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Dr Stephen Cowden

Senior Lecturer in Social Work

I am a Senior Lecturer in Social Work and Research Lead for Social Work at University of Gloucestershire. 


I see Social Work as a form of practical humanitarianism; as well as ‘helping people’, social work expresses a democratic aspiration to address human need in a collective rights based framework.  Social work education similarly is about enabling criticality, drawing together theory and evidence to address the complex contemporary social problems people are living with.

I am a Senior Lecturer in Social Work and Research Lead for Social Work at University of Gloucestershire.  I completed by Social Work degree in 1992 and practiced in the areas of HIV, Learning Disabilities and Mental Health.  I began teaching Social Work in 2001, holding appointments at Coventry University, Ruskin College Oxford and the Open University.  My teaching and research areas are both concerned with enabling criticality; addressing the concrete material difficulties people are experiencing, but drawing on wider conceptual frameworks and research to offer genuine help and promote democratic social change.


  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours), University of Melbourne, 1983
  • Certificate of Qualification for Social Work (CQSW), University of the South Bank, London, 1992
  • MA in Australian Studies, University of London, 1994
  • PhD in English, University of Kent, 1999
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning, Coventry University, 2004

Membership of professional bodies

  • Registered with Social Work England
  • Member of the British Association of Social Work (BASW)

Teaching & Research


I teach a module on ‘Professional Knowledge’ to undergraduate and Apprenticeship students. I also teach Research Methods at undergraduate and postgraduate Social Work students.


The central focus within my research concerns the development of critical practice in Social Work. There are three ways in which I have developed this focus; firstly how use research and theory to understand the ‘social’ dimensions of social work practice. The second concerns Critical Pedagogy as a theory and method for critical practice in social work. The third concerns the importance of the critical practice in social work in work around radicalisation, religious fundamentalism and the rise of the far right.


More publications from Dr Stephen Cowden can be found in the Research Repository.

External responsibilities

National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Local Specialty Research Lead – Social Care for the West of England.

Subject for media interview

Social Work and Research, Social Work and the Prevent Duty, Safeguarding and Radicalisation, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE)