Social Work Education in Europe is at the crossroads. The gradual erosion of the welfare state and the perpetuation of policies of austerity, have put social work education under unprecedented pressure. The landscape within which social work educators, researchers and students operate has changed dramatically over the last ten years. In most European countries social work education and research has been severely affected by chronic underfunding.
Nevertheless, we, at the EASSW, have also witnessed the inspiring work European social work educators have been doing under difficult circumstances. Their commitment to social justice and determination to ensure excellent quality of education and research has provided us with an infallible compass for action. Over the last 11 years, my involvement in several European social work roles, offered me an opportunity to witness first hand the challenges that educators in Europe face and also cherish their inspirational work.
I qualified as a social worker in Greece and worked as an academic in Cyprus, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. As a founder member of the Social Work Action Network (SWAN) I have been part of a diverse group of social work educations, practitioners, students and services users united in their belief that social work is a profession worth fighting for; a profession that needs to be at the forefront of campaigns, education and practice committed to social justice. Currently, I work as a Senior Lecturer at Durham University in the UK where I lead on the Masters in International Social Work and Community Development.
Since my election as a member and eventually Secretary of the EC of the EASSW I have been working closely with colleagues across the continent in order to defend and promote our shared social work values. Genuine Internationalism –instead of business oriented internationalization- has been at the heart of this political and pedagogical work. I am proud of what the EASSW has achieved over the last 4 years but I am also fully aware that there is still a lot that needs to be done.
In particular, it is my contention that our Association needs to work even more methodically, collectively and inclusively in order to
Become a strong voice for social work educators in Europe. Our collective view, experiences and knowledge need to be heard loudly and clearly at a time when the values of universal welfare and public education seem to be fading away.
Create alliances and partnerships with social work practitioners and those in the receiving end of social work services. Listen to and join in the campaigns of our students and early career colleagues who work under precarious working conditions. Unconditionally defend public education!
Promote social work research and bridge the artificial gap between research and education. More emphasis and resources need to be given to social work research that is of relevance to European societies. We need to ensure that EASSW increases its support and funding towards innovative ideas through its ‘small projects’ scheme.
Provide a platform for social work schools in order to exchange pedagogical ideas, experiences and promote excellent quality education. EASSW should play an active role in bringing together social work educators locally, regionally and across Europe. Apart from our central social work conference, more regional meetings and events need to be organised and supported by our organisation.
Engage with our EASSW membership more proactively and ensure that their views and voices are not only heard in the General Meetings every two years, but they become a vibrant part of the life of our association.
Negotiate with the IASSW a single membership package as currently many member schools cannot afford paying double membership fees to both sister organisations. The relationship between IASSW and EASSW needs to be rationalised and renegotiated.
It is with this in mind, and a great sense of responsibility and enthusiasm, that I have decided to be a candidate for President of the European Association of Schools of Social Work.