Making sense of men’s experiences and progression through social work programmes

  • Jason Schaub

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Social work is one of several professions closely associated with caring and femininity, and, as a result, often suggested as a non-traditional occupational choice for a man. Men’s generally poorer educational experience becomes more prominent when studying a subject associated with femininity such as social work (Severiens and ten Dam 2012). Men have more progression issues than women on English university social work courses (Hussein et al. 2008; Schaub 2015), and our understanding of how men experience social work education is limited. This thesis examines in-depth men social work students’ experience and progression, in order to determine the underlying reasons for men’s poorer progression. Twenty-one social work student men from seven English universities were interviewed using qualitative methods. The study found participants described a complex, layered set of experiential and progression challenges that are specific to men. These impediments appear to combine, for some men, with other non-gender specific difficulties, thereby increasing the likelihood of failure or withdrawal. Some men are able to manage these issues, but others find them more challenging, suggesting some men experience a cycle of academic struggle and disengagement closely linked to their identity as men training to become social workers. In order to understand their experience, several theoretical strands were applied. Theories of stigma, masculinities and student retention were used to provide explanations for the challenges found for the men interviewed. In addition to providing a voice for men social work students, this study makes recommendations for social work educators and programmes to support men to more successfully complete social work courses.
Date of Award27 Jun 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorLouise Brown (Supervisor), Sarah Moore (Supervisor) & Ian Butler (Supervisor)


  • Men
  • social work education
  • Masculinity
  • Higher Education
  • progression
  • Stigma

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