Program Perspective


York's graduate program in Social Work adopt a critical perspective that challenges inequalities and power imbalances:

  • They are praxis–oriented, linking theory with practice and knowledge with action;
  • Social issues are analyzed and addressed by making a link between everyday lived experiences and larger social structures;
  • Ideologies and their corresponding boundaries are challenged and dualisms are deconstructed to address power inequalities.

Critical social work also exposes and examines functions of social control and oppression, illustrating the social locations of individuals as well as ways that social structures contribute to the dislocation of oppressed and disenfranchised populations.

Power relations, both positive and negative, and the role of empowerment inform the analysis. The status quo is interrogated and energy committed to strategizing for social, economic, political and cultural change.

Student Perspective

As a graduate student in the School of Social Work, you will be challenged on a number of levels:

  • At the conceptual level, you will be encouraged to shift your thinking from institutionalized individualism (self-maximization) towards cooperative individualism;
  • At the pedagogical level, you will become aware of how prevailing economic trends and cuts to programs and services have created a political economy of uncertainty in which people's options and opportunities continue to be seriously thwarted;
  • At the practice level, you will be challenged to think about the character of social work; to question whether clients can reasonably be expected to respond to the inequalities and injustices that confront them given their often limited access to scarce resources. You will be exposed to alternative intervention strategies that open up possibilities of freeing human agency from the limits of social structures.

Study at one of the most progressive and socially responsive schools in Canada

York University's new doctoral program in Social Work builds on the strengths and traditions of our undergraduate and graduate programs, while focusing on the conceptualization of the field of social work, its antecedents, theory and epistemology. Our program is distinguished by its critical approach to the field and its emphasis on human rights, social justice and anti–oppression.

As a student in our PhD in Social Work program, you will be encouraged to deconstruct dominant ideologies in order to address power inequalities inherent in society. Rich in theory, our program will challenge you to expose and examine the functions of social control, focusing on the ways in which social structures contribute to the dislocation of oppressed and disenfranchised populations.

Our renowned faculty members conduct cutting-edge research, offering strengths in the following five fields:

  • Social Policy
  • Globalization and International Issues
  • Systemic Oppression
  • Race, Ethnicity and Culture
  • Community and Direct Practice

Students benefit from our research-based, critical theory approach to learning, preparing them for leadership roles focused on the promotion of social equality and the pursuit of social transformation. Whether you wish to become a professor in social work, practice in the fields of policy development and analysis, or take on a lead position at an international agency or NGO, you will graduate ready to make a significant contribution to scholarship and to the vision of social equality in both local and global communities.