John Sturgeon

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Area of academic expertise - outline

I have been a qualified and practicing social worker since 1988 and my career has taken me from the far north of the Scottish mainland at Wick, to the far south in Dumfries and Galloway. I was in front line practice at practitioner and management grades within the statutory sector for 23 years and I have experience of working across the range of client groups: children and families, learning disabilities, mental health, criminal justice, and within leadership roles in the sector. All of my experience has been in rural contexts.

Motivated by a desire to contribute to the resolution of the local recruitment crisis and to support practice development in my local area I became an academic at the University of the West of Scotland on the Dumfries campus in 2011. My experience in the “real world” of practice, particularly in rural contexts, informs my outlook in teaching and research.


Current research activities

I have a range of research interests, all of which are motivated by a desire to improve the experiences of those who provide services and those who receive them.

  1. Rural Social Work: Recognising that the voice and practice of rural social workers is, like the areas that they work in, marginalised and unnoticed, I was one of the organisers of the “Celebrating Rural Social Work Conference” that took place in Dumfries in March 2020. This face to face and online conference allowed rural practitioners to connect for the first time. Since then, I have been an organising member of the Scottish Rural Social Work Practitioner Forum which is a collaboration between the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services, the Scottish Social Services Council, Social Work Scotland, Scottish Association of Social Workers, the University of Lancaster, several local authority members, and individuals. We have been running a series of lunchtime seminars and building connection across a range of rural topics. See IRISS+rural social work
  2. Probation in France: I have been researching probation with offenders in France for several years, establishing links, and observing practice. I am an associate lecturer at the University of Reims, the University of Bordeaux, and I contribute to the learning at the national probation and prisons academy in Agen. I am writing up research that took place during the national lockdowns in France and in Scotland into probation officer experience and practice in the two countries. This is a unique study in that the interviews took place during the lockdowns, thereby capturing the disorientation and uncertainty of the time. It is an unusual comparative study in that both academics had a stated understanding of both contexts that they were studying. Publications are forthcoming in the Probation Journal and the International Journal of Probation.
  3. Unforgotten Forces: With other UWS colleagues I am part of a three year study that took place between 2017 and 2020 which looked at the needs of and service responses to elderly military veterans in Scotland. The writing of journal articles from this data is the current focus on this study.
  4. Practitioner and student research partnership: I am interested in improving the experience and delivery of practice by developing research partnerships with practitioners and students so that good practice can be developed and supported, particularly in rural contexts.




Desired research direction

My research is motivate by a desire to:

  1. Improve social work practice by giving voice to rural social workers so that their experience and contribution to the future direction of social work services can be heard.
  2. Promote international collaboration and knowledge exchange.
  3. Support the development of services for those whose needs are under-researched.
  4. Support the ongoing development of students and practitioners in research awareness and confidence so that good practice can be developed and supported, particularly in rural contexts.

Target collaborative companies




Target collaborative organisations

I would be particularly interested to hear from and work with: 

  1. Local authorities, particularly in rural contexts.
  2. Third sector organisations
  3. French speaking welfare and probation services.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

External positions

Associate, Université de Bordeaux, France

1 Mar 2019 → …

Associate, L’Ecole Nationale D’Administration Pénitentiaire, Agen, France

1 Nov 2018 → …

Associate, Université Champagne-Ardennes, Reims, France

1 Mar 2017 → …

Dumfries and Galloway Branch Chair, Scottish Association for the Study of Offending

9 Jun 2016 → …

Social Work Lecturer of the Year, Scottish Association of Social Workers


Member, La Confederation Francophone de Probation

2014 → …


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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