Social work education and training in Dundee has a long genesis. Its origins can be traced to the life and work of Dundee citizen and Scottish social reformer Mary Lily Walker (1863 - 1913).
University College Dundee (UCD) was founded in 1881, with a gift from the Baxter family - one of Dundee's 'jute barons.' Mary Lily Walker studied there and in 1888, she became one of the founder members of the Dundee Social Union (DSU), an interdisciplinary group formed by a group of university professors from University College Dundee to improve the quality of life of Dundee’s poor, and of women and children in particular.
The DSU bought four properties, and rented them out at low rents to poor families. Walker worked as a visitor/rent collector for the DSU, working closely with the tenants and by 1891, became the DSU’s Superintendent of Housing. In 1893, Walker travelled to London to work under social reformer Octavia Hill for the Women’s University Settlement in Southwark, meeting both Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree. She also spent a year living and working with the Grey Ladies, a Church of England religious order based in Blackheath where she trained in social work, with a view to bringing her experience back to Dundee.
Walker returned to Dundee in 1899. By this time, UCD had become part of the University of St Andrews. Walker bought a house in Wellington Street, where she initiated the first residential settlement in Scotland, calling it Grey Lodge Settlement, and living there as its Warden. Under her initiative, DSU then initiated a training course for the residents, based at Grey Lodge. In 1904-5, Walker and Miss Mona Wilson researched and produced the DSU Report on Housing and Industrial Conditions and the Medical Inspection of School Children, which detailed the living and working conditions of Dundee’s poor. Walker was also involved with producing a more detailed report for the government-appointed Scottish Housing Committee, but she died before this work was completed. Upon her death, Walker left Grey Lodge to the city of Dundee to be used as a School of Social Work and community centre. Notably, Grey Lodge continues to provide youth and community services today, as well as learning opportunities for our students.
In 1954, a Royal Commission gave UCD more independence and it was renamed Queen's College. Records document social work related programmes being delivered by Queen’s College from the 1950s. In August 1967, the University of Dundee was established by royal charter, and the following year, the School of Social Sciences offered Diploma and Certificate courses in Social Administration, then recognised as ‘the basic stage of training for social work’. In 1974, the Diploma and Certificate courses became a Master of Arts in Social Administration, and in 1975, the School introduced the Diploma in Social Work, a one year post-graduate course regulated by the then newly-formed, Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work (CCETSW). 1975 also saw the appointment of Professor Elisabeth Mapstone, a pioneer of social work in Scotland and the UK and the first woman professor at University of Dundee.
In 2001, social work at University of Dundee merged with the Dundee campus of Northern College of Education to become the University Faculty (and later School) of Education and Social Work. Today we are an inter-disciplinary School located at the centre of University life. In partnership, we provide excellent professional education and research across undergraduate, masters and doctoral levels. Our primary purpose is to transform lives locally and globally through the creation, sharing and application of knowledge.
Trish McCulloch, Social Work Lead, June 2016