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Exploring the relationship between social work and the UK Government’s Prevent Strategy

  • Full or part time
    Prof S Webb
    Dr S Jackson
    Dr N Farmer
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Project reference number: SHLS19021

The Prevent policy is a strand of the Governments Countering Violent Extremism (C.V.E) policy CONTEST. PREVENT is one strand of CONTEST and sits alongside three other areas of work known collectively as the four P’s:
According to HM Government PREVENT aims to:
• Respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism and the threat we face from those who promote it
• Prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure that they are given appropriate advice and support
• Work with sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalisation that we need to address
PREVENT is contentious on a number of fronts. Concerns have been expressed that PREVENT:
• Operates from the basis of suspicion of individuals and communities rather than on notions of community cohesion
• Is a form of surveillance of “suspect communities”
• Embeds ideas about “pre-crime” and pre-criminal activities / spaces
• Unfairly targets Muslim communities and does not adequately represent risk posed by other groups e.g. domestic far right groups
• Intensifies anti Muslim racism
• Has a reductive effect on freedom of speech and expression
• Positions public servants as agents of the state involved in coercive and restrictive activities that do not sit well with the ethical nature of the profession
• Works in tandem with a narrative of securitisation which allows governments to act out-with accepted boundaries in its dealings with the wider population.

The implications of this new direction have not been fully explored most notably in terms of how it is likely to impact on social workers’ capacity to engage with vulnerable groups or individuals who are likely to be drawn towards extremism but might be more reluctant to trust in professionals who are required to operate in line with the requirements of the PREVENT duty. Further exploration of the policy and its implications are required which would address these concerns and develop a more rounded critique of the policy as it relates to social work.


The focus of the proposed study is not prescriptive. We are interested in proposals which seek to understand the implications of the PREVENT policy for social work at both the macro and micro level through original and innovate research which is underpinned by a theoretically sophisticated and critical understanding of concepts of surveillance and securitization. The study would build on the critical work of David McKendrick, Lecturer in Social Work, GCU.


The successful applicant will be a qualified to degree level in a relevant discipline. The minimum of a first degree (2:1 or above) is required. A masters level qualification is desirable as is previous research experience. Candidates should understand the context of social work practice within the UK. It is preferred that candidates hold a professional social work qualification or similar (e.g. a qualification in community learning and development). A strong grounding and / or understanding of sociologically informed theories is also preferred.

Candidates are requested to submit a more detailed research proposal (of a maximum of 2000 words) on the project area as part of their application.

Research Strategy and Research Profile

Glasgow Caledonian University’s research is framed around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, We address the Goals via three societal challenge areas of Inclusive Societies, Healthy Lives and Sustainable Environments. This project is part of the research activity of the Department of Social Work Research Group and the Centre for Living at GCU.

How to Apply

This project is available as a 3 year full-time PhD study programme with a start date of 1st October 2019
For information on how to apply and the online application form please go to
Applicants shortlisted for the PhD project will be contacted for an interview.

Funding Notes

A variety of scholarship packages including fully funded studentships and fees only scholarships are available to deserving UK/EU and international candidates. The fully funded studentships are worth £19,300 per year for 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress. They cover payment of tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and an annual stipend of £14,800.

Please see the GCU website for further details on the scholarship packages available.

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