The new department builds upon the research and education in social work – including the Social Work Programme – that has been undertaken since 2017 at the Centre for Social Work (CESAR) at the Department of Sociology.

To create time for department board elections and the appointment of a new head of department, the faculty appointed an acting head of department for the transition period, Senior Lecturer Cecilia Wåhlstedt.

“In practice, CESAR has been redeveloped into a department. The research grants and educational mandates connected to the centre will now go to the new Department of Social Work. However, it is not simply a direct conversion into a new organisational form, it should be seen instead as a type of restart,” explains Wåhlstedt.

Long process with multiple stages

Initially, CESAR was established to help solve long-term quality issues within the Social Work Programme – problems rooted in a lack of teachers and weak research connections within the programme. The Swedish Higher Education Authority even threatened to withdraw the degree-awarding powers of the Social Work Programme in 2015.

Although the conditions were lacking at that time to form a department of its own, CESAR's independence led to a clearer focus on the Social Work Programme in particular, meaning resources could be prioritised there. This led to a positive development for both research and education in social work, a development they want to safeguard.

“The Centre for Social Work made it possible to start pooling resources to boost quality. They have also continued to recruit teaching staff with sufficient breadth of expertise to teach on the Social Work Programme, which was one of the major problems before CESAR was formed,” adds Wåhlstedt.

Time for change

Despite this, the Department of Sociology noted several disadvantages of maintaining CESAR within the Department of Sociology following an inquiry in December 2021.

However, the positive development demonstrated since 2017 by research and education in social work has clearly shown the potential for the subject area at Uppsala University.

“As an organisational form, centres are expensive and labour-intensive, and in practice have not always been shown to offer the desired level of autonomy. This can lead to a lack of clarity in terms of the decision-making mandate and distribution of responsibilities,” explains Wåhlstedt.

CESAR also stuck out in an organisational sense, as it is more common at other universities for social work to be contained within its own department, she notes.

“Moreover, in contrast to the centre, the new department will be fully covered by collegial leadership with an elected head of department and board, which is completely in line with the collegial form of governance used in research and education at Uppsala University.”