In 2015, Social Work Teaching Partnerships launched into a turbulent political and policy arena where a repositioning of social work education was taking place alongside the adoption of neoliberal ideologies promoting the operation of market forces within higher education nationally and globally.
This paper presents findings from 11 respondents to an online survey undertaken in England to explore factors that support and hinder partnership working between universities in Social Work Teaching Partnerships. Findings suggest some merit to partnership working, with closer working relationships in practice education, student placements and research. Data suggest that some Social Work Teaching Partnerships were able to form collegiate relationships despite the competitive positioning of universities. However, respondents also commented on operational barriers, such as communication problems and size of Social Work Teaching Partnerships that created difficulties for collaboration. Tensions resulting from working in a competitive market driven environment clearly emerged from the data with some partnerships not able to engage fully in collaborative working as a result.
This paper reflects on how the broader political and policy context influences the operationalisation of partnership working within Social Work Teaching Partnerships and suggests key avenues to explore further.
Keywords: social work education, teaching partnership, competition, marketisation of higher education