CQSW, MSc, PhD in Social Work
I grew up in the south east of Glasgow, in Rutherglen, and according to my mother, Rutherglen was the centre of the universe. I applied to both Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities – I didn’t know then that there was a rivalry between the two – and I got into Edinburgh, but was turned down for Glasgow. I took a general Arts degree, with Philosophy as a main subject.
After graduating, I went to Ayrshire as a trainee social worker, working in Auchinleck doing generic social work. I got a good training there and I liked the work. You might say I’ve got a social conscience! I applied to Edinburgh to do my social work training, and was lucky enough to be seconded from Ayrshire to do the course. So I was paid my wages while I was training – we didn’t know we were born, when I think of the situation facing students today…
I loved my course. My first placement was at the Western General Hospital, and then I went on a placement at ’The View’ in Govanhill in Glasgow. This was a left-wing, community development project that was set up to fight for better housing at a time when the city council in Glasgow was pulling down tenements and creating vast wastelands and gap sites. So on placement I got to set up groups, organise marches and do what was then called community social work.
My tutor on the course was John Triseliotis – or ‘Doctor Tris’, as we all called him. He was a really nice guy. I would go to see him for a tutorial and we would chat for ages about anything and everything.
After qualifying, I went back to Ayrshire (this was a condition of the secondment) and then got a job at the View, working as a full-time community worker until I got married in 1978, and decided to move into mainstream social work, this time in Cambuslang, in the intake team. The office was linked to Rutherglen where I had grown up, so I knew it well. Then my first child came along, just after I had been promoted to a senior post in inner city Glasgow. In 1982, we made a quality of life decision and moved to Fife, where I took five years off to raise two more children.
In 1987, I got a job in Kirkcaldy, working this time as a criminal justice social worker, and in 1993 was promoted to team manager in the neighbouring team, based in Leven and Glenrothes.
I started a part-time MSc in Management, firstly at Moray House, and then transferred into the University of Edinburgh after the merger between the two HEIs, and Viv Cree became my dissertation supervisor. My studies were coming to an end in 2001, and Viv encouraged me to enrol on the PhD in Social Work programme, part-time. I never regretted this decision - it was a life-changing experience for me. You go through the whole of your academic career trying to beat others, and then when you become a PhD student, there’s no-one to beat – you help each other out, share references, read each others’ work. I found the writing-up process difficult – everyone does – you feel as if you are stuck half way up a cliff – you can’t get up or down – but once you’ve done it, it’s fantastic – a real achievement. I completed my PhD thesis on women offenders and graduated in 2009.
I feel very privileged to have gone to Edinburgh. The staff are great and I love that it’s a university that is very cosmopolitan and very welcoming of international students. I’ve always tried to maintain that tradition in my dealings with students. And the library is huge – you can lose yourself there – you can really fly!
Looking ahead? Just go for what you want. Study hard. Get the theory inside your head and try to apply it. But get your experience as well to marry up with that.
Own contribution, 5th September 2017.