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Dr Rachael Dobson

  • Overview



    My research is informed by the central principle to work across theory, policy and practice, for the purposes of social and racial justice. This is reflected in my experiences across academic, teaching and practice fields.

    As an academic I have held lectureships at the University of Leeds, Kingston University and now Birkbeck, University of London, and Visiting Fellowships at the University of New South Wales and University of Sydney. I have recently been awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship for 'Where Is The Power? Policy Ontologies In Theory and Practice'.

    I have over a decade’s experience of editorial, referee and learned society activity. I am member of the editorial collective for Critical Social Policy, a highly ranked, peer reviewed journal that provides an international forum for debate on social policy and welfare issues from socialist, feminist, anti-racist and radical perspectives. I have been twice elected to the Social Policy Association, most recently as Honorary Secretary. 

    Prior to academic life I worked as a local government homelessness practitioner. I still work as a consultant, facilitator and trainer with practitioners implementing homelessness and adult social care policy.


    • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, HEA, 2019

    Web profiles

    Visiting posts

    Professional activities

    Editorial Collective, Critical Social Policy

    Professional memberships

    • Social Policy Association

    • White Spaces Network.

    • BSA Psychoanalysis & Psychosocial Study Group

    • Women, Crime & Criminal Justice Network

    • Homeless Link


  • Research


    Research interests

    • Policy-making
    • Social welfare institutions
    • Homelessness
    • Public service cultures
    • Reflexive Methodologies

    Research overview

    My research contributes to critical and cultural approaches to policy-making, with a focus on process and implementation. I theorise the role of policy actors in the making-of welfare state practices like policy, legislation and institutions. I am especially interested in public service cultures, identities and practices in lower status, under-professionalised, materially fragmented and ‘dirty work’ sectors, across social welfare and criminal justice fields.

    Empirically, my research explores interventions with vulnerable adults with ‘complex needs’, encompassing policy, legislation, models of support and everyday practices. I think about relationships between these phenomena, and human agency, to understand potential for resistance and social change through everyday, conscious and unconscious, social practices and actions.

    Research Centres and Institutes

    Research clusters and groups

    • Member, Policy, Practice and Activism Cluster (Law School)

    Research projects

    Where Is The Power? Policy Ontologies In Theory And Practice.

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students who are interested in undertaking research in any of my areas of research interest.

    Current doctoral researchers



    My teaching is driven by the imperative to work across theory, policy and practice. It is research-led and interdisciplinary, cutting across policy, criminology, sociology, socio-legal, psychosocial, housing and urban studies. I have developed teaching programmes for policy-makers, practitioners and students at access, undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

    I convene two modules: Influencing Public Policy (PGT) and The Criminalisation of Welfare (UG). Influencing Public Policy introduces students to critical approaches to policy-making. The Criminalisation of Welfare examines the construction and regulation of social problems and ‘problem people’ through policy and legislative interventions.

    I deliver guest lectures on three postgraduate modules: Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice (Department of Criminology), Research Methods (Law School) and Independent Research (Department of Psychosocial Studies).


    Teaching modules

    • Policy, Power and Social Change (Level 5) (LACN029H5)
  • Publications



    Book Section

  • Business and community

    Business and community


    Over the past three years I have facilitated 'Communities of Practice' (CoPs) with homelessness and adult social care organisations. CoPs bring together local statutory and non statutory welfare organisations to meet a shared vision to improve outcomes for homeless and vulnerable adults. 

    This activity reflects my long-standing engagement with institutional barriers to policy and legislation implementation; in this instance, the Care Act 2014 and Homelessness Reduction Act 2018 (Dobson, 2019). CoPs surface these issues and develop proposals to achieve practical change through training, knowledge building and the sharing of everyday practices.