Dr David N. Jones (credit: Jonathan Cole Photography)
On 22 November 2023, the University of London celebrated its esteemed Foundation Day, a tradition that had been part of the university’s history since 1903. On this day, outstanding individuals were honoured with honorary degrees, including Winston Churchill, Judi Dench, and Desmond Tutu.
This year, the university was proud to announce that Dr David N. Jones, a distinguished social worker known for his global impact and advocacy, was one of the recipients of an honorary degree. Dr Jones’s career spanned several decades, during which he had been a powerful voice for social work, specialising in child protection and holding key positions such as the General Secretary of the British Association of Social Workers, President of the International Federation of Social Workers, and roles in various governmental departments.
Dr Jones was born in 1950 in Sussex, UK, and has an impressive educational background, including degrees from the University of Oxford, University of Nottingham, and a Doctor of Philosophy from Warwick University. His career began as a social worker in Nottinghamshire, focusing on child protection, and he had since made significant contributions to the field, including editing the first UK multi-professional textbook on child protection and playing a pivotal role in the development of global standards for social work education and training.
Dr. Jones’s contribution to international social work has been particularly remarkable. Throughout his career, he showed a deep interest in global social work issues, beginning with his early work as a volunteer teacher in Kenya. Elected to the Executive of the IFSW in 2000, he ascended to the role of Global President from 2006 to 2010. During his tenure, he was instrumental in launching World Social Work Day, now a globally celebrated event, and coordinated the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development. This significant initiative, in partnership with other international organisations, culminated in the editing of four global reports and work alongside UN agencies.
Joachim Mumba, IFSW President, commented “Dr. David Jones’s recognition by the University of London is a testament to the vital role of social work in society. His career embodied the dedication and impact that social workers can have. This honour underscored the importance of social work as an academic discipline and as a crucial field of practice, empowering communities worldwide to co-build transformational change and sustainable future. This is not just a personal achievement but a significant acknowledgment of social work as a profession. In many countries, social work is still striving for recognition as an academic discipline. This honorary degree symbolises the resilience and importance of our profession and its crucial role in fostering social justice and support for vulnerable populations.”
Annamaria Campanini, IASSW President, added “The conferral of the honorary degree upon David Jones by the University of London accentuates the pivotal role of social work as an academic discipline and professional practice in our society. As the International Association of Schools of Social Work, we acknowledge Dr. Jones’ outstanding leadership, profound commitment, and significant influence within this field. His life serves as an exemplar, highlighting the impactful potential and actions that social workers can undertake to effectuate meaningful change in the world.”
David Jones with Vice Chancellor Wendy Thomson, Social Worker
Dr Jones, on receiving this honour, said “I am sincerely grateful to the University of London for this unexpected honour which is much appreciated. I am also immensely grateful to Rachel, my wife, and to my family for their support and understanding and to the professional associations (especially BASW, IFSW, COSW, IASSW) for enabling opportunities to serve, meet and learn from so many colleagues around the world.
It is perhaps appropriate that a social worker is honoured in this way by the University of London which was among the first in the world to support social work education and training. Goldsmiths College and Royal Holloway College offer well regarded social work courses but sadly, the LSE social work course (attended by my mother) closed in the 1990s.
My life and social work have been guided by a commitment to social justice, social service and respect for all, inspired by family example and Christian and humanitarian values. Social work faces up to the often-brutal realities as well as the joys of human relationships and cannot avoid difficult choices. Those choices must be informed by high quality education and training, alongside other professions, and guided by robust research involving those who are most affected. I have been privileged to engage with social workers and others in local communities and around the world and with people of differing faiths and none, all sharing the same commitment. I thank them for the friendship I have experienced and all that I have learnt from them.
There is too much hatred and too little understanding expressed in the world today, sometimes from the highest offices and from those who should know better. As people cohabiting an over-heating and crowded planet, we must keep searching for mutual understanding and respect for peoples and the environment. That is the hard graft of social work (to which I have made a contribution recognised today) which deserves support and respect”.
The award to Dr Jones was especially significant in the current context where social work, as an academic discipline, faced challenges in terms of recognition and support. His lifetime of work and this recognition from a prestigious institution like the University of London highlighted the indispensable role of social work in co-building transformative change and the need for continued support and recognition of our profession in academia, politics and the wider community.
The University of London was among the first in the world to support social work education and training. Probably the first ‘social work’ course in the UK was started in London in the 1890s and taken over by the London School of Economics in 1912. Former Prime Minister Clement Atlee was a tutor on the course from the start and published his book ‘The Social Worker’ in 1920.
Two of the key Charity Organisation Society leaders on the 1890 committee were Helen Bosanquet and Charles Loch. The quotations below demonstrate their views on education for social work:
‘Perhaps the greatest public obstacle to getting a sound public opinion on matters of social policy lies in the general ignoring of the fact that scientific principles are as much involved in them as chemistry or architecture, or any other of the arts of life’ (Helen Bosanquet of COS in 1902, quoted in Jones 1979: 76).
‘..just as doctors have to be educated methodically, registered and certificated, [so] charity is the work of the social physician. It is in the interests of the community that it should not be entrusted to novices, or to dilettanti, or to quacks’ (Charles Loch of COS in 1906, quoted in Jones 1979: 76).
See https://sw100.ed.ac.uk/timeline for a summary of the global history of social work education.