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20 Years of MSW – Jane Wistow

As we celebrate 20 years of the Master of Social Work (MSW), let’s meet Jane Wistow, Practice Lead for the MSW Programme in Durham University’s Department of Sociology.

Please tell us about your role within Sociology/MSW.  

I have held a few roles within the Sociology Department – starting with Undergraduate Sociology student in 1994!  I am currently the Practice Lead for the MSW Programme and convene the Advanced Social Work Module and Social Work Practice 2 (Placement) Module.   

What is your research specialism / areas of interest? 

I am interested in how children and young people participate in decisions that impact their lives.    

How did you become involved with MSW? 

In 2004 I was a member of the first MSW cohort.  After graduating and carrying out research into children’s welfare and participation rights, I began contributing to teaching on various social work modules.  I became a permanent member of the team in 2011. 

Why are you so passionate about Social Work and the work your department does? 

My background prior to social work was working with adults with physical disabilities and some work in a criminal justice setting, supporting women during arrest.  This led me to a passion for supporting vulnerable people through complex situations.  Coming back to Durham in 2004 was a real turning point for me, it felt like I had found where I should be, a real purpose in life.  I have worked with many colleagues both within the social work team and across the wider department and we share a deep commitment to social justice. 

How does your work impact communities / the world around you? 

A key part of my role is to find placements for students and support them through their practice learning.  At Durham we pride ourselves on ensuring that students are matched to the right placement environment and role, supported by excellent practice partners, which has a positive impact on individuals and communities both during their time with us and post-qualifying.     

What’s been your proudest moment working on the MSW? 

There are so many.  For example, hearing from placement managers about a pivotal piece of work a student has carried out.  Listening to students’ inspirational stories about their work and impact.  A particular favourite time of year is when students get multiple job offers!    

What would you say to someone thinking about working in Social Work? 

It is a very rewarding profession.  There are so many areas of social work and my main piece of advice would be to do some research and to contact our team to ask questions! 

How has your subject changed in the last 20 years? Or have the key fundamentals stayed the same? 

Social work is constantly changing, yet much stays the same.  We are fundamentally committed to anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory practices, to social justice and equality.  Whilst the content of modules update to reflect changes in practice, policy and legislation, the building blocks of great social work education and learning have pretty much remained the same here at Durham.  We have a great team and are supported by excellent practice partners and brilliant students.   

Find out more

  • Jane Wistow is an Assistant Professor and the Practice Lead for the MSW Programme in the Department of Sociology. If you would like to find out more about Jane, visit her profile.
  • If you’d like to share your story or insights into your work, visit our Submit a blog or vlog page to learn more.