaceted, with lots of different problems that, to help the vulnerable, social workers have to tackle comprehensively,” says Siv-Britt Björktomta, head of CESAR and Senior Lecturer in Social Work.

Stefan Sjöström, Professor of Social Work: “A policy discussion centred on crime and proposals for more police officers and tougher penalties, is also going on. But we’ve got to solve the social problems in society that are often the background to criminal behaviour. Social work with preventive measures is more effective.”

Enhancing the Social Work Programme

An important function of CESAR is to step up development of the Social Work Programme. Running this Programme is part of its remit.

“For instance, we’ve improved the course element of students’ personal and occupational development to help them shape a professional identity. It’s important for the students to feel secure in their role of helping vulnerable people. Professional social workers reinforce the teacher group and we use assessment exercises that both enhance the students’ personal skills and can be used as a professional method at work,” says Siv-Britt Björktomta.

Workplace training with professionals as supervisors is also being refined. Appointing more researchers in and teachers of social work is another vital way of reinforcing the Social Work Programme.

“We’re gaining a broader knowledge base with more researchers in social work. There’ll also be stability in staffing, and we can start developing advanced (Master’s) education in social work. In parallel, we’re working to make better use of cutting-edge skills in other subjects, such as law, sociology, psychology and education,” says Stefan Sjöström.

Research environment in social work

With the appointment of new researchers, the social work research environment is evolving. The hope is that the social work lecturers who are recruited will supplement and broaden the University’s research expertise in social work.

“One of my most important tasks is to build a good research environment with a sound, constructive seminar culture that provides space for learning and growth. On this foundation, we’ll work to increase external research funding.”

There are also plans for new postgraduate studies in social work, starting in autumn 2018.

“We’re aiming for a couple of PhD students to start in the autumn. Then they and new doctoral students in sociology who join the Department of Sociology can form a larger group,” Sjöström points out.