Professional doctorate in advanced practice and research: social work and social care (D55)

Course overview

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.

Want to hear more? Join this course information session at our virtual open day on Saturday 25 June. Book your place using our booking form here.

The course comprises 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 5 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 inter-disciplinary 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.

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, bring 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 and current practitioners as well as 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.

What our students say:

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.

In order to undertake this course, we ask that you:

  • have a masters 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.


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 5 day Group Relations Conference in Year 1 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 elements of the programme to be accessed remotely, but this needs to be negotiated. 


Assessment in the first two years is by written coursework. Research methods units are assessed by 5000 word submissions, a critical literature review in year one and a research proposal in year two. Other units are assessed by 3000 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. 

At the application stage we do not require you to have a fully worked out research proposal. The ‘taught’ phase of the programme offers an opportunity to develop and hone your ideas about your proposed research in depth, and most people find that their thinking evolves considerably. It is valuable to write something about your current research interests and to think about the link to your own experience as a practitioner / manager, and if appropriate  your employer or organisation’s possible interest in an area of research. This does not need to be fully worked out and many people choose to undertake research independently of their organisation’s interests. Some questions you might want to address:

  • What topic(s) excite your curiosity?
  • What are the questions you would like to ask and answer, or explore in depth?
  • Do you have previous experience of undertaking research of any kind – please provide some details?
  • Are you interested in particular methodologies for undertaking research?

If you are unsure how to approach this task please contact our recruitment team on and they will refer you to a member of staff for further discussion.


£ 5,415 per year


£ 10,830 per year

For more information about how Brexit may affect your fee status, please see Brexit information for EU & EEA and Swiss Nationals

Please note that course fees are subject to a 3% or CPI uplift each year, whichever is greater.

We are happy offer a range of ways to pay your fees, as well as some funding for specific courses. 

Professional Doctorate
Course length:
4 years
Fortnightly on Thursdays
The Tavistock Centre, London
Admission status:
Course lead:
Dr. Tanya Moore

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