School of Sociology and Social Policy

Image of Harry Ferguson

Harry Ferguson

Professor of Social Work, Faculty of Social Sciences



I joined the university in November 2008 as Professor of Social Work. Prior to that I held posts at the University of the West of England, Bristol and in my native Ireland at University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork. I am a qualified social worker and completed my PhD in the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge (1987-1990), which was a historical sociological study of social work and child protection. My teaching and research interests lie in the areas of child protection, domestic violence, social interventions into fatherhood and men's lives, and the social science of social work.

I have been conducting empirical studies into social work practice since the early 1990s and my research has been funded by government and non-government agencies, the EU and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). I have drawn on a range of sociological and psychological concepts to inform my empirical research with the aim of illuminating the world of practice and the complex relationships that exist between social workers and service users. Recent funded research projects include a study of social worker's well-being, experiences of their organisations and training, and an evaluation of an innovative attempt to create whole system change and enable supportive therapeutic social work practice with children and families through a restorative practice approach. In 2013/14 I completed an ESRC funded ethnographic study of social work practice and child protection where I observed practitioners as they worked face to face with children and parents in their homes. This has provided new understandings of the complexities of home visits and how best to protect and promote the well-being of children and help mothers and fathers and other carers. This work is being taken forward in a two year ESRC funded study (Sept. 2016-August 2018) of how social workers begin, develop and sustain relationships with children and families in child protection work over the long-term, or do not manage to do so. Fifteen months of fieldwork is being carried out on two sites, using ethnographic and mobile methods to research social work practice close up in offices, staff supervision and with children and families on home visits to produce new theory and insights into what practitioners do and the experiences of service users.

I am fortunate to be working with several PhD students in my areas of expertise and welcome enquires and applications from prospective candidates.

Selected Publications

  • FERGUSON, H., 2011. Child protection practice Palgrave Macmillan.
  • BECKER, S, BRYMAN, A and FERGUSON, H, eds., 2012. Understanding Research For Social Policy And Social Work: Themes, Methods And Approaches. 2nd ed. edited by Saul Becker, Alan Bryman, Harry Ferguson. Bristol : Policy.
  • JONES, K, COOPER, B and FERGUSON, H, eds., 2008. Best Practice In Social Work: Critical Perspectives Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan.
  • FERGUSON, H, 2004. Protecting Children In Time: Child Abuse, Child Protection, And The Consequences Of Modernity Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan.

School of Sociology and Social Policy

Law and Social Sciences building
University of Nottingham
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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 951 5559