Social Policy, Education and Health

Addressing critical social issues, shaping effective policy and developing the capacity of individuals and communities form the basis for this significant research strength at UNSW. Informed by the methods of the social sciences, our internationally respected researchers confront the macro and micro issues in education, social policy, criminology, and health and wellbeing at the margins.

How do governments develop effective policies to serve an increasingly diverse and complex society? What leads people to criminality and how do our legal, policy and social frameworks best respond? How do we develop an effective and fairer education system for the next generation, with changing educational technologies, new modes of learning and greater pressures on educational outcomes? Is there a way to ensure all members of society, especially those marginalised and most disadvantaged, have equal access to opportunities for education, health and wellbeing?

These are just some of the critical questions our researchers are grappling with, and the outcomes have and will continue to impact current and future generations.

The broad research area of ‘Informing Social Change’ draws from a number of disciplines, and within UNSW Arts and Social Sciences is clustered into the following groups:

Each area of research has a significant impact on social policy development in Australia at local, state and federal levels and informs international policy and practice.

The impact of our work

From producing education tools which improve learning outcomes, or informing major policy changes at the highest levels of government, to revealing the catalysts for certain types of criminal behaviour, the researchers in these specialist areas have significant social impact. Our researchers work closely with government departments, non-government stakeholders, educational organisations, business and legal professionals, advocacy and community groups, civil society organisations, educators and educational institutions and international agencies to conduct and disseminate policy and practice relevant social research.

To better understand our own society and to determine an evidence base and benchmark good practice, it is critical to take a multifaceted approach with national and international reference points. Our experts work with numerous research bodies around the globe, from China, Vietnam and Taiwan, to the Netherlands, France, Canada and the USA.

Signalling the profile, relevance and potential impact of this research is the calibre of its funders, including the Australian Research Council, National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Federal Government Departments such as Families, Housing, Communities and Indigenous Affairs and the Department of Health and Ageing, Australian Council of Social Services, NSW Department of Education and Training, NSW Health, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Human Rights Commission, Department of Premier and Cabinet, UNICEF, the British Council, the Japan Foundation and many more.

Evidence of excellence

Researchers within the ‘Informing Social Change’ area have earned a formidable reputation both locally and globally for their leading research programs, and their expertise is utilised at all levels of decision-making.

This group has produced a substantial volume of books, journal articles, and reports. In Australia and internationally our scholars host conferences and workshops, are invited to present their cutting-edge research to government, community and industry, and hold membership on boards of respected academic institutions, research networks and government advisory boards.

Most satisfying though, has been the social impact of this research. The Informing Social Change researchers have helped children to learn more effectively, assisted in crime reduction, identified barriers to HIV testing, improved support for and inclusion of people with a disability, informed investments in mental health support, boosted funding for preschools and much more.