7th International Conference organised by ERIS and the Department of Social Work "Social Work Identity in Europe - An Academic and Professional Debate"

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The year’s October conferences also included the 7th International Conference of the European Research Institute for Social Work (ERIS) organised in co-operation with the Department of Social Work at our Faculty, the title of the conference being "Social Work Identity in Europe - an Academic and Professional Debate".

The conference was held on October 10-11 at the premises of the Pazmaneum Assembly Hall, featuring guests from Slovakia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Poland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, France, Austria, Lithuania and Finland. The opening address was given by the head organiser of the conference, Doc. Miriam Slaná, who was followed by prominent guests, namely Jozef Burian from the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, Prof. Marek Šmíd, Chancellor of Trnava University, and Doc. Oldřich Chytil, ERIS President.

In previous years, ERIS conferences have dealt with many important topics connected with social work, for instance its interdisciplinary grounding, research in social work, the diversity and convergence of social policy and social work in different countries of the world, and similar areas. The topic of this year’s conference was more specifically focused on the professional identity of social work, both as an academic discipline and as a professional activity. The impacts of globalisation, marketisation and economisation have had a strong influence on the public sector and the professionals working within this sector. During the last twenty years, opinions on how the public sector and the professionals within it should work have changed significantly. As a result of these changes, professionals have to face multiple challenges.

Often we face not only questions about the performance of our professional role, but also fundamental questions about values, the meaning of the profession and professional identity. Social work - an integral part of the public sector - is viewed as a sphere with an often vaguely defined identity, or an intersection of identities - administrative, philanthropic, charitable, professional or activist. For all these reasons, the selected conference topic was an obvious one. ERIS and the Department of Social Work also chose the topic due to its links with an ongoing project of the same name implemented with funding provided via the Slovak Research and Development Agency. The aim of the conference was to discuss the following topics in several parallel workshops:

  • formation of the identity of social work in various countries
  • possibilities for exploring the identity of social work
  • global and local influences on social work identity
  • professionalisation and the requisite knowledge for the performance of social work - identity in the context of university education

The conference programme also included the so-called Young Academics Conference, a separate section for students in Masters’ and doctoral degree programmes where students had the opportunity to present and afterwards consult their research projects with many experts from universities in Slovakia and abroad.

The conference was attended by a total of 156 participants. Besides the four main plenary lectures, the workshops offered 42 papers, 22 given by speakers from  Slovakia and 25 by international speakers. Students from Master’s and doctoral degree programmes presented 10 contributions.

Both days of the conference featured highly interesting contributions, including lectures by our prestigious guests. The lecture which attracted probably the most attention was given by Professor Malcolm Payne, who presented issues connected with the identities of various "social works" within Europe. Other guests included Professor Hans van Ewijk from the Netherlands, Professor Musil from the neighbouring Czech Republic, and Professor Jana Levická, who represented our Faculty with one of the main plenary lectures.

A special word of thanks also goes to all those whose lectures and discussions helped the conference to achieve its aims. Our colleagues and students from the Department of Social Work also contributed to the smooth running of the conference, and the organisers also wish to express their gratitude to them.

We all are already looking forward to the next ERIS conference, which is to take place next year at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK.

Michaela Hromková
Miriam Slaná
Andrej Kállay

Updated: 18. 11. 2022