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Paul Shuttleworth

Master of Social Work 2007

Graduated: 2007

Before coming to Edinburgh, my undergraduate degree was in Psychology and Drama Studies (Comb). Following graduation, for many years, I was employed in the arena of social care, mainly as a mental health support worker. In some senses, Edinburgh chose me because I applied to the fast-track programme. This meant that I was sponsored by Midlothian Council to undertake my Master's, but in a condensed manner. I was very happy to go to Edinburgh, not realising until the first week how prestigious it was and how the Social Work Department and many of the academics within it, had such a good standing in Social Work.

My time at the university introduced me to sociology, politics and social work. My previous studies gave me a positivistic point of view and to begin to understand the effect of policy, social constructionist approaches and quandaries about human agency. In many ways, it made me become more active or as the young people would say “woke”.  I was a mature student, and a few times I was known to go round shushing the undergrads in the library.  However, it gave me a good balance of very very hard work as well as meeting other students who I now see in my career. Lastly, I got in touch with other academics who I had read about. This was a thrill for me and I really enjoyed academic debate knowing that I could eventually have a positive impact on people’s lives.       

I have been a social worker for coming up to 10 years now. I have enjoyed my work in child protection and in the last few years worked in kinship care. I became a Senior Practitioner and have also continued learning. I am now undertaking a MSc in Social Science Research and a PhD. I am so thrilled and feel privileged to be doing what I enjoy and be able to make a difference.     

Looking ahead, as always Social Work and Social Work Education is in flux. This means there are exciting yet hard times ahead. It is so interesting to see current undergrads engaging in epistemological debates in the first year, when it probably took me until the end of my MSW to really begin to understand these. Because SW is steeped in power relations I feel that a full MSW rather than the more vocational programmes, are essential. I have found in my SW career that debate and reflection are so important and I am grateful for Edinburgh University for creating the right environment to allow that to happen.  

Source: own contribution (30.1.2017)