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Social policy and social justice

The focus upon work at the boundaries of social policy and social justice – encompassing a plethora of concerns with crime, criminalisation and social harm – both renews longstanding research concerns within The Open University as well as setting out an exciting new terrain upon which these might be developed. The research topic broadly coheres with the range of the Harm and Evidence Research Collaborative (HERC), a multidisciplinary research initiative drawing on expertise from Arts and Social Sciences (notably social policy & criminology, history, psychology and sociology) and Health, Wellbeing and Social Care (youth justice). HERC unites contemporary practice-based research and critical policy analysis in crime, harm, policing, criminal justice and criminalisation, with an awareness of historical, psychological and social contexts, and rooted in a commitment to social justice.

Qualifications available:

PhD or MPhil


For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent)

Potential research projects

Research projects are invited in any of the following areas, although all applications across the broad terrain of social policy and social justice will be considered:
  • corporate crime and harm
  • critical analyses around justice – criminal, social and territorial
  • globalisation and development
  • the harms of austerity
  • the history of criminal justice
  • homelessness and housing
  • policing
  • prisons, and other sites and processes of incarceration
  • research methods
  • social harm and zemiology
  • social inequalities and social divisions of ‘race’, ethnicity, class, gender, age, sexuality and locality
  • the state
  • youth un/employment and youth justice
  • utopias and utopian social theory 
  • various forms of criminalisation, non-criminalisation and regulation.

Current/recent research projects

You can sense the range of recent and current research projects undertaken by HERC members by visiting two HERC sites:

Potential supervisors

Academic staff who are available to supervise in this research topic are listed on the HERC website. There you will also find their main areas of research expertise, as well as links to their personal webpages and publications.

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Nicola Yeates
+44 (0)1908 654534

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.